Safety at the Center: Q&A with Safety Director Ned Brown
At Gray, safety and quality of life are the common threads that impact everything we do. To us, safety numbers are not just statistics—they’re people—and we’re deeply committed to sending everyone home safely at the end of each day. While maintaining the highest standard of safety takes a village, it’s our team members that hold everything together. In honor of Construction Safety Week, we spoke with director of safety, Ned Brown, to learn more about his journey with Gray, from intern to director, and what Gray’s safety culture means to him.
How long have you been with Gray?
I’ve been with Gray for over ten years—12 years if we’re counting my four months as an intern!
Walk us through your career path from intern to safety director.
I started with Gray as an intern in 2011 and worked through the summer. When I graduated college in March of 2012, I was fortunate that Gray had a position open for a safety technician, which I worked as for three years before being promoted to safety manager. In 2016, I was promoted to safety coordinator, then to assistant director of safety. In 2020, I became director of safety, which is my current role.
Did you always know you wanted to pursue safety?
No! Actually, I started college as a nursing major, and my degree is in Organizational Communications. I took a safety course late in college and loved it, so I decided to get my associate degree in safety. However, it wasn’t until my internship with Gray that I realized this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
What is a typical day at work look like for you?
I don’t have a typical day! But there are two lives—one in the office and one in the field.
If I’m heading to the office, I have an hour commute, so I’ll start my mornings calling people to check in. Construction starts early. Normally by 6:00 a.m. you’ll have team members arriving on site, so I try to give them a call first thing. Then, I tackle whatever meetings come up. Normally, I’m encouraging my team of regional safety managers to handle Pre-Construction meetings while I hit on customer meetings, proposal meetings, and strategic planning for the company.
If I’m in the field, I’ll get there first thing in the morning to help the project get started for the day. I sit in on the “all-hands” morning meetings and observe how day-to-day operations are going—walking the field, talking to contractors, etc. If there’s a customer on site, I love to meet them face-to-face as well. I’m really just there for the team to support however I can and see how everyone is doing.
What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
I love spending time with my wife and three kids. I also love being outdoors and enjoy hunting, fishing, and sporting clay shooting.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The impact we’re making on the industry by making jobsites safer is what I enjoy most about my work. Being able to see a tangible result and watching incident rates go down and the safety culture continually evolve is the most rewarding. Overall, I enjoy seeing people want to come to work as they see an industry becoming safer—that’s really all I’m working towards each day.
What has been your most memorable experience since being a part of the Gray family?
There’s a vivid memory I have of when I knew that Gray is exactly where I wanted to be. I was working a night shift on the fourth of July on a construction shutdown project in South Carolina. I remember I could see fireworks going off from the site. Then my phone rang, and it was Stephen Gray. I remember thinking, “What have I done to mess up so poorly that the CEO of the company has called me?!” He was calling to thank me for working on the fourth of July, and we talked for a long time, having genuine conversation.
Now, I always try to do the same. I’ll get a list of people who are working on holidays just to call them and say, “thank you.” It was an awesome moment and a great memory of the Gray family that still sticks out to me to this day.
What’s the most valuable advice you’ve ever been given?
My father told me to never stop learning. Always strive to grow and always strive to be better. It’s something I now try to instill in my teams—you can have every credential in safety, and every degree, but there’s still always something more to learn.
What do you think sets Gray apart from other service providers in the industry?
We always do the right thing. At Gray, we want to change industries for the better. As we always say, we aim to give our customers everything they ask for and then a little bit more.
A testament to Gray’s commitment to doing the right thing is our transition from hard hats to helmets. We determined helmets are safer for our people, and even though the financial cost was significant, we are believers that you can’t put a price on safety.
Another thing I love about Gray is our humility. When we have an opportunity to improve in an area, it’s always, “Hey, let’s fix it!” That was feedback we received during our 2023 Trade Partner Safety Summit; so many subcontractors told us that no one they had ever worked for had changed how they do business and owned up to any mistakes like Gray had.
In one word or phrase, how would you describe Gray?
I know everyone says “family,” but it’s true. Everyone is on the same team.
To learn more about Gray’s commitment to safety, visit: https://www.gray.com/safety.
For more information about this year’s Construction Safety Week, visit: https://www.constructionsafetyweek.com.