Social Media and Your Company Culture—Harmony or Collision?

by Rob Edwards


Tommy’s Concrete Pumping has, on the advice of Tommy’s daughter, finally developed a Facebook page. Tommy has populated the page with photos from some of his best jobs, and some “glamor shots” of his shined-up equipment being used in areas with gorgeous scenery in the background. It’s a good-looking page, and it’s helped Tommy both with business prospects and with reaching young operator candidates who could picture themselves on the machine in the photograph. Tommy has gone one step further and asked his operators to take photos with their phones if they see something that looks visually striking or is technically impressive for the page. He’s shown the operators how to post the photos to Facebook, and he’s gotten some of his best shots from them.

Unfortunately, Tommy hasn’t spent any time explaining to his operators what NOT to photograph, or what to make sure is included in any company photograph. He’s a concrete pumper, not a lawyer; his mind doesn’t work that way.


Ten months after Tommy’s Facebook page appeared on the internet, one of his pumps is involved in an incident. Although it was possible to fully extend the outriggers on the side away from the pour, the operator got lazy and decided there was no reason to do so. Then, while waiting for concrete a few hours later, the inspector asked if he could get a wheelbarrow full of concrete on the other side. The operator had a full hopper and could see the next load arriving from the freeway in the distance, so he complied. Unfortunately, he forgot he was shortrigged on that side, so when he moved the boom past the point of no return, the pump tipped over, driving the boom into a parked car where a man named John was filling out a report. The boom drove the roof of the car into the driver compartment, injuring John’s shoulder and neck. John was removed from the car and brought to the hospital by ambulance.


In the resulting lawsuit, Tommy stated that it was company policy to always extend all outriggers that could be extended, and that shortrigging was only allowed when it was unavoidable and even then it was done in accordance with the considerations outlined in the Safety Manual. He stated that the operator was acting outside of company policy and that the operator’s behavior was an anomaly which he would never tolerate.

The plaintiff’s attorney, in preparation for the depositions of Tommy and the operator, visited Tommy’s Facebook page, scouring all of the photographs Tommy and his operators had posted. He found no less than 12 separate instances of shortrigging, 10 of which had no reasonable justification other than the pour was away from the shortrigged side. One of the photos showed Tommy himself standing next to a shortrigged outrigger, with a breathtaking view of the sun setting over the Pacific in the background. Tommy’s defense is doomed to fail because of photographic evidence to the contrary.


Tommy is like many concrete pumpers in the new millennium. He chose concrete pumping because he likes working outside, he likes big machinery, he likes solving problems, and he likes owning a business because the only limit to his earnings potential is his own capability. What he doesn’t know and isn’t adept at is guessing what is going to create problems in future lawsuits researched on social media.

Tommy considers himself a safe concrete pump operator, and he considers his company a safety-conscious company. He holds regular safety meetings, he has his operators re-certified through the ACPA every two years, and he has empowered his operators to say “no” to dangerous situations—and Tommy will back them up if there’s an issue with the customer. Still, when Tommy trains new operators, they notice that Tommy takes some occasional shortcuts. He’s been known to say, “Make sure all the outriggers are fully extended, especially the ones that are towards the pour.” By adding the second half of the sentence, he’s diminishing the first half of the sentence. He’s unknowingly created a company culture of “be safe if anybody’s looking, and learn the shortcuts.”

In 2015, what everybody must realize is that everybody is looking—and posting to the internet—all the time. There are four different operator websites (of which I’m aware) that are beyond anything Tommy imagined when he pictured his Facebook account. Some of the operator websites seem like nothing more than places to post photos of “look what this idiot operator did today.” There are lots of photos of bad setups, lots of accident photos, lots of dangerous situations. It’s a plaintiff attorney’s best-case scenario. And here’s the scariest part: Those photos never go away.


1). You’ve always had a reason to be a safe company—keeping insurance costs down, keeping CSA scores up, keeping your reputation with the contractors as a safe company intact. But now it’s time to formalize the process. Develop a company policy regarding safety. Assume that everything you do on a job site will be photographed by anybody with a cellphone. From now on, all outriggers are extended unless there’s a reason to shortrig, and shortrigging rules are followed religiously. Power lines are always avoided by at least the prescribed distance. The one-to-one rule is obeyed. Wear your PPE. Everybody knows the safety rules; they’re pounded into you and each one of them represents an accident that’s already happened to somebody. As the leader of your company, you must set the example. When you train new employees, no shortcuts are ever shown; safety is not compromised—it’s company policy. Why? Because you now live in a society where Big Brother is watching you, and Big Brother’s name is social media.

2). Develop a company policy regarding posting to social media. It’s not so hard to state what you will and will not allow on your own Facebook page, but it’s also very important to stress what you will and will not allow on the other operator pages when it pertains to showing your company’s logos and company image. For example, if your operator posts a photo of a dangerous setup on “” and it has the name of your company displayed on the boom or the truck, that is a permanent blemish on your claim of safety compliance—whether or not you ever see the posting. Accordingly, the policy must include the following items:

a. Explain what is allowed to be posted on your own social media pages or web pages. It is good policy to have one person do all the posting and commenting for the company social media sites. In this way, you’ll be portrayed on social media the way you want to be portrayed.

b. Explain what is allowed to be posted on any third party website or social media when it shows your machines or talks about your business. If it’s on a third party website, you may never see it. Decide whether or not employees are allowed to post anything on any site while on company time. This one step can give employees time to think about what they’re about to post, and consider if it’s the right thing to do.

c. Explain what is allowed as far commenting on other employees. A little friendly teasing may be fine when it’s done in person and everyone can tell it’s teasing, but what if it’s mean spirited, or bullying, or sexual harassment? What if it’s an untruth by mistake, or worse—an out-and-out lie?

d. Explain what the consequences are for violations of the social media policy. They must be administered fairly and equally to everyone, so be prepared to stand behind your policy—even when your best operator is the culprit.

e. Social media policies must be carefully scrutinized so as not to infringe on the employee’s right to act together to address conditions at work, with or without a union. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has made it clear, through opinions issued by its General Counsel, that certain employee communications are protected. The NLRB ruled on the social media policies of several companies and found only one social media policy to be completely lawful, in their eyes. A link to that policy is found at the end of this article and can be used as a template for you and your attorney to develop your social media policy. State law may have other mandates; your attorney must be consulted to be sure your social media policy complies.

3). Develop and foster an open-door policy so your employees feel safe bringing their concerns about safety or the competency of another operator to you. That may ward off their need to air their concerns in social media. Take them seriously and maintain confidentiality.

4). You may not like other aspects of what your employees post on their own time: political affiliations; the wrong sports team; or whatever—but remember—their right to freedom of speech did not end when they went to work for you. If it’s not on your site, or about your company, or done on company time, or showing your company logo—then you should probably leave it alone.

To review a sample social media policy, which was ruled lawful in its entirety by the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (, navigate to the following link:

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