Safety at the Center of It All


It’s a famous photo, certainly among people in the construction industry: workers on their lunch break, sitting more than 800 feet above New York City, relaxing for a moment during the building of Rockefeller Center.

Taken as a publicity photo and published in the New York Herald Tribune in 1932, it shows in one startling image just how indifferent these workers were to jobsite safety. There were no hard hats, no safety harnesses, or any nod whatsoever to personal safety. But as film critic John Anderson reported later in The New York Times, their casual recklessness was balanced by the fact that “a finished floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza was probably just a few feet away.”


Safety is in Barton Malow's DNA

At Barton Malow, safety is at the core of every aspect of the enterprise. It’s addressed at the start of every workday on a jobsite, a leading element of orientation for new-hires, celebrated and discussed at each year’s Construction Safety Week, and a focus of constant improvement and innovation wherever Barton Malow team members gather, train, and build.

Lunch Atop a Skyscraper, 1932

Lunch Atop a Skyscraper, 1932

“Safety is a tough profession but we do it because we love people. That’s why I truly love being the Vice President of Safety for Barton Malow,” says Mindy Schultz, who oversees safety within the Barton Malow Company entity. “Because people are always going to be the number one priority.”

Barton Malow historically has made the safety of team members and contract workers on construction sites a major priority, as evidenced by, among other things, former Chairman and President Ben Maibach Jr.’s membership in the Governor’s Industrial Safety Advisory Council, and the company’s support of the “Dented Derby Club,” a creative program of the Detroit Chapter of Associated General Contractors to encourage construction workers to always wear their hard hats.

“(At one time), the construction industry did not enjoy a very good record as far as safety was concerned,” Ben Maibach Jr. had noted. “In recognition of the need to improve safety performance, we were pioneers in forming the first construction division of the Michigan Safety Conference. We also helped to mold the construction division of the Detroit Safety Council. I was elected chairman of the Construction Division for the Michigan Safety Conference in 1968 and served as a director of both the conference and council for many years.”

Today safety continues to be a core value and a part of Barton Malow’s culture, summed up in the words “build it safe, no exceptions.”

“It’s really that ‘safety first’ has to be the unmistakable mindset of every Barton Malow team member,” says Senior Safety Manager Jeff Raymer. “Safe means you’ve got to put safety first; [and] production, scheduling, quality, all that, second. … What do we need to do from a safety perspective so nobody gets hurt? That’s what ‘no exceptions’ [means] to me.”


"It's really that ‘safety first’ has to be the unmistakable mindset of every Barton Malow team member."

Jeff Raymer

Senior Safety Manager

Safety at Barton Malow is a Team Effort

Safety for all those working on and associated with a project is a community effort that often involves more than just Barton Malow, but also clients, industry associations, universities, government agencies, unions and more.

In the 1970s, the newly formed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), issued construction safety standards, helping make sure workers have a safe and healthy environment by establishing regulations, developing education and training, and upholding standards by conducting inspections. The creation of OSHA provided a new platform that sparked Barton Malow to become even more focused on workplace safety.

For Jeff, one aspect of safety that the establishment of OSHA inspired Barton Malow to consider was, “What we could do better to protect our people from an equipment perspective?”

Clients also contribute to Barton Malow’s culture of safety. Senior Director of Safety Scott Wagner, who oversees the Barton Malow Builders entity, knows the intense level of involvement many clients have with safety on their projects and how Barton Malow participates in a common goal of providing safety for all on the jobsite.

“They set a standard that almost seems unbelievable, and you either reach that standard or you have a significant growing process to do that,” he says.

Associated General Contractors Safety Stand Down in Johns Creek, Georgia - August 2008
Workers in their hardhats on site at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan - 1977
Construction Safety Week Lunch at BayCare South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City, FL - May 2022

Today, safety and the technology that supports it continue to advance at Barton Malow. Whether it’s using drones to survey a project while keeping people safely on the ground, using a mobile phone app to assist with safety observations in the field, or working on a learning management system to help keep track of training and noting when team members might need re-training, new ideas continue to be incorporated to help Barton Malow live up to the culture of “build it safe, no exceptions.”

The world has changed since that famous 1932 photo of workers lunching on a beam above New York City. Safety on jobsites has become a national priority, with Barton Malow leading the industry through continuous improvement, training, safety programs, innovation, partnerships, and, most importantly, ingraining it as the preeminent core value in the company’s culture.

“Some days I’m motivating and inspiring my team to keep their chins up and keep fighting the good fight,” says Mindy, “getting out there and explaining to people why it’s so important to be safe and to follow the rules and to work the plan that’s in place.”

That plan most certainly does not include sitting unharnessed, having lunch on a girder more than 800 feet in the air.

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