Safety Series: Travis Walter

"Hold yourself to a higher standard."

Travis Walter has been with Olympic Companies for over three years. Starting as an 85 percent journeyman carpenter, Travis has since transitioned to the role of carpenter foreman where he works with his team and other contractors to promote and keep a safe work environment for everyone on or near the job site.

When it comes to on-site safety, has your experience at Olympic Companies been different from your previous work experiences?

Travis: Definitely night and day.  Olympic is 100 percent hard hat and safety glasses. There is more of a dress code; you have to have hard soled shoes or boots and you have to wear long pants, have to have a shirt on - you're high-vis' most of the time.

How would you describe Olympic's commitment to safety?
Travis: You're never going to be asked to do something that's going to put your life in danger. Of course, it's a construction job, and there are some parts of the job that require a little risk, like when you're up in a boom lift, or working on a roof, but we take all of the safety precautions possible, sometimes even more. We have a few safety precautions that are even higher than OSHA standards.

As a foreman, how do you work with other contractors to ensure they're meeting your safety standards to keep not only your team, but their team safe, too?

I talk with their foreman or supervisor. Typically the majority of the generals we work for around here require all of the trades to be safe. But every now and then we'll have a smaller job, maybe with a contractor we don't work with much, where we'll see [safety opportunities]. They're usually pretty quick conversations.

Can you tell us about your experience with the Safety Committee?

Travis: You go to three meetings when you get nominated for the Safety Committee. It opens your eyes a little bit to some of the politics of safety. When there's a pretty serious safety issue that people don't really realize, they need to send it up the chain and get everybody to agree that it's an issue, and then send it down the chain from there to either mitigate it or eliminate it.

Travis Walter at the Olympic Companies picnic last year
What else motivates the Olympic team to keep a safe environment?

We get safety points for being on time, not missing work, or if we have a safety suggestion that gets used. We use the points to purchase tools and boots, and anything that has to do with work, mainly. The boots I'm wearing were paid for with safety points.

Are there any perceived drawbacks to creating a safer environment?

Sometimes the process of making your work safe, or making the job site safe, can be time consuming. Some people think they lose productivity. It takes a little bit longer to go harness up and get in the lift than it would just to jump in a lift, fire it up, and move. It takes a little bit longer to go find a taller ladder, because the one you have is not tall enough.

But my counter argument would be that you need to hold yourself to a higher standard and you don't want to risk being injured. The weeks you'd miss from work, and not to mention you're costing your employer higher insurance rates, and costing your employer extra money if they have to apply for workman's comp. If you're injured and can't work, you can't support your family. They would also benefit from you to be safer.
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Chief Operating Officer - Patrick Forliti
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