May 2-6 marks Skanska’s 12th annual Safety Week – and the 3rd annual Construction Industry Safety Week, where we and 50 of our peer construction firms pause to take a closer look at how “safety is the thread that ties us together.” To kick off this important week-long observation, we asked Rich Cavallaro, President & CEO of Skanska USA, to share his thoughts on the role of executive leadership in promoting a culture of safety.
As President & CEO of Skanska USA, I believe that, for safety to be a priority, it’s up to me to set the first example. Because if leaders create the right culture, employees will see results, right down to every worker on every project site.
A Brave Decision
Several years ago, a subcontractor who had just completed work on one of our our sites moved on to a job on a competitor’s site, literally across the street from our project. He came to us asking for help. The subcontractor appreciated our approach to safety and asked us to share tips with the contractors at his new project, because he felt their commitment to safety stopped after simply saying the right things. He was hoping we would put aside competitive interests in pursuit of helping everyone work more safely.
It was incredibly brave of this subcontractor to approach us like this. And we agreed with what he was trying to accomplish. So our project team agreed to have the conversation with the competitor. To me, it was simply the right thing to do – and speaks to the type of culture leaders can create where every person truly is empowered to speak up for safety. If leadership across our industry feels the same, we can create the same culture on every job site in the country.
Things that save lives shouldn’t be trade secrets.
If a Skanska project team has a chance to make a difference across the industry, sharing that information is the right thing to do. Similarly, listening to suggestions from outside, whether from our own crews or our competitors, is just as important. Every leader at Skanska is working to make sure we’re living that culture, even if it means tough decisions when we see potentially unsafe actions. Living that expectation, by every company and worker on every project, will make a difference.
Safety is what ties us all together.
As a participant in the annual Construction Industry Safety Week, we can help do our part to reinforce that incident-free work in construction shouldn’t be an exception. Instead, it should be an expectation. For Safety Week, we have planned a series of specific activities in every region of the country designed to help reinforce our company’s focus on safety.
The spirit of Safety Week comes alive when we work together to take steps that help save lives. Together, we must set the cultural expectations for working in our industry. Because in the absence of leadership, safety cultures will fail. If we choose to lead, we can prove that construction doesn’t have to be dangerous work.