Safety Series: Todd Tilberg

 "We work to live, we don't live to work."

Todd Tilberg has worked with Olympic Companies for over 20 years, starting his career with the Minneapolis crew. As the Safety Director and Field Superintendent for Olympic Companies in Sioux Falls, he oversees recruitment, safety, and logistics of projects in the region. We asked him how Olympic creates a safe work environment for its employees and why safety is an integral part of company culture.


Why is the employee safety program such a major focus at Olympic Companies?

Todd: Everybody on the team benefits. Our employees get to go home safe to their families. There's a mutual commitment — they see that safety is important to us, especially their safety. I've always said, when people come in to talk to me: "We work to live, we don't live to work." That's important to keep in mind when we're working to achieve goals and our dreams, and to better our career. If you're injured, that's not going to play well into that.

The company benefits in several ways even outside of that. You have employee retention. Of course, your insurance rates are better. There are some projects that if your safety record (MOD rate) isn't at a certain level, you're not even allowed to bid. When a company hires a safety director and buys all the equipment, and you take all the time to do these things, it seems like a big expense. But it's like anything else: once you do it for a while it becomes habit, it really isn't restrictive, and it isn't impeding your productivity. It just becomes a good habit.

We've got a good crew and they appreciate that we stress on safety. I think it makes a difference in our productivity and retention, and in our identity, the whole yard.


Can you talk a little bit about your role at Olympic? Why is it important to be proactive in your position?

Todd: My role consists of conducting that initial meeting with our new crew members and defining our safety policies to them. It also involves working with the foremen and the lead men to make sure that we work through questions or things they're unsure of, so we're all on the same page at the leadership level.

In construction, your job environment and work sites aren't typical. There's a lot of similarities and things that are consistent: hardhats, safety glasses, PPE, things like that. But each construction project is unique. It might have different hazards that either are harder to recognize or just unique to that project. My role then is to get involved in those unique situations and help.

When a foreman has a question and is unsure of what the best way to do that or the safest way to access this work, then we work together. Basically, it's coaching the foreman, monitoring the sites when I'm on them, but also coaching the foreman so they can monitor their own sites.

What do you do to hold employees accountable?

Todd: We have a safety incentive-reward program. We used to have a different safety program similar to other companies where you reward people for working so many days, hours, and so on without a "time-loss accident." Around 10 years ago, we switched our program to an incentive-reward system for participating.

We implemented a program that rewards people for showing up on time every day and working safe. Just following the policies — they'd gain points and recognition for that. If they do additional training, whether it's through the union or something we offer, they bring us a certificate, we give them additional points for that. If they have a suggestion on how we can improve our safety program, if we implement a policy that they recommended, then we'll give them points and reward them for that. We give people points for participating in our quarterly or bimonthly safety committee meeting. If somebody doesn't follow the safety policy or have done something unsafe, we recognize that, they get a written warning, they may lose some points. We'll retrain them in that specific area.

Can you give us an idea of what safety committee meetings are like?

Todd: Our safety director, Mike Sturgeleski, comes from Minneapolis every other month. For the first two days he's here, we visit all our job sites. He makes observations and gives us a written report on what he's seeing. If there's any corrections we need to make or issues on the job sites — whether they're ours or other contractors — then we'll have a safety committee meeting with the safety director (Mike), safety officer (Todd), office manager (Tammy) and three of our staff from the field (randomly selected). We switch them out, so they could be apprentices, foremen, journeymen, whatever.

At the meeting, we review the safety director's report. We give our crew an opportunity to offer up issues they've seen in the field and ask questions. It's just an open forum to talk about safety, review safety suggestions we've received and decide if we want to implement them or do some more research on it. It's an opportunity to talk about what they're experiencing in the field. It really makes a difference to hear from them.

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Business Info

Minnetonka, MN 55305
(952) 546-8166
(952) 544-8869 (fax)


President - Michael Conroy
Chief Operating Officer - Patrick Forliti
Chief Financial Officer - Dustin Prager
- Mary Jo Lecy
Safety Director - Mike Sturgeleski

Our Locations

Minneapolis, MN
Tel: (952) 546-8166
Fargo, ND
Tel: (701) 365-0098
Sioux Falls, SD
Tel: (605) 332-4420
Milwaukee, WI
Tel: (262) 787-7006