Getting more in our industry to approach safety like this welder

This week, as part of Safety Week, I toured the Brookland Middle School that Skanska is constructing in Washington, D.C. Walking through the building with Superintendent Erik Henson, I was proud to see how our team has organized the project and sequenced the many trades. But what impressed me most was a chance encounter I had with a welder on the second floor.

I saw this welder as he was perched on the edge of a high landing, and from a distance I wasn’t sure that he was properly tied off to prevent a fall. As we approached, I asked him if he was secured. He turned around to show us his harness and connecting lifeline, and said: “I’d better be tied off – I have six kids to go home to.”

Wow. Upon hearing those words by Wendell Riley of American Iron Works, I immediately reached out and shook his hand, and thanked him for working safely. Wendell’s words capture the essence of the safety-first culture our industry is trying to create on all jobsites with Safety Week.

McNally  SW talk - adjusted 2

Mike McNally addresses the work crews at Skanska’s Brookland Middle School project in Washington, D.C.

The construction industry is far from that point: in 2012 alone, 806 workers were killed on U.S. jobsites, a nine percent increase over the previous year. All of those workers should have gone home to their families, as nothing in construction is worth risking your health – no schedule is that important.

To help make sure that all workers understand that we need them to look out for themselves and those around them, Skanska has joined with 30 other construction firms in the first industry-wide Safety Week in the U.S. The idea is no one company can improve safety, but together we can make a major difference. Already, I’m encouraged by the feedback on Safety Week I’ve seen on the initiative’s LinkedIn and Twitter social media channels.

But organizations can only do so much to impact safety through their policies and processes and even words from senior leaders like me. Achieving an Injury-Free Environment® can only happen when workers personally commit to making safety their top priority. That’s why Wendell’s words mean so much to me.

Michael McNally

Michael McNally

President and CEO, Skanska USA

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