Posted on January 29, 2024
DredgeWire Exclusive: by Heiko Osterchrist- Associate Publisher
DredgeWire was able to catch up with Devon Carlock, VP of Safety & Government Relations as he was finishing up visiting Cottrell’s beach restoration project at Lewes, De. to speak about Cottrell’s safety program, CDMCS, DCA and AIWA.
DW: Devon, could you share a brief background on yourself with our readers.
DC: I started working in the maritime industry in the early 1990’s and have been working in the dredging industry for the past 20 years. My professional career began as a tugboat engineer for Dolbey Marine located in Salisibury Maryland. While working with Dolbey I was promoted to Director of Operations. I accepted a position at Southwind Construction as Superintendent in 2004 and was promoted to the Corporate Safety Director in 2009. In 2015 I accepted the position as VP of Safety & Government Relations with Cottrell Contracting based in Chesapeake, VA.
DW: How has the past year been for Cottrell?
DC: Cottrell has four CSD’s. Last year was a challenging year due to the lack of advertised dredging projects, much of that can be attributed to COVID related delays. Projects started to slowly come out during the second half of 23’. We currently have three dredges working on Corp-related projects and are optimistic about the remainder of 24’.
DW: When you came to Cottrell what was the safety program in place at Cottrell?
DC: Cottrell had an office-based HR Safety person. I was the first Corporate Safety Director to be hired. Cottrell saw the need for somebody to specifically focus on safety. The late Ben Cottrell V said “Safety is the most important thing we do every day. Devon, whatever you need, do it, but let’s get these dredges up to speed and get our crews on board with our safety program.” It was with the support of the Cottrell’s that allowed me to implement and update safety protocols, such as new safety equipment and implementation of new procedures and policies.
DW: Did Cottrell have a TRIR (Total Recordable Incident Rate) in place when you arrived?
DC: Yes, Cottrell was keeping yearly records as required. This was our baseline from which we worked from and then moved forward.
DW: What steps did you take to bring the numbers down?
DC: Being in the field you observe how the crew operates. I spent months observing and taking notes. You can then use your observation as a learning tool. The other thing is working with the crew. I will assist the crew in whatever activity they are doing. From grabbing a wrench to help make a pipeline connection or grabbing a line while on the boat, you must put yourself out there to make a difference. Implementation of new procedures and best practices becomes easier. As a result, the number of incidents has decreased.
DW: Does Cottrell have a system to report near misses?
DC: Yes, we encourage our entire leadership team. Superintendents, Captains, and Engineers are all required to report incidents. We are continually discussing protocols at safety meetings and toolbox talks. I like to discuss safety while the crew is having a meal. We have an open discussion with the team to work towards the goal of eliminating hazards and near misses. Identifying hazards and developing procedures to avoid injury is the focus. It is also a great time to hear feedback from the crew, not just Captains and Engineers, but from deckhands and mates. Sometimes they see things that others may have missed. Everyone has the opportunity to speak.
DW: What other training do you offer?
DC: On the job mentorship program. Our senior crew members work with the new crew members (greenhorns) in safety. We have decades of experience from our Superintendent, Captains, and Engineers, right on down the line to help guide and teach crewmembers. The message:“Is no one gets hurt, and everyone goes home safely to their families.” We also have Stop Work Authority. All crewmembers have the ability and are encouraged to stop work if something unsafe is observed. In addition, we have meetings where we invite outside professionals in safety to cover different topics like confined space or fall protection.
DW: How has the Corp interaction with contractors changed over the years and their interaction with Council of Dredging and Marine Construction Safety (CDMCS)?
DC: I remember attending several Jacksonville based “Safety Pays in Many Ways” conference several years back. That was the beginning of the partnership outreach. Now with the National Dredging Meeting in Atlanta and Corps partnership with the CDMCS the tone has changed for the better. Mr. Troy Larson, Safety and Occupational Health Manager Headquarters, USACE, has been engaged on point. Interactive discussions with leading and lagging indicators, incident reviews and open discussion on policy and how it effects contactors differently. It has been a pleasure to work with Mr. Larson and we look forward to working with him for many years to come.
At the CDMCS we make a point of inviting every USACE district to either attend in person or attend the CDMCS meetings via webinar. The interaction is not only with the contractors, but also with other districts, this has been a great opportunity to learn. The meeting provides attendees with a forum to hear how contractors and the government are handling safety issues. We are also expecting the Corp to release the revised 385-1-1 Safety & Health Requirements manual this year. With new SSHO requirement levels there will be quarterly meetings to work through questions that will undoubtedly be asked.
DW: What are your goals as President for the future of CDMCS?
DC: All the things I have mentioned regarding continued ways to improve safety, increased engagement between the Corp and contractors, as well as within the Corp itself. We will continue to bring in speakers who are safety experts to share new safety techniques and ideas. All our presentations, major discussions and new products are posted on the website and accessible to members and are at no cost to USACE.
One of the greatest benefits of being involved with the CDMCS is the ability for contractors to share issues with fellow contractors that are looking for input. At the CDMCS we are not competitors, we are there for one reason, safety. The safety of our crews and the ability to interact, develop and bring new ideas to an open forum. Our attendees and the CDMCS Board of Directors are passionate about safety. There has not been one meeting where I have not walked away with a discussed idea or company policy that has helped our safety program.
The next CDMCS meeting will take place in Jacksonville, Fl. at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort on February 16, 2024. Visit our website www.cdmcs.org for more information.
DW: Has CDMCS discussed data and control security on dredges?
DC: Yes. In May 2021Rhonda Lenoir, USACE discussed Safety & Security & DQM. Technology continues to move quickly; we will have a security expert scheduled to speak this year. This has been an ongoing point of discussion.
DW: As a board member of the Dredging Contractors of America (DCA) is there anything you would like to share with our readers?
DC: First, I would like to say that Dredging Contractors of America is a great organization. Mr. William Doyle has set a clear path of communication with the USACE and industry. He is advocating for our industry on key issues like the Jones Act and dredge funding. I am honored to work with Mr. Doyle and fellow dredging companies in Washington to help promote the US dredging fleet. The DCA hosts Monday briefings with members to discuss the issues at hand.
DCA Annual Meeting will be in Savannah on May 6, 2024
DW: Turning to another organization. Congratulations on being elected Chair of Atlantic Intercoastal Waterways Association-(AIWA). What can you share with us about this group?
DC: AIWA is a nonprofit organization founded in 1999 with a mission of securing funding and support for the maintenance of 1100 miles of the Atlantic intercoastal waterways. We are celebrating our 25th year this year and I am honored to have been elected chair in this celebratory year. I do have to give a special thanks to Brad Pickel, Executive Director of AIWA. Brad has advocated and done such incredible work on making funding a priority. His efforts and those of our members resulted in over $52 million of funding in the FY23 fiscal year for the waterway. Many people do not realize the importance of AIWA. It is infrastructure not just for pleasure boaters but for commercial traffic as well. Like other companies Cottrell depends on the intercoastal waterway to move our equipment and pipeline to projects from Norfolk to Florida. The AIWA Annual Meeting is celebrating its 25th year in Charleston, SC on November 18-20, 2024.
DW: We couldn’t agree with you more that the Atlantic and other inland waterways are critical to the commerce of America. Thank you, Devon, for your time and insight.