Creating a Culture of Care: Mono Constructions
Procore set out to find the companies, projects and individuals that stood out for their bold achievements in construction. Among the 24 outstanding finalists selected, eight were named winners of the 2021 Groundbreaker Awards. This article is the first in an eight-part series spotlighting each winner.
Mono Constructions, 2021 Groundbreaker Award Winner for Excellence in Safety, has put safety at the centre of everything it does. The Australian-owned construction company made a deliberate choice around a decade ago to make safety the foundation of its construction business.
The company’s goal is to build the safest places on earth for people to live and work. Achieving this means creating a site and company culture that makes safety the foundation of everything. This extends well beyond simply meeting the requirements of its AS/NZS4801/ISO45001 Safety accreditation, generating benefits for project quality and workforce unity.
There was a pivotal moment on a worksite, remembers Mono’s Business Manager Chris Moujalli. The job was a four-storey apartment building surrounded by the usual access and safety scaffolding. One of the subcontractors, however, insisted on doing things their own way. Instead of using the scaffolding, they would stand on other structures, creating a major safety risk.
The worker was asked to follow the appropriate practice but would not, despite multiple warnings, so they were asked to leave the project.
“That’s when I realised we really have to take safety seriously,” said Moujalli. “I never want to be the person who has to make the phone call saying someone isn’t coming home. I never want to make that call.”
The detailed, comprehensive safety practices and strategies put in place by Mono include site management systems and processes, ongoing training, worker engagement, constant checks, data collection, and data analysis and reporting.
The company articulated its values—the Mono Way—as an acronym, F.R.A.N.K, which stands for Focus, Respect, Anticipate, Never Give Up and Kindness. These are not just words in a document; they are displayed on every site, including the back of Mono’s hi-vis shirts.
“It’s about having respect and being kind to the guys working to the left and to the right of you,” Moujalli said.
While the initial focus was physical safety on site, Mono has since extended its care to psychological and mental health as well.
“If we show we care more about our people and our subbies, we can ask them to look after the business and each other. We are creating a great culture of being great people to be around, and people feel included and safe,” explained Moujalli.
The company offers staff free support from a qualified and independent psychologist. This is not only available for issues relating to work but also any issues in their home life. Issues at home can have the most impact on a worker’s mental health, which can translate directly into their on-site performance.
“They can see the psychologist any time. It is confidential, and we pick up the bill. This also extends to family and household members. A happy worker is a safe worker,” said Moujalli.
Mono HR/HSE Manager Frances Khattar introduced the “Hour of Power.” This regular event gathers all the company’s personnel together to discuss topics relating to wellbeing. An expert guest speaker is invited, such as a nutritionist or psychologist, and offers the team some tips and tools.
The company has also organised a staff Wellbeing Challenge that encouraged everyone to improve their physical activity levels, diet and mental health. The emphasis is on holistic worker health—body, mind and spirit.
It’s all backed by data
Mono’s safety approach is backed by systems, processes, data and analytics. Khattar conducts 125 checks as part of monthly inspections, and there are 72 checks in the weekly safety inspections conducted by site teams.
The company uses Procore to support project management and safety, including Procore’s Inspection, Observation, Incidents, and Forms tools; the Documents tool; and Reporting and Dashboards. This gives Khattar and the rest of the management team detailed insights into what issues are occurring and the data that helps them formulate a strategy to address it.
Michelle Stack, Mono’s Information Systems and Change Manager, says the company has also recently digitised its “Mono Way” documentation.
This body of knowledge that details Mono’s critical systems, processes and accumulated insight started life many years ago as a one-page document when workers began their job, they got “Mono Way” to learn the company’s approach and what was expected of them.
Since then, it grew to include all the company’s HSE and site management processes, estimating, project management and best practices in relation to quality and other matters. When anyone joined the company, they would be shown where to find it. There was also a copy available on every site.
Now, it has been digitised in a kind of wiki form and uploaded to the cloud so anyone can find the information they need at any time. It also integrates a training and oversight dimension. The Mono management team can see what resources are being accessed and use the system to track worker training and credentials as they grow.
“The system we have brought on helps with staff development and with engagement with our personnel,” Stack said.
It starts with design
Safety is on the agenda at every meeting, including project design meetings.
Design managers believe designing out risk is ideal. Worker and occupant safety is kept at the forefront. How a project is designed and delivered is influenced wherever possible by the emphasis on keeping the people who will be building it safe as they work and ensuring it will be safe for the future occupants too.
“We all recognise safety will have to be dealt with one way or another, so if it can be done at the design stage, we do so.” said Stack.
Workers new to the Mono Way may sometimes find the approach challenging. It’s often they have not encountered such a structured approach before. Communications, training and management clearly demonstrating leadership are crucial when overcoming any resistance.
“People come to us from a lot of diverse workplaces, so when we begin the process of communication, we are really clear in our expectations so there are no surprises. We make sure people have the training, support and resources to do what we expect.” said Khattar.
Mono will continue to improve its approach to health, wellbeing and safety.
“As part of this ever-evolving world, we will change. That is A for Anticipate,” he says. “We are always looking at ways to improve and ways to be developing people; that is very important too,” said Moujalli.