Montana Ethic Project: Creating safe workplaces


Joey and Libby Early

Larry Simkins, president of the Washington Companies, talks about how a real commitment to workplace safety can have dramatic results.

This is the 22nd chapter of the 32-part video series “The Montana Ethic Project.” This chapter features Larry Simkins, president and CEO of Missoula-based Washington Companies, discussing the subject, “The Culture of Safety.” You can watch the whole video below. Here is how it begins:

“My name is Larry Simkins. I’m president and CEO of the Washington Companies, based in Missoula. The Washington Companies are a group of companies founded and owned by Dennis Washington that employ over 4,000 people all over the world. The companies that we have do business in the mining industry, marine and rail transportation, shipyards, environmental construction, heavy equipment distribution and aviation products.

“It is those industries that I’m going to talk about today that will provide a basis for my talk: industries with typically high-risk employment.”

Here is another, edited excerpt from Simkins’ presentation:

“So what I want to discuss is our experience in just the last 10 years regarding safety. I’m going to tell you some stories about things we are doing and what is interesting is that during these last 10 years, it has been a period where we were not sitting still: we have reopened the copper mine in Butte, we have started a shipping container company called C-Span Corp that is now the largest supplier of container ships to China, and Modern Machinery based in Missoula has now expanded its service to Russia in an area that is one third of the land mass of the United States. So it has not been a stagnant period where we have had this improvement in our safety; it has been a very dynamic growth period.

“I talked earlier about our private companies, excluding C-Span Corp. They generate about 7 million hours annually with some years in excess of 9 million. In those same 10 years our reportable injuries have declined 69 percent. Let me repeat, our reportable injuries have declined 69 percent in companies that were already performing better than industry average, in a state that supposedly has historically hazardous jobs, and expanded the footprint of the companies all at the same time.

“As I speak, Montana Resources, our mine in Butte, is approaching 1.5 million man hours without a reportable accident. That is in an operation that mines copper around the clock.”

PERC_Logo_MontanaEthicPERC—the Property & Environment Research Center—is a proud sponsor of the Montana Ethic Project. To learn how PERC’s ideas can help us honor one another’s rights to land, water, and wildlife,visit

First week: Project introduction.

Second week: Richard Drake on “Terrorism and the Consolation of History.”

Third week: Mike Gear on “The Value of Athletics.”

Fourth week: Franke Wilmer on “Gender Equity.”

Fifth week: Gordon Brittan on “The Founding Fathers.”

Sixth week: Jim Posewitz on “Montana Sportsmen and the Hunter’s Ethic.”

Seventh week: The Rev. Jessica Crist on “Religion and Politics: Can They Co-exist?”

Eighth week: Chuck Tooley on “The Montana Character.”

Ninth week: Steve Bullock on “Citizens United v. Montana.”

10th week: Carol Williams on “The Imperative for Female Government Participation.”

11th week: Bob Rowe on Technological Development.”

12th weekGeorge Metcalfe on “Economic Development in Africa and Its Relationship to Montana.”

13th weekBruce Smith on “Montana’s Food Economy.”

14th week: Peggy Beltrone on “Montana Wind Energy—Business and Politics.”

15th week: Mark Solon on “Creating an Intermountain West Startup Economy.”

16th week: Bill Yellowtail on “Futuring and Native Leadership.”

17th week: Judy Martz on “Trust in the Lord and He Will Direct Your Path.”

18th week: Bob Brown on “Teddy Roosevelt’s Shadow in Montana’s Big Sky.”

19th week: Gordon Belcourt on “A Montana Native Perspective.”

20th week: Dorothy Eck on “The Montana Constitution and the Right to Know.”

21st week: Pat Barkey on “The Montana Wage Disparity.”

22nd week: Thomas Power on “Valuing Montana: An Economist’s Observations.”

Next week: Jim Shanley on “Education Reform.”

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