Aurora Maintenance Site Goes the Extra Mile for Safety

Aurora Maintenance Site Goes the Extra Mile for Safety

The crew at the Illinois Tollway’s Aurora (M-8) maintenance facility doesn’t start each day with a morning meeting; they call it “church” because it’s where they preach about the importance of safety. 

“We call it ‘church,’ but it’s more like a pre-game pep talk for our team,” says M-8 Manager Brian Fuqua, a former high school football and wrestling coach. “We try to make them feel good before they go out, make sure they have their heads in the game.”

Fuqua preaches the importance of taking ownership, being prepared and having fun while making it a priority to keep their section of the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), from Sugar Grove to Oak Brook, safe and clean for Illinois Tollway customers. 

Fuqua takes great pride that others notice how clean the roadway is, but really appreciates when his staff says, “Our section is looking really good.” It shows they have bought in to his philosophy of taking ownership. 

It’s this doctrine of ownership that helped M-8 earn the 2021 Go the Extra Mile for Safety Award. The annual safety performance award is presented to one of the Tollway’s 12 maintenance facilities that achieves the highest cumulative score based on three safety criteria: incident rate, Toolbox Safety Talks and positive feedback from managers and supervisors who observe and document outstanding safety practices. 

M-8 was one of three maintenance facilities that went through the year without a single injury, joining Marengo (M-6) and Bensenville (M-16) in achieving that feat for the first time in the Tollway’s history. But what put M-8 over the top was that this team conducted 75 Toolbox Safety Talks, more than twice the required number of 36 talks and a dozen more than the maintenance facility with the next highest number of Toolbox Safety Talks. 

Toolbox Safety Talks are training resources available to maintenance facilities. Each month, the Tollway safety department recommends three safety topics for discussion. Topics include the three-contact rule for entering or exiting vehicles, back safety and proper equipment and materials handling. It also includes watching and discussing the Protect Your Assets series of safety videos, which cover topics including roadway debris removal, proper lifting techniques and moving equipment. 

Last year, M-8 started conducting training sessions every Friday as a matter of course to cover the operation and maintenance of various tools and equipment, as well as situations maintenance crews might encounter on the roadway. Everyone is encouraged to provide input and ask questions that might lead to new and better ways of doing things.

Fuqua says that training was emphasized to keep workers safe doing a wide variety of work, usually in close proximity to live traffic, and most of the 22 maintenance workers at M-8 also have fewer than three years experience. Much of the work maintenance crews do is out on the road – helping to clear incidents, removing debris and plowing snow. They also mow grass, fill potholes, clear drainage structures, repair electrical equipment and fix guardrails. They work with chainsaws, wood chippers, lawnmowers, jackhammers, concrete saws and blow torches. 

Interim Executive Director Lanyea Griffin called in via Zoom to congratulate the M-8 team. Griffin was among several Tollway leaders who participated in an awards celebration on May 3 to recognize the safety achievements at the Aurora maintenance facility led by Fuqua and Supervisor Michael Altobelli and present the traveling trophy. 

“I hope this trophy serves as a constant reminder that your work and your efforts to create and maintain a safe work environment are recognized and appreciated,” said Griffin.