CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Improving Construction site safety is top of mind for the state. In 2020, there were 1,008 construction site deaths across the state, and 24 of those were in Virginia.  

Now, one agency in the state is looking to bring that number down while helping construction companies across the state show off their safety practices.

The BEST program is designed for members to showcase their safety programs and to encourage safe practices and model safety programs for other members in the industry.

Only two companies in the state have a Level 2 rating, and both companies are headquartered in Hampton Roads.

One of the companies, MEB General Contractors, says safety is one of their core values and beliefs.

“It’s a lot of what MEB believes in,” said Corporate Health and Safety Manager, Brett Parker. “Safety of our employees, safety of our subcontractors and also the community members. We want to make sure everyone goes home safe to their families each and every night.”

That’s one of the reasons the company implemented, “Start Safe, Stay Safe.”

Employees and subcontractors have a quick meeting each morning on job sites to plan for the day and make sure each worker has what they need from a safety standpoint.

“We do a safety orientation with their crew to make sure the whole crew understands the expectations in terms of safety on the job site,” said Senior Project Engineer, Adrienne Iachetta, who started “Start Safe, Stay Safe.”

“We work with these guys everyday and they have families as well, so we don’t want anything that happens to them on the job site to impact their daily lives at home and that starts with being safe everyday on the job site,” said Iachetta.

President of MEB, George Clarke, agrees safety is everything.

“We want to try to have zero incidents, which we’ve been close to that in a year,” said Clarke.

Job site incidents can really hurt companies, even preventing them from getting more work.

“We all want a good production, but safety is the most important aspect of our business.” said Clarke.

“Safety is lived and breathed and in the blood of our employees at MEB from the top down,” said Parker. “It’s everybody’s responsibility.”

The BEST program is designed for companies to showcase their safety practices to others in the industry.

BEST stands for Building Excellence in Safety, Health and Training.

MEB even works to train their sub-contractors, like Sunshine Concrete from Suffolk, who may not have the resources, being a smaller company.

“I think a lot of our sub-contractors have bought into what we do as far as the protection of our employees to the point where a lot of our subcontractors have started implementing MEB’s policies and procedures into their own practices and workforce,” said Parker.

Sunshine Concrete went through a classroom instruction portion, then went outside to do hands-on scaffolding training.

The companies applying for the BEST program must demonstrate highly effective safety and health management standards by the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) and the Associated General Contractors of Virginia (AGCVA).

The ultimate goal is to prevent deaths and improve construction site safety across the state.

“If they can show you know data to show, ‘hey, Virginia is becoming safer and safer through these programs, then it’s a win-win’,” said AGCVA Director of Workforce and Training, Courtney Baker.

Baker says 10 companies have applied for the BEST Program. Out of the 10, 8 hold a level one rating.

“Really, level one is like that entry saying, ‘hey, I comply with all of these VOSH standards,’ but whenever you go into level two, it’s saying, ‘hey, I’m a cut above, I set a standard, I have a model’,” said Baker.

The ratings go up to Level 3 and MEB says they’re hoping to get to that level soon.

“We’re only one of two contractors that have it in the state of Virginia,” said Clarke. “Our goal is to hit level three.”

“Being one of two level two companies in the state is a huge morale booster and our guys are proud of it,” said Parker.

Parker says the application process is thorough and takes time to complete, but he recommends it to other companies who are thinking about applying.

“It is extensive but the benefits that you receive from it are worth it,” said Parker. “We are putting the safety of not only our employees, but sub-contractors and the community first and foremost above everything else.”

W.M. Jordan in Newport News also has a Level 2 BEST safety rating.