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May 19, 2023
Matt Elder takes a personal approach to safety. He knows everyone by name on his projects, which has fostered a genuine mutual respect between him and his project teams. Elder’s personal touch shows he truly cares about his teams’ wellbeing and the work they are performing.
In his capacity as superintendent, Elder leads the overall safety vision of his projects by “walking the walk” and demonstrating his commitment to safety as an extension of how he approaches the job. In addition, Elder is a firm believer in clear communication he is direct in communicating his expectations, and his project teams have adopted this style of direct communication to ensure challenges are met head on and resolved quickly.
Elder has worked on some of Atkinson Construction’s more complex projects. Examples are lifting an entire steel truss bridge in one piece while working over water, then moving it to a new location twice during the life of the project, to constructing a new SR 509 alignment from I-5 to 24th Avenue South, including a new interchange with I-5 along 2.5 miles of I-5 from South 200th Street to SR 516, and replacing the South 216th Street bridge over I-5.
Elder has extensive experience in bridge work and work zone safety. He has come to the realization that clear and accurate communication is the best approach to creating a safer work environment. He exemplifies this by his approach to safety meetings, such as Atkinson’s All Hands meeting, that he leads on his projects. He is known for beginning every meeting with a national recognition of something famous. It works as an ice breaker and sets the tone for everyone’s attention. He then makes sure all stakeholders in the meeting speak about their upcoming work, allowing for comments and interaction by the group.
Elder is also a firm believer in Atkinson’s Speak Up Listen Up philosophy and drives that concept to all levels by setting the expectation for increased safety observations and near-miss reporting. He has devised his own method of recognizing those who participate with safety observations and near-miss reports, and his jobs always maintain the greatest participation.
Additionally, his projects within Atkinson Construction in Washington continually have the least number of incidents and workers’ compensation claims proving that he continually promotes good decision making that results in less injury.
Elder is very involved in identifying new ways to increase quality work and safety by innovating better means to communicate. This includes small things, like always being the first in a meeting to address safety observations, regardless of if they are positive or negative observations. He believes the continual reiteration of concepts such as safety and quality benefit the job’s performance and constantly keeps safety as the focus of every decision.