Learning about and living Skanska’s Injury-Free Environment® culture has impacted my life in a number of ways. Prior to working with Skanska, my view on safety – which was primarily influenced by my previous employer – was to follow all rules and regulations in order to stay out of trouble. However, the moment I attended a four-hour IFE orientation as a Skanska employee, my entire view of safety changed drastically.
Angelica Sepulveda, Skanska USA superintendent
IFE orientation began with a powerful statement from the group leader: “This is not a meeting about policies and procedures and how to follow them,” she said. “This is about how you and I relate to the critical subject of safety.” These words totally transformed the way I looked at safety, making it feel personal, relevant and important to me. IFE orientation gave safety meaning. I went from someone who felt forced to follow safety rules to someone who chose to follow safety rules because I understood the impact my choices could have on my life, the lives of my family members, my coworkers’ lives and the lives of their families. In my new found understanding of safety and adoption of the IFE culture I quickly realized the power that I had as a superintendent.
My education in IFE helped me build the confidence to lead. In 2008, I started with Skanska as an assistant superintendent. Not only was I an assistant superintendent, but in my eyes I was a 23-year-old female assistant superintendent who was lacking in field experience and entering an environment predominantly run by older, more experienced males. I was concerned that my differences and lack of experience would present a serious challenge for me in my new role.
But as I took part in further IFE training, I felt a boost in my self-esteem. I believe this training has played a key role in my success, now as a full superintendent. In adopting the IFE culture I made it a point to get to know the construction trade workers by name, asking them about their families, their hobbies and what they are passionate about. In choosing to develop relationships, I felt comfortable speaking up and I saw that they began doing the same. I learned how to correct negative behaviors and call out safety hazards in a positive way, which helped me earn their respect. Being able to step out of my shell, putting others before my selfish fears, and having the courage to develop personal relationships with my team has made a major impact in my life and my career.
But, while I embraced IFE as a leader on the jobsite, there was an important aspect of IFE that I neglected, which I later learned the hard way.
At Skanska we refer to IFE as, “The journey that takes you home,” but for me it was, “The journey that got me home, but didn’t apply at home.” In December 2010, I was driving to a family gathering and I felt irritated and sleepy. Due to my impatience and desire to be home, I tried to make an ill-advised U-turn. My vehicle was hit on the driver’s side by another car that was going approximately 50 m.p.h., pushing my vehicle back into a parking lot and the other vehicle into two lanes of oncoming traffic. I remember first checking to make sure my wife was okay, and then looking at the car that hit me and realizing it was a Caravan. I immediately thought the Caravan was occupied by a family with children (fortunately it was not, and the single driver was uninjured). The desperation and regret that I felt at that moment, I never want to feel again.
On that day I learned a valuable lesson. I realized that my impatience and lack of responsibility had put our lives and the lives of others in danger. Because of this accident, I learned that IFE cannot stop when you exit the jobsite, it carries into your personal life and becomes part of everything you do.