On Friday I was in Pensacola, Fla., continuing my trek visiting shipyards in Florida and Alabama. The people at Patti Marine Enterprises invited me to to their celebration for being awarded the first American Equity Underwriters (AEU) Most Improved Shipyard Safety Award. I was looking forward to going to the yard anyway; and, like most other reporters I’ve known in my life, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity for a free meal.
Patti Marine officially received the award from AEU in July in Atlanta, but Frank Patti Jr. wanted the men and women who work at the yard — about 70 — to have their own celebration.
“This is about how proud we are of all of you,” Patti told his employees. “But this is not about patting yourself on the back. It’s about finding better ways to do our work. My father started this and we are continuing his work.”
Working with its consultant, Alan McMillan, a former regional administrator for OSHA, Patti partnered with the Escambia County Fire Rescue to conduct three comprehensive on-site drills for firefighting aboard vessels on land and in the water, as well as man-down drill rescues in various spaces in the boat.
In the last 18 months, the yard has been involved in a comprehensive safety program relating to the reduction of personal injuries. Upper management is involved in daily safety communications consisting of toolbox safety meetings and performing daily walk around inspections of the work areas. In addition, all managers, supervisors and the safety staff attend monthly safety committee meetings.
The safety upgrades are part of the continuing “investment in the yard,” Patti said. Other recent improvements at Patti Marine are new power and feed stations located under vessels that are under construction and around the facility to clean up cords and service lines on the ground, 160 yards of new concrete prefabrication area, and about 6,000 square yards of asphalt paving to cover the yard and create a cleaner, more organized and efficient facility, Patti said.
Patti lives next door to the shipyard and members of his family also live in the surrounding area and work at the yard. “It’s very much a family atmosphere here,” he said, “and that’s how we feel about the people who work for us. We appreciate them. We have a retirement plan for them and we pay half their health care costs.”
I asked Patti about today’s safety standards that yards are now held to versus a decade or more ago. “Yes, safety is a very big part of our responsibility, as it always has been and should be. We’re always striving to be the best and we consider this award to be huge.”
Huge could also be used to describe the plate of barbecue I inhaled at lunch that day. My thanks to Frank Patti Jr., general manager Ashley Stone and everyone else at Patti for their hospitality.