Thanksgiving Safety Tips

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and holiday feasts, which make it an important time to keep safety top-of-mind. Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), nearly four times more home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than on a typical day.

Skanska has an Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) team that uses a series of standard policies and procedures to help keep people safe. The same mindset that helps us avoid incidents on a jobsite can keep you safe at home.

From fire prevention to the general safety and well-being of everyone in your home during the holiday, the safety tips listed below can help you prevent potentially dangerous accidents:

Always stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food.

Avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.

Designate a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove.

If you use a turkey fryer, make sure it is outdoors and in an open area away from all walls, fences or other structures that could catch on fire. Place it away from moisture that can cause serious burns from steam or splattering hot oil. Click here to watch a short video on the dangers of turkey fryers.

Be sure that electric cords from an electric knife are not dangling off the counter within reach of a child.

For more Thanksgiving safety tips from the American Red Cross, click here. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!

Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

More Posts - Website

Share this postShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

With A Labor Shortage, Construction And Development Industry Should Look To Military Veterans

The nation’s deteriorating infrastructure has made headlines throughout the year, with the potential for a tremendous amount of work for construction and development companies. However, a shortage of skilled labor in the industry creates staffing challenges for these badly needed projects. But, there could be an untapped labor force staring the industry in the face: military veterans.

Each year, approximately 200,000 military personnel transition into the civilian workforce and the veteran population is expected to increase 46% from 2014 levels by 2019. These individuals have ingrained in them skillsets that can seamlessly transfer over to the jobsite. Particularly the high focus on teamwork and safety, which is critical for success and longevity. At Skanska, military veterans have greatly contributed to the successes we have had as a company. In fact, this year we launched a military recruitment campaign to bring in top talent form this labor pool.

There are several qualities in veterans that transfer over well to the construction and development industry:

Work well in a team: Veterans are trained to look out for the safety of others, and they work relentlessly toward goals as a team.

Have a heightened sense of duty: Veterans understand that the whole is only as strong as its individual parts and strive to do their best for the country and fellow men and women in arms.

Organized and self-disciplined: From day one, veterans are taught how to maintain order and a physical space that results in a keen attention to detail.

Specialized skill development: Veterans often acquire advanced skills with computers, software and technology, heavy equipment, and tools that are common to many construction and development jobs.

Great problem solvers: While in the field, veterans are constantly challenged to come up with creative and sometimes crucial solutions to seemingly difficult problems

Veterans want jobs and the industry needs talented people to join the field on the jobsites and in the offices.  Why not tap into this labor pool, rich with these leadership skills, and teach them the trade? While serving our country, these individuals developed skills and habits that make them strong assets to our workforce.

We salute you

In light of Veteran’s Day, we extend a special thank you to all of our current and previous military personnel who have served and sacrificed for our country. We recognize the work and commitment of these individuals and their families while honoring and respecting all that they do to afford us the freedoms we have today.

To learn more about veterans working at Skanska, visit www.usa.skanska.com/veterans or click here.

For more information on veteran training programs:

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs – Education | 888-GIBILL-1

North Bennett Street School | admissions@nbss.edu | 617-227-0155

Helmets to Hardhats | 866-741-6210

Tony DeStefano

Tony DeStefano

Vice President, Human Resources, Skanska USA and former Captain in the United States Army

More Posts

Share this postShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Busting The Myths: What the “S-word” Can Mean For Construction and Development

“Sustainability.”

The word has crept into the mainstream of American life – from the food we eat and clothes we wear to the cars we drive and furniture we sit on. More and more consumers want to know what materials were used to make the products we buy and how they affect our bodies and the environment.

It’s a trendy term. The problem, however, is that it’s being used in so many different ways that people don’t even know what it means anymore.  This is especially an issue in the construction, design and development industry, where it is often used interchangeably (and incorrectly) with “green.”

Sustainability is simply the ability of something to endure over time. At Skanska, we are committed to our purpose, “we build for a better society.” This captures our belief that our work comes with a responsibility to help our local communities thrive for generations to come. Certainly, things that help conserve the natural environment play a large role in contributing to sustainability; so too do economic and social factors. As a contractor and developer, we have an outsized ability to affect sustainability through green building practices, working safely and ethically, promoting diversity and inclusion where we work and giving back to the communities where we work.

We think that approach gives clarity to the sustainability discussion, and it allows us to help our customers make project decisions that best align with their sustainability goals. This is important as there are many misconceptions about how to incorporate sustainability elements into projects. Without careful planning, the choices may not deliver the hoped-for value.

The Living Building at Georgia Tech is on track to become the first Living Building Challenge 3.1-certified facility of its size and function in the Southeast.

Below is a list of the most common misconceptions when it comes to sustainability:

Myth 1. Sustainability is all about the environment.
Sustainability absolutely includes things we call “green,” but there’s more to it. Social and economic considerations must be included, which is why we believe sustainability encompasses safety, ethics, community investment and diversity and inclusion. For example, ethics can greatly affect a company’s ability to stand the test of time. A company truly invested in sustainability needs to back up the words with action. For a building project, that might mean choosing materials produced in environmentally responsible ways by a properly paid labor force. Globally, there are too many examples of goods and materials manufactured in unsafe environments by an exploited workforce. Making the sustainable decision in this case has more to do with social equity than the environmental protection. Consumer surveys indicate that our customers prefer ethical companies. This area should get more attention.

Myth 2. Applying sustainability initiatives into a project plan is expensive.
This myth most often refers to construction materials and systems. There’s good news: builders have been doing this for more than 20 years. The market for “sustainable” materials is strong. With the right planning, there is no reason for construction costs to be significantly higher than a baseline project.

Sometimes it makes sense to invest more upfront on high-quality items so that, in the long-term, you save money on efficiency and repair/maintenance costs. But, you have to consider the lifecycle of the project. You could spend too much money on a rainwater collection system to offset water use. If the savings in municipal water use will offset the cost of rainwater collection system in 100 years and you believe the system will work as designed for 50, it’s not a good investment. Focusing on more water efficient fixtures instead would be a better choice to lower water use.

On the flip side, if you can utilize systems that offer significant savings over the project life cycle, things pencil out differently. In our flagship office in the Empire State Building, we put in HVAC and water systems that were a bit more expensive upfront, but paid for themselves in less than half of the term of our lease, saving us a quarter of a million dollars over the life of the lease.

With realistic planning and an honest view of project life cycle, construction costs should not be affected.

The UF Heart and Vascular Hospital opened earlier this year in Gainesville, Florida and is pursuing Green Globes certification — an assessment of environmental performance and sustainable design.

Myth 3. Sustainability measures will delay a project.
How much planning was done ahead of time? If you didn’t consider a green roof or want to add solar panels to your project after it is completed designed, that’s going to affect schedule the way any design change would. If you decide midway through procurement that you want to focus on engaging more small businesses, but haven’t worked with your contractor to create bid packages that certified DBE businesses can handle, it’s going to affect schedule, as well. Sustainable elements do not delay projects; waiting to consider sustainable strategies too late in design and making changes that significantly impact a project’s scope delays projects.

Myth 4. Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) departments handle sustainability initiatives for all projects.
While the EHS group is critical to sustainability efforts by establishing project-specific environmental management systems (EMS), maintaining ISO 14001 certification and ensuring that the EMS is carried out in the field, sustainability begins long before the first spade hits the ground and crosses many areas of our business. Design managers work with design partners to create systems that match a customer’s sustainability aspirations. Outreach teams network with traditionally-underutilized businesses long before subcontractor bids are solicited. Estimators work to get the best pricing on the right materials. Sustainability isn’t the exclusive responsibility of any single department. It’s a corporate cultural commitment as much as a technical requirement.  After procurement, operations looks for opportunities for efficiencies in means and methods, as well as reusing materials or descoping a project. Procurement managers work with vendors and subcontractors to make sure sustainability requirements are met and encourage our supply chain to reduce waste, decrease packaging and bring innovation to our sustainability program.

Last year, Stone 34 completed Seattle’s Deep Green Pilot Program.

Once sustainability strategies have been put in place, the next step is to think about how to measure them.

To assess sustainability, we use certification systems like LEED for our building projects and, for infrastructure projects, the Envision Rating System to tell the story and explain to our stakeholders some of the benefits of our projects that may not be apparent to the public. A recent example of a project receiving Envision certification is the Interstate 4 (I-4) in Orlando, Florida.

In addition, certification systems can be used to benchmark our projects and look for opportunities to further reduce material waste, increase operational efficiency, lessen negative impacts, mitigate risks and invest in the community.

The goal is to always plan and execute work within budget, on schedule, with minimal negative impacts and maximum positive impacts, both in construction and the operations and maintenance of the asset.

All projects should be thinking about sustainability from conception.  The sustainability conversation should start at the very beginning of a project and continue all the way through to execution to achieve the full benefits: making the best investment that contributes to the overall health and prosperity of our customer’s business and community for years to come.

Stacy Smedley

Stacy Smedley

Stacy Smedley is Director of Sustainability at Skanska

More Posts

Share this postShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Lean Construction: The Road to Operational Excellence

This week marks the 19th LCI Congress, an annual conference with an overarching goal of transforming the Built Environment through Lean implementation. Skanska is a founding member of the Lean Construction Institute and applies Lean approaches in many construction sectors focused on helping clients realize their vision. To learn more, click HERE.

Lean Management is a key component of our journey to Operational Excellence.  Lean management enables our projects and our people to work more efficiently. It is empowering our people to lead change and to work collaboratively to make our work better and deliver higher quality projects, and it is teaching us to evaluate traditional ways of doing things and identify waste that can be eliminated from those processes.  The result is cost-effective projects, reliable schedules and a team-oriented work environment.

One of the ways we have been successful in implementing Lean construction practices is by empowering our people to always look for ways to be better. When we talk about empowering our people at Skanska, we mean that we give them confidence in knowing they have a voice. By giving each person and team a voice and holding them accountable to make decisions, they become invested in the outcome and take ownership of the processes and their decisions. That also fosters an environment in which we are able to be more nimble, innovative and quick to adjust to changing conditions demanded by our clients.

We use several tools to facilitate and empower our teams:

Rapid Process Improvement Workshops (RPIWs) – Facilitation of workshops designed to dramatically reduce the waste in a process with immediate implementation.

Lean Committees – These committees help champion Lean implementation efforts in local offices.

5S – An organizational tool that fosters teamwork and efficiency.

Pull Scheduling – Collaborative planning process done by people that have their hands on the work on a daily basis.

Kaizen Events – Small team workshops designed to create incremental improvements within existing processes.

Our Lean culture, along with the implementation of these tools, benefits our projects, our people and our clients in many ways, three of which are as follows:

Efficient and safe jobsites

Through jobsite organizational improvements, reduced material inventory on the jobsite, reduced travel time, and less labor intensive ways of working our jobsites are more productive and support a safer work environment.

Significant reduction in waste

Waste is prevalent in the construction industry and can come in many shapes and forms such as waiting time, over processing, over production, extra inventory, wasted motion, and defects.  By using Lean principles we can not only identify these wastes, but we can reduce or eliminate them as well.

A few years ago, one of our offices looked at the work that went into a project startup. Based on legacy procedures, the method being used took a few weeks to move things from contract signing to work in the field. Through a Rapid Process Improvement Workshop (RPIW), the team was able to identify inefficiencies and address them, bringing the new process for startup to less than a week.

Jobs are completed more collaboratively

As a result of collaborative planning efforts, such as pull scheduling, processes such as design, preconstruction and the construction process itself are planned and executed by the resources that are closest to the work.  This leads to a more efficient plan that is fully bought into by the people that execute the plan.  Not only does this make the work more efficient, but it makes the schedule more reliable and eliminates the waste that often occurs at handoff points in the work.  This provides more cost-effective projects with reliable schedules for our clients.

At Skanska, Lean is viewed as part of our culture. Skanska’s implementation of Lean management has allowed us to deliver high-quality projects for our clients more efficiently and with reduced waste. Our executive leadership chartered a National Lean Committee to grow our Lean culture. Respect for people is a big component of this – it’s about valuing the knowledge, experience and ideas colleagues have to contribute. Respect also extends beyond Skanska’s borders into everything we touch – our customers, our trade partners, and our communities. Everyone is responsible and looked at to do their best and accountable to achieve results.

Lean construction is a journey, and we’re proud of the direction we’re headed in.

Our team at the recent LCI conference. Left to right: Amy Jones, Alex Abate, Michael Zeppieri, Rob Penney, Kyle Krueger, Matt Hadfield, Jeff Payne, Eric Martin

Amy Jones

Amy Jones

Amy Jones is the Manager of Performance Improvement for Skanska USA and Vice-Chair of the National Lean Committee

More Posts

Share this postShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Fall Safety Tips

Today marks the official end to the summer. As we say goodbye to the warm months of the summer season and welcome to the cooler fall weather, it’s important to keep a few safety tips in mind.

At Skanska, we have an Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) team that uses a series of standard policies and procedures to help keep people safe. The same thinking used on our project sites can apply to keeping safe in almost any aspect of life.

Below are some safety tips and reminders to ensure your family can enjoy the crisp autumn weather, while avoiding some of the dangers that come with the season.

Fall Safety Tips:

Get your flu shot – Autumn is the start of flu season, and its recommended that everyone six months and older gets vaccinated.

Fire safety – When the weather turns cold, most people spend more time inside their homes using fireplaces, furnaces and heaters to keep warm. Before the cold weather sets in, be sure to call your heating and cooling company to service your furnace. A specialist should inspect the furnace to make sure everything is in working order.

Be aware of poor visibility while driving – Falling leaves can obscure vision on roadways, as can rain and fog. Be aware of limitations in your visibility, and slow down if you can’t see well.

Watch for children playing close to the street – Children love to play in piles of leaves, so use extra caution when leaves are piled at curbsides. In addition, school buses will be making their rounds now that school is back in session so drive with care in your local neighborhoods.

Slow down on wet pavement – In many areas of the country, rain is common during the fall. If it’s raining, keep a safe distance from the car in front of you. Wet roads make it more difficult to stop.

Be prepared for bright sunlight – When sunrise occurs later in the morning, it can also present challenges for drivers. Having a pair of sunglasses in your vehicle to wear when the sun is bright is a good strategy.

Watch out for ice – As the temperatures drop further at night, you may need to spend some extra time in the morning scraping frost off your vehicle. Shady spots on the roadway may be home to black ice, which a driver may not be aware of until his or her car starts to skid on it.

Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

More Posts - Website

Share this postShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

How I-4 Received Envision® Platinum and What It Means for Future Infrastructure Projects

Earlier this year, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) published a report giving the U.S. a D+ grade for infrastructure conditions and performance. The report, published every four years, gained a lot of attention, with stories about the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure constantly making headline news across the U.S. From bridges and tunnels, to transit, rail and airports, improvements are needed to ensure that the U.S. is built for the future.

Here are some staggering statistics from ASCE:

– Of the 614,387 bridges in the U.S., 9.1% (or 56,007) are deemed structurally deficient.

– One out of every five miles of America’s major highways are in poor condition and in need of extensive rehabilitation. As a result, congestion and traffic delays cost the country $160 billion in wasted time and fuel.

– 24 of the top 30 major airports may soon experience “Thanksgiving-peak traffic volume” at least one day every week.

An example of a roadway in need of major improvements and a complete overhaul is Interstate 4 (I-4) in Florida – and it is getting help via an important civil infrastructure effort in the I-4 Ultimate Improvement Project. The project is using a public-private partnership (P3) delivery method to bring in private investment to complete the project.

As one of Florida’s largest transportation projects ever and one of Skanska’s three P3s in the U.S., the I-4 Ultimate is building in a sustainable manner and has received the highest sustainability recognition: the Institute For Sustainable Infrastructure’s  Envision® Platinum Certification. I-4 Mobility Partners (I4MP), the project consortium, was honored with the award at a ceremony held in Orlando, Florida.

Interstate 4 (I-4) in Florida.

Several industry leaders formed the I-4 Mobility Partners team to design, build, finance, and operate the project thru a 40-year P3 concession agreement with a total design and construction cost of $2.323 billion dollars. The members of the I4MP team include the following:

– Skanska Infrastructure Development (Equity Member)

– John Laing Investments Limited (Equity Member)

– SGL Constructors (SGL) – Construction Joint Venture – Skanska (Lead Joint Venture Partner) Granite Construction Company and the Lane Construction Corporation

– Design Joint Venture – HDR Engineering, Inc. and Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. (Lead Engineer)

– Infrastructure Corporation of America (Lead Operations and Maintenance Firm)

I-4 Ultimate, the reconstruction of 21 miles of roadway in Central Florida, is the largest project to date to receive the Envision® Platinum certification. This is the second Skanska project to receive this distinction (Expo Line Phase 2 in Los Angeles, CA was Skanska’s first project to earn Envision). The award recognizes sustainability measures applied in the planning and design phases of a project.

At a time in our nation’s history where we have an opportunity to repair and construct new infrastructure for the continued safety and health of our country, there’s something to be said about building with the environment in mind; mainly because that’s just smart building. Simply said, sustainability measures are critical and should be implemented at the onset of every project.

Certifications, such as Envision®, are attainable on all civil infrastructure projects.  With the I-4 Ultimate project, we don’t have to look far to know that this is true.

Steps Taken To Achieve ENVISION

Envision, which was created in 2012, provides a framework for evaluating infrastructure projects similar to how the LEED® evaluation system works for building projects. Envision has five areas under which points are assigned: quality of life, leadership, resource allocation, natural world, and climate and risk.

The I-4 Ultimate project received high scores in three of those categories:

Quality of Life: Central Florida’s local history and unique community character are reflected in the design because there are hundreds of nearby buildings, districts and sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Several of these places are within the project limits, including the town of Eatonville, Griffin Park and the Holden-Parramore Historic District.

Leadership: To meet the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) sustainability goals, an agenda was created early in the program to provide the project’s foundation. This includes social priorities such as health and safety, community involvement and business ethics; environmental priorities, including energy, carbon, materials, water and local impacts; and economic priorities such as project selection criteria, supply chain management and value added to society.

Natural World: A comprehensive Contamination Management Plan and Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plan was developed to prevent pollutants from contaminating soils, surface water and groundwater. Four underground storage tanks and 145 tons of soil contamination from historic releases have been removed from the project site.

Invasive species are controlled by removing existing Brazilian Pepper trees and Tropical Soda Apple shrubs along the project’s right-of-way, while including non-invasive native plants for landscaping and maintaining wetland functions.

Our team receiving the award on July 20, 2017.

What this Means for Future Infrastructure Projects

The ongoing conversations about needed investment to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure are complicated, but building sustainably shouldn’t be. There is a real opportunity to not only ‘do the right thing,’ but to build environmentally conscious projects that will have lasting effects for decades to come. Not to mention, it’s good business for both the public and private sectors and can deliver economic, social and environmental benefits in the process.

Envision, as an example, helps quantify those benefits and make them demonstrable at the critical point of procurement – when decision makers have the best chance to make impactful and lasting decisions.

Share this postShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Vive le vert! Skanska’s commitment to sustainability runs deep

We’re not champions for green because of international agreements – although we’ve put our name to paper in support of them on more than one occasion. We’re not champions for green because it’s what the vast majority of our customers and employees want – though they do.

We’re champions for sustainability because sustainability is core to our values.  We are a construction and development company.  We like to say we build what matters.  The schools, bridges, homes, hospitals, office buildings, airports and countless other forms of social and civil infrastructure we build have immediate and lasting effects on the communities where we work.

Think back to 1995. There was no such thing as LEED®.  “Green” defined a color, not a high-performing building.  “Renewables” probably had more to do with magazine subscriptions than how your electricity was generated.

That same year, Skanska joined the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. A year later, the first of our business units achieved ISO 14001 certification (today, our entire business carries this environmental certification). The point is, Skanska is all in on sustainability and has been for more than two decades.

While we can build virtually anything, we endeavor to build the best, most sustainable projects.  That is not only the right thing to do; it is the most responsible business strategy supporting our investors, our customers and our communities. When we put our resources to work in support of research like the Living Building Financial Study, we lay the groundwork that, over the past 10 years, has seen deep green net-zero energy and water buildings go from dream, to reality. When we are good stewards of the environment surrounding our projects, we ensure that construction activities don’t foul the water that our communities depend on. When we develop projects to achieve LEED Gold certification or better, we help make sure our growing cities can accommodate more people and a larger built environment by conserving resources. If we help save the planet in the process, all the better. We’ll continue to push the boundaries to get to the next level of sustainable performance like we always have.

The Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music in Miami was awarded LEED Platinum earlier this year and features rooftop solar panels that provide about 16% of the building’s electricity needs.

Today, we join hundreds of like-minded businesses universities, municipal and state governments to say that Skanska’s commitment to sustainability isn’t affected by whether or not our federal government joins the chorus in support of the Paris Accord.

We will stay the course because regardless of the compelling science regarding global warming, it is smart to build buildings and infrastructure projects that pump less pollution into the atmosphere.

West Riverfront Park in Nashville achieved LEED Gold certification and features over one mile of multi-use greenway trails.

It is smart to build projects that are so efficient that they save tenants and owners millions of dollars in utility costs.

It is smart to build highways that are lit by lights that are a fraction of the cost to operate and safer to maintain.

It is smart to build schools and hospitals that use designs proven to improve educational and health outcomes.

Simply: It is always smart to seek new and innovative ways to deliver better value. And a lot of those happen to correlate with the greenest ways to deliver value, too.

Capitol Tower is the first Houston development to reach LEED v4 Platinum precertification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and was one of only three core and shell projects nationally pre-certified under the standard. The building will use 25 percent less energy than typical facilities.

Carbon is a useful common denominator in doing the math on delivering valuable assets that will endure over time.  Using carbon values, it is possible to tally the cost of dissimilar things like utilities, materials, transportation of materials and people, so the total life cycle benefit of different solutions can be compared.  Owners and project teams can then pick the smartest solution.  That is smart business, Paris Accord or not.

We look forward to exploring ways to drive a low-carbon economy and a more sustainable future with our partners and clients because it’s in our blood. We made our decision on the Paris Accord long before it was ratified and the decision was easy: we are all in.

Elizabeth Heider

Elizabeth Heider

Chief Sustainability Officer, Skanska USA

More Posts - Website

Share this postShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

To Our Future Female Leaders: Don’t Tie On Those Boxing Gloves Just Yet

A version of the following byline was featured on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Insiders Network, an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions.

I was at a leadership conference recently, and the room was filled with business leaders, mostly women in their 50’s and 60’s who are enjoying successful and satisfying careers. There was one exception: a special guest who had graduated from Yale last spring. She stood up and shared how surprised she was listening to a room full of women sharing lessons learned, and not one mentioned discrimination. She and her friends spoke often about how they would enter the workforce at a “disadvantage,” and they were preparing themselves to operate within “dismissive cultures.” The audience, myself included, went silent.

How did we get here? How did we get to a place on some college campuses where the narrative of intolerance in the name of social justice has gotten so ugly that the message for young women is gloves up and prepare for battle when entering the workforce? What have I and all the women before me fought for? To those in the early stage of your career or just beginning it, I assure you we are not at the end of gender equality in the workplace, but we are certainly not at the beginning either. Sexual harassment at Uber, porn in the military, pay inequality, and the current political tide aside, we are way beyond gloves up in corporate America.

You should be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I was. When I graduated in 1989 from Georgetown University, my teachers and my parents made it clear that I could do anything I wanted if I worked hard. I would hate to think young women don’t have that kind of encouragement and hope now. My gender never even occurred to me then. And even today, I think of myself as a leader, not a female leader. And for me, being a leader is about how we make others feel about their potential—it’s about bringing out the best in those around us.

As women, we cannot become the stories we hear or fear. Assuming you will be marginalized increases your chances of making it so. And it doesn’t give credit to all the men out in the workforce who “get it.” Have there been jerks along the way in my career? Hell yes, and some of those jerks were even women. I’ve seen too many women stand in their own way, from not raising their hand for a promotion they deserve to letting someone talk over them in a meeting. Often, the default thinking is: I’m not ready; that’s not in my comfort zone; I’ve never done that before, instead of, “Can I learn that?” I’ve told those I mentor to get comfortable being uncomfortable, especially those who do not feel empowered to speak up. When I ask, “What are you afraid of? What is the worst that could happen? Will they think you’re stupid? Unprepared?” The answers are almost always nothing and no.

For the women just getting started in their careers, my advice is pretty simple: Bring your amazing and flawed female self to work every day. And get out of your own way. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

By Nicole Didda, Chief Communications Officer, Skanska USA

Share this postShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Why we’re piloting a new hard hat

There is no symbol of construction like the hard hat. It is the most visible piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) we use and one of the most critical. Yet, it is also one of the least evolved. Hard hats in use today, by and large, are the same as the ones used a generation ago.

While the traditional hard hat provides impact protection to the top of the head, it has marginal effectiveness protecting against impacts to the front or back. A sudden movement, tilt of the head or, worse, a fall, generally means the hard hat flies off. In the latter case, it not only leaves the worker unprotected, but can also lead to the hard hat becoming a falling projectile. That can happen at any height, even a slip, trip or fall from ground level. When we do work at heights, we often tether our tools and workers are required to tie off. The same is not standard for hard hats.

Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently released figures indicating that construction workers suffer more traumatic brain injuries than workers in any other field in the United States. Any step we can take to further protect workers is a necessary step.

We believe there is room for improvement and, if you see a Skanska job site, you may start to see a new look among some of our workers.

The latest hard hat is rated to protect effectively against impacts to the top, front and back of the head.

On several project sites, we are piloting the use of a construction helmet that, at first glance, might seem more at home on a hockey rink or rock-climbing wall. At first, we see workers look at them a bit funny, but after a week or so in practice, few have wanted to go back to the old-style hat. That’s because the benefits far outweigh any odd glances, and most deal with being safer:

– The hard hat is not only rated to protect effectively against impacts to the top of the head, but also the front and back. The truth is, most workers can probably think of times where they’ve scraped the front or back of their heads more often than something hitting the top of their hats. The new hat is obviously an upgrade. Normally, a blow to the front or back of a hard hat causes the hat to shift, which can lead to a blow to the head. Our new hats don’t do this.

– The chin strap keeps the hat in place. We say we stretch and flex every morning the same way an elite athlete does before a game. Similarly, most football and hockey players keep their helmets strapped on. So do bikers, rock climbers and more. It’s common sense that when you’re in motion, you should strap in for protection. The upshot is easy to imagine on a job site. You can look up or down with both hands free, not needing to hold the hat in place. In the event of an unforeseen motion, the hard hat stays in place. When working at heights, a hard hat that can be strapped on should be a no-brainer. In fact, we have started to require them in certain scenarios involving heights and exposure to wind.

– A side benefit is the visor for eye protection. Rated the same way safety glasses are, the visor provides more coverage, is attached to the hat (so no real way to forget to take safety glasses along) and, for the most part, never fogs up, a constant frustration with safety glasses.

– Lastly, feedback from the field says it’s actually pretty comfortable to wear.

You can imagine it’s already a big change for some craft workers to trade their hard hat for something new. Hard hats are often personalized and, in some cases, help tell the story of a worker’s career. It’s encouraging that so many workers have not only been willing to try something new, but that they’re willing to do so because, when you get right down to it, they want to be as safe as possible. They all want to go home to their friends and families every day.

So, if you see a Skanska site, take a look. More and more, we expect you’ll see the new hard hats in action. When you see them, know that it’s because the crew on the site is wearing them to further prevent head injuries.

Share this postShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

How a construction approach to safety can benefit everyone

This week marks Skanska’s 13th annual Safety Week and the 4th annual Construction Industry Safety Week. We asked Paul Haining, Chief EHS Officer for Skanska USA Inc., how the Plan > Do > Check > Act cycle of continuous improvement, this year’s focus, can help drive us towards zero incidents as an industry.

Proper planning, an engaged workforce and proactive communication reduces incidents. These are the basic principles for Skanska’s Injury-Free Environment® (IFE) mindset and safety protocols that drive the way we work.

While a construction Environment Health & Safety (EHS) Manual can be hundreds of pages of procedures, a lot of it can be boiled down to a simple thought process that can be applied even at home by DIY-ers. The Plan > Do > Check > Act cycle helps drive our culture, influencing the way we live and those who work with us.

How the Plan > Do > Check > Act cycle works:

Plan: Evaluate the work to be done, whether across the scope of work or for just a single day. Establish what success looks like. Identify all hazards and how you will address them.

Do: Execute the plan as it was written. If circumstances change or if conditions arise that were not accounted for in the plan, stop. Revaluate and move ahead according to the new plan.

Check: After the work is complete, evaluate the results. Did the plan work? Are there things that should be improved in the plan moving forward? What didn’t the original plan cover?

Act: Make adjustments and create a new plan based on the evaluation. Begin the cycle again.

The Plan > Do > Check > Act cycle drives safe choices and productivity. Everyone’s inspiration for working safely is different. The “why” is the motivator that drives someone to make the safe choice over a quick and dirty alternative. Where we find common ground is in the method in which we work.

The Time is Now

Our industry has made great strides to protect workers and we are closer than ever to achieving the ultimate goal of zero injuries. With construction volume forecast to increase and a significant number of seasoned craft workers nearing retirement, we must all work to sustain a culture that rejects the thinking that incidents are an unavoidable part of the work we do.

The construction industry is looking at a potentially grim equation if it doesn’t reinforce its safety efforts. Dodge Data & Analytics is forecasting a 5 percent increase in construction starts in 2017 at the same time as the construction industry tackles a labor shortage with more than 150,000 unfilled positions. With many industry veterans leaving the workforce, the risk is that newly-hired skilled workers enter the field without knowledge of how to plan work to avoid injuries.

The labor shortage presents an opportunity now, more than ever, for the industry to band together to help drive unified expectations and our safety culture. Each person who steps onto a construction site has something to learn. That is what the Plan > Do > Check > Act cycle instills in the people who use it on a daily basis. By teaching this method of working to each person who enters a Skanska jobsite, we are giving workers – new and old – the foundation to work safe on future projects, industry-wide.

When we all work safe, we all go home safe.

Taking the mindset home

Another facet of Skanska’s IFE culture is that it isn’t just for work; it’s a lifestyle.

On this blog a few years ago, I discussed how pro cyclist Danny MacAskill plans for risk and how he says he constantly evaluates what he’s doing. That constant evaluation is the core of Plan > Do > Check > Act and it should be applied whenever we do anything with risk.

Just as complacency on a job site can lead to a cascade of factors that lead to injury, a near-miss when driving, working around the yard or even waiting for your ears to stop ringing after a great concert is a sign that, perhaps, we can plan those activities differently to be a bit safer.

As we focus this week on making our industry as safe as can be, so too can each of us strive to be safe no matter what risks we face every day.

Paul Haining

Paul Haining

Chief environment, health and safety officer

More Posts - LinkedIn

Share this postShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone