Committed to Excellence

COP Construction LLC
Written by Claire Suttles

COP Construction LLC has been delivering a wide range of construction services since 1947. Active across Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, the Company has offices in Billings, MT, Salt Lake City, UT, and Sheridan, WY, allowing the team to give each geographical area the attention it deserves.
Widely acknowledged as one of the region’s leading construction companies, COP maintains a fulltime staff of over 160 year round, and up to 350 during peak season.

As a longtime fixture of the region, COP knows the area in which it works, giving the Company a leg up on competitors that are moving in from out of state. The Company’s broad range of specializations covers both the private and public sectors and includes bridges, dams, concrete structures, refineries, water, sanitary sewer and storm drain utilities, water and sanitary sewer treatment plants, containment ponds, subdivisions, general site work, and recreational facilities.

This dedication and commitment to excellence is all in a day’s work for the COP team. In fact, those standards are officially spelled out in the Company’s Core Values: Safety, Excellence, Integrity, Positive Attitude, Teamwork, Dedication, and Innovative. All are expected of each and every COP employee. Setting out these values in print is important, Safety Manager Brad Cutler points out, “because it ensures that the entire team is working towards a common goal. We believe it helps our people focus on those areas. If you focus on that specific area, you can excel in it. Clear guidelines are particularly beneficial to new hires because they spell out that this is who we are, and now this is who you are because you are one of us.”

Safety is one of the most important Company values. “Safety is our #1 responsibility because people come first,” the Company website explains. Because safety is so critical, at a minimum, COP maintains three fulltime Safety Coordinators. Tom Fox is the Safety Coordinator for the Montana and Wyoming operations, Nick Brown is the Field Safety Coordinator for the refinery work, and Brad Cutler is the Safety Coordinator for the Utah and Idaho operations. All have very strong safety backgrounds, making them ideal for the job.

COP Safety Coordinators travel constantly, moving from one project site to another, always ready to offer advice and guidance to keep employees safe. “We spend 80 to 90 percent of our time in the field with the guys. This one-on-one, face-to-face interaction is crucial. We are available – we are there. It is that personal touch that makes a big difference.”

This “one-on-one, face-to-face” starts with their new hire training. Mr. Fox and Mr. Brown explain that, “COP requires extensive new hire training to ensure safety and competence on every project. COP’s commitment to safety starts as soon as a potential employee arrives at any one of our three offices. These potential employees are given a pre-employment drug and alcohol screening and shown an instructional video that covers general construction safety, trenching and excavation safety, hazards communication and respiratory protection safety. All employees are tested on the material to ensure that the information is retained and understood.”

Every project is approached differently to ensure that the unique safety needs of each job are carefully met. “All projects have their own unique challenges,” Mr. Fox and Mr. Brown explain. “That’s why every project has a Site Specific Site Health and Safety Plan developed to mitigate hazards and make employees aware of potential hazards and ensure a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that may cause serious injury or death.” In the preconstruction phase, this plan is developed jointly for the project by the Safety Coordinator, Project Manager and Project Superintendent. All involved “buy-in” to the plan before the project starts. The plan is then reviewed with employees and implemented on day one in the field prior to work starting.

Some projects require additional safety training that is relevant to a particular site or sector. For instance, employees working in area refineries attend an eight hour CSTOP (Contractors’ Safety Training and Orientation Program) and two to three hours of site-specific training.

In addition, COP launched a behavioral-based safety program this year called START (Supervisor Training in Accountability and Recognition Techniques). The Company also has three OSHA 500 instructors who are able to teach OSHA 10-30 in construction safety classes. First Aid and CPR, HAZWOPER, asbestos safety and many other training classes are offered to employees at no charge.

COP’s numerous safety awards showcase the team’s efforts. In 2009 and 2010, the Company won the Wyoming Contractors Association Award, which recognized the team’s zero incident rate on a municipal utility job. The Company also won the Raffles Insurance Fleet Safety Award in 2010-2011, for driving 1 million to 4 million miles with zero fleet accidents. In 2006, COP took home the AGC of Utah’s Achievement of Safety Excellence award, the Associated General Contractors of America’s Certificate of Commendation, and the Wyoming Contractors Association’s First Place Safety Award in heavy industrial. The Company earned the AGC of Utah’s Achievement of Safety Excellence and the Associated General Contractors of America’s Certificate of Commendation in 2005 as well. In nine of the last fourteen years, COP has earned the AGC Award – Platinum Level for Achievement of Safety Excellence – 25% Below National.

On a recent project in Provo, Utah, COP demonstrated its ability to overcome tough safety challenges. This two-year project involved laying a 60” pipe for a waterline which came from a reservoir clear on the other side of the mountain. The pipe was placed in a trench 15’ deep through the streets of Provo, as well as a main road bordering Brigham Young University. The project’s location created some serious safety concerns, along with the actual challenge of laying the pipe 15’ below the ground.

“We’ve had people drive into wet concrete, as well as putting tires into open trenches. From a safety standpoint, that is extraordinarily difficult.”

Keeping a careful eye on pedestrians and vehicular traffic was of the utmost importance to COP so as not to inconvenience the residents or the traveling public. Going the extra mile for one frail, elderly woman, a temporary bridge was formed for her to cross the trench and prevent her from having to walk out of her way. “She was probably over 80 years old and maybe 75 pounds dripping wet. We have pictures of our superintendent taking her elbow and walking her across to her lunch and the foreman holding her purse over his shoulder with the head of her little dog poking out. They did this for her every time she needed to cross the street, guiding her safely back and forth each day.”

BYU football added to the job’s challenges because traffic would grind to a halt for every game. “Football is huge here and when there was a football game, we would spend the first four hours of game day covering everything and pushing equipment back. We would do everything we could because literally the entire city would be gridlocked for that football game – it was incredibly challenging.”

With the challenges of this project, especially involving safety, it was realized that safety awareness needed to be a primary focus. This was achieved by holding more safety meetings to include everyone from the owner to project management, superintendents, crews and subcontractors. “JSAs (job safety analysis) were used on all facets of the project. There was also training of superintendents so as to place the responsibility of the safety of our crews in their hands.”

Another major COP job was the $14 million Highway 191 – Gallatin Canyon Project for the Montana Department of Transportation. The team carried out a series of improvements to enhance public safety, including the replacement of the Big Sky Bridge and the Swan Creek Bridge, adding right and left turn lanes on Highway 64 going toward Big Sky, widening road shoulders, improving site distance for drivers, and installing upgraded guardrails. The work spanned a total of 15 miles.

The Cameco Resources North Butte Project is one of COP’s largest private civil projects to date. At Cameco’s uranium processing plant and mine, the team trenched, installed, and welded 53,000 lineal feet of HDPE pipe (trunk line), ranging in size from 3” to 18”. The team also constructed 15 junction vaults and eight main line vaults along the HDPE liquid uranium ore trunk lines. After placing 850 yards of structural concrete, COP put in a 150’ x 112’ pre-engineered metal building, taking care to avoid damaging the delicate fiberglass process tanks at the site. The $6.5 million project was particularly challenging due to tight deadlines.

From underground utilities and bridges to uranium processing plants, COP’s project scope is remarkably extensive. With 68 years of experience, the Company has honed its skills across multiple sectors and earned its place throughout the western United States. With a strong set of values to its name, and a steady focus on safety, COP is well prepared to continue its outstanding success.



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