Shawn Helmer

Shawn Helmer

Safety Director

Hello all!

Spring is just around the corner. What a weird winter, if you can call it that. On January 31 of this year I was running some errands and got passed by a convertible with its top down. At the next intersection, I saw a guy on his Harley Davidson. Now that was a first in January for me. February had a couple of days in the high 50’s and low 60’s. I would hardly call that winter.

So, Brian asked me if I would write an article for the newsletter, which I accepted. Several years ago, a previous employer asked me to find a keynote presenter for our annual safety training. I stumbled upon this guy with a fairly brief Google Search. His name was Mike Mullane. He was an astronaut for NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. He was the next crew on deck after the Challenger disaster happened. He was perhaps one of the most interesting individuals I have ever met. Now, I am sure there are many of you who do not remember this awful event. I was a junior in high school at the time, and I knew exactly where I was when this occurred. All seven astronauts aboard the Challenger lost their lives approximately 70 + seconds after it lifted off the pad.

Mike presented a concept to the group that is the basis for this article called Normalization of Deviance. He did not actually coin the phrase, but he applied it to the Challenger disaster, and it has applications beyond
the space program, e.g., personal and collective safety. Simply put, Normalization of Deviance is the process in which deviance from correct or proper behavior or rule becomes culturally normalized. It is the process where a clearly unsafe practice becomes considered normal if it does not immediately cause a catastrophe. In the case of the Challenger, NASA Scientists knew there was a problem with excessive heat and or flame making its way to the flexible O-rings. This was something that never should have happened. You might say they became numb or otherwise not concerned. Why? because nothing bad happened – until it did.
Of note, four different space shuttles flew 24 missions before the Challenger disaster.

Another way of describing Normalization of Deviance is the phenomenon in which individuals and teams deviate from what is known to be an acceptable performance standard until the adopted way of practice becomes the new norm.

My message is relatively simple. We have regulations, rules, safe work practices, etc., in place so people do not injure others or themselves. Typically, these things were put in place as a result of personal injury, property damage, or worse. We have these things in place because they have proven to be effective in eliminating or mitigating a potential hazard. Just because you took a shortcut once and did not have a bad result
does not mean that it should be repeated.

So, as we embark on the 2024 construction season, let’s follow safe work practices, perform our daily safety huddles, complete our pre-task / job safety analysis, be alert, use spotters and flaggers, make sure our operators know when you are working in close proximity to their mobile equipment (eye contact), line of fire hazards/body placement, wear all required PPE, and look out for one another. If you see someone performing an unsafe task(s), use your stop work authority. Don’t walk past and blow
it off. Take the time to coach and mentor. We empower all of you to stop work if you see something that is clearly unsafe. I look forward to talking with all of you on the job site this year and sending you home every day in the same condition as when you arrive at work, albeit perhaps a little more tired.
Here’s to a safe 2024 construction season!


Brackett Project Start 3/2023 End 11/2026

We’re starting the Brackett project, an 8.4-mile stretch on I-94 from the US 53 interchange to Mallard Rd. This three-year project includes grading, pavement removal, milling, concrete, HMA pavement, culvert and storm sewer installation, and structure repair and widening. Year one focuses on building temporary lanes and widenings, along with mill and overlay of US 53 ramps. Year two includes westbound reconstruction, and Year three completes eastbound reconstruction, with final removals of temporary roads and reclamation.

BRF Bridges project start 9/2024 end 11/2025

Hoffman Construction Company is proud to be a subcontractor on this project, working alongside Lunda Construction Company. Hoffman Construction creatively utilized materials to construct crossovers from property owned by HCC behind the old “Holiday Inn Express.” These materials will be “borrowed” until the end of the project, when they will be returned to fill the hole. This project has involved the construction of two crossovers, one located on IH 94 just west of the Black River interstate bridges and the other east of the STH 54 interchange near the Castle Mound Road overhead bridge. HCC hauled approximately 5,000 cubic yards of borrow and 8,000 tons of aggregate to construct the crossovers. Further work will include approach slab removals and structure excavations/backfill at the bridges, to be repaired by Lunda Construction. In the Fall of 2025, HCC crews will remove the crossovers, utilizing the salvaged asphalt and base course to provide more parking area for our equipment fleet at the HCC equipment yard in Black River Falls.

2024 Employee Training

Mechanic Training

Hoffman Construction Company’s mechanic training took place from February 19th to 21st at the Fabick Caterpillar Training Facility in Green Bay, WI. The training focused on instructing mechanics in using Cat’s SIS and ET systems, which enables them to connect to machines for diagnostics and troubleshooting.

Mechanics also received hands-on training in the lab and worked with engines to understand these systems in real-world scenarios. The training aimed to enhance our mechanics’ efficiency and ability to repair machines more swiftly on the job site.

During the training, the mechanics enjoyed dinner at Prime Quarter Steak House to celebrate a successful session. Mechanics Ryan Laufenberg and Joel Lahmayer (pigs), decided to tackle the Prime Quarter’s 40 oz steak challenge – and they emerged VICTORIUS!

Quite a feat, considering their slender builds. Can you imagine polishing off a 40 oz steak?

Commercial Motor Vehicle Training

The 2024 Commercial Motor Vehicle Training, held on February 13 in Black River Falls, featured informative sessions to enhance our team’s knowledge and skills in various areas of commercial vehicle operations.

Sgt. Maurer from the Wisconsin State Police Truck Division shared insights on roadside inspections, emphasizing load securement. Jim Wampler from Olsen Chain delivered a presentation on Rigging Best Practices, focusing on adequately inspecting chains and rigging. Mark Williams from Zurich Insurance Risk Management discussed safe driving and liability. Brian Burns provided guidance on proper DOT documentation and Hoffman’s safety requirements.

Gary Kaas, HCC’s safety representative, highlighted the significance of safe driving practices, insurance risk management, load securement, and using Azuga telematics. The training aimed to equip our team with the knowledge and tools necessary for safety and compliance in our commercial vehicle operations.

Trimble Surveying Training

On Friday, March 8, Hoffman Construction conducted a full-day training session on using Trimble surveying equipment. The training covered basic and advanced techniques to new users and those that needed a refresher.

During the training, participants learned about the different components of the equipment, including Base Stations (seen on tripods) and Rovers (handheld devices). Fabick Cat provided their trainer, and Al Johnson contributed to the training, both ensuring participants received comprehensive instruction.

While the training may not have been the most thrilling experience, it was undoubtedly valuable in enhancing our team’s proficiency with the Trimble surveying equipment, ultimately improving our efficiency and precision on the job.

MSHA Training

Hoffman Construction held its MSHA Refresher training on February 23, 2024, at the Skyline Golf Club in Black River Falls. The event was designed to provide a comprehensive update and review for our active miners and invited supervisors.

The day began at 7:30 AM with coffee and conversation, followed by informative sessions starting at 8:00 AM. Mary Bauer from Eau Claire OSHA discussed worksite safety, emphasizing key regulations and practices. B&B Electric then covered electrical safety, focusing on best practices and hazard prevention.

At 10:30 AM, the MSHA Refresher Overview was presented by HCC Safety, providing a detailed review of necessary MSHA regulations and safety procedures. Lunch was served at 11:30 AM, followed by a First Aid/CPR Training session at noon by Pete Fasching from Heartquist.

The day concluded with closing comments at 4:30 PM, wrapping up a day of valuable training and information exchange to ensure our mining team’s safety and well-being.

Special Announcements

 2024 Supervisor meeting

The annual meeting with our field supervision staff was held at the Castle Hill Supper Club.

The day kicked off with breakfast, sponsored by Aring Equipment. Morning sessions featured presentations on safety and metrics led by Chris Goss and Shawn Helmer, followed by a discussion on utilities led by Gary Kaas and visiting experts. Lunch, sponsored by Fabick Cat, provided a break before the afternoon sessions.

The agenda continued with an HR/EEO presentation by Ian Johnson, the “State of the Business” address by Chris Goss, a session on fleet and equipment led by Brian Burns, and a marketing update presented by Brian Burns and Chris Goss. The day concluded with a session on crushing led by Troy Hoffman.

Overall, the meeting provided valuable updates, insights, and networking opportunities for our field supervision staff, setting a solid foundation for the year ahead.

Golden Shovel Award

We’re excited to share some fantastic news with you. Hoffman Construction has been recognized with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary’s Golden Shovel Award at the 38th Annual Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Summit in Wisconsin Dells. Additionally, we received the National Award for Excellence in Concrete Pavement for our outstanding design contract for Scott County in Shakopee, Minnesota.

These prestigious awards underscore our unwavering dedication to excellence, collaboration, and supporting diversity within the construction industry. We’re incredibly proud to be acknowledged for our efforts in championing Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) and exceeding contract requirements to foster inclusivity and opportunity.

As the prime contractor on the job, although we didn’t do the concrete paving ourselves, this recognition reaffirms our commitment to building a more inclusive and equitable construction sector. As members of the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association (WTBA), we’re committed to driving positive change and leading by example.

We’re honored to stand among our peers who share our values.