Leadership Sets the Tone for Safety

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. 

2016-05-02 PHOTO-RichCavallaroSafetyWeek

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.

Richard Cavallaro

Richard Cavallaro

President and CEO, Skanska USA

More Posts - Website - LinkedIn

How technology is improving project safety

It may not be something the average person thinks about on a daily basis, but technology plays an important role in making our lives safer. For instance, Volvo – the Swedish-based company and leader in automotive safety – recently stated that its goal for 2020 is “that no one is killed or injured in a Volvo.” This may seem like a lofty goal, but the development of crash avoidance and predictive technologies – along with other innovative safety features – make this a realistic target. Skanska believes that technology is critical to eliminating deaths and injuries on construction projects too.

One technology that we see as key to achieving our Injury-Free Environment® goal is building information modeling. Multi-dimensional BIM models clearly convey what is to be built: this improves design and construction efficiency, but more importantly BIM helps enable safer construction processes and provide for safer operation and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure. These latter two aspects are part of a far-reaching approach called “Safety by Design,” which focuses on considering safety impacts when making design selections.

Identifying trip hazards virtually

Building information models can help identify safety risks during design, so they can be eliminated instead of just mitigated. Here, a trip hazard has been identified virtually.

“Safety should be considered from the beginning of design – safety as it relates to occupants of the building and for those who operate and maintain the building, as well as safety for those who construct the building,” said David Korman, environment, health and safety director.

Added Albert Zulps, virtual design and construction regional director: “We can help plan for a safer project even before we break ground.”

The benefits of focusing on safety in design can be tremendous, as at that early project phase risks can be eliminated, instead of having to be mitigated. For instance, designing an exterior facade that can be fully installed from inside the building – rather than via exterior scaffolding or aerial lifts – reduces the potential for an accident. Likewise, making the choice early on that if a valve must be located high in the ceiling, that it’s provided with a chain wheel to allow operation from the ground – rather than requiring a facilities professional to reach it while high on a ladder – also reduces accident risk. BIM is an important part of testing such design options with safety in mind.

Such virtual models continue to deliver benefits into construction. For instance, a model can help ensure that a structural frame is properly braced all throughout the erection process. And by using a 4-D animation of construction sequencing, the location of cranes can be optimized to minimize overhead risk and conflicts with such hazards as overhead high tension wires. Additional ways BIM can enhance construction safety include creating virtual safety tours; enhanced site planning for egress, emergency routing and first aid; project-wide safety planning; pre-task planning; and investigating accidents when they do happen.

Other types of project technologies are also evolving rapidly. Before too long, safety will be improved by the wide use of everything from augmented reality to wearable technology. For example, safety information and hazard notification may be overlaid on safety goggles in real time, along with 3-D model information and analytics. With this, a worker walking through a space will quickly know key aspects of the surroundings, both now and in the future. Also, as wearable technologies become more prevalent, GPS location devices may link to 3-D site models to alert both the worker and the site safety team of potential dangers, and to track activity for continual optimization of construction site safety.

In June, Dave and Albert will present at the American Society of Safety Engineers’ Safety 2015 conference in Dallas on “Virtual Design and Construction for Safer Construction Projects.” Their presentation will overview how models and data can be used to enhance safety on construction projects and during operations. They will highlight examples from Skanska projects, and discuss what is on the horizon to improve construction safety using current and future technology.

We hope to see you there!

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

What can we learn about risks from pro cyclist Danny MacAskill?

It’s mesmerizing to watch Danny MacAskill defy gravity on his bike. Danny, for those who don’t already know, is a fellow Scot who is a professional trials cyclist – he completes extremely high-risk obstacle courses on his bike. And what obstacles he overcomes: On videos that have attracted tens of millions of views on YouTube, you can watch Danny jump boulders on his way down a rocky mountain side; hop his bike from one abandoned railroad track to another, spinning to change direction in mid-air; and do a front flip on his bike over a barbed-wire fence.


Danny MacAskill thoroughly prepares for the high-risk obstacle courses he undertakes. Similarly, in construction we must relentlessly identify and mitigate the risks faced by project teams.

Photo Credit: DannyMacAskill.co.uk

There’s a great deal of risk in what Danny does – that’s why so many people watch him ride. It’s worth understanding how he recognizes and prepares for those risks, as there are key parallels in risk identification and mitigation between Danny’s riding and what we do every day in construction – and in everyday life. In all cases, not being vigilant to the risks that surround us all too often lead to serious consequences.

Seeing risks

Here’s what Danny has to say about planning for his tricks: “When I’m first thinking about doing a line, you’re actually thinking about the worst-case scenario that’s going to happen. You think about the different crashes and possibilities. You’re constantly assessing what you’re doing – your mind can definitely play games with you.”

Construction should be approached in the same way. Every possible risk needs to be identified, analyzed and with detailed plans put in place and responsibilities assigned to mitigate the risk. Look-ahead meetings, daily briefings and construction work plans are key parts of this on our job sites. Tasks at home must be given the same consideration.

Sometimes, confidence can blind people to risks. Each day’s activities must be approached as distinct undertakings requiring comprehensive risk evaluations.

Managing risk

Danny only moves ahead with a trick when he’s fully ready. Here’s what he had to say about that in another interview: “I tend not to do things that I’m scared of. I try to have things completely sorted in my head beforehand. I have to be 100 percent clear that I’m going to do the trick I’m going to do.”

Beyond mental awareness, Danny prepares in other ways. He lays out the stunts he wants to do sometimes months ahead of time. Then he practices his moves, sometimes using practice ramps and setting up mats to cushion his falls. He always has the proper equipment, including a helmet and gloves.

To mitigate jobsite risks on a daily basis, Skanska uses the construction work plans that we – in partnership with crew leaders – develop for each activity and review every day. We manage the risks identified in these plans through any of the large collection of tried and tested controls we’ve developed over many years for jobsite- and activity-specific hazards: everything from critical crane lifts to working at extreme heights to simply wearing the right personal protective equipment (PPE) for the task at hand. If we disrespect these risk mitigation tools, then we’re disrespecting the risk they’re designed to control. That risk doesn’t go away, and when not controlled it comes back with consequence.

I’ve seen high-risk projects achieve superior safety performance because the project team is constantly aware of and fully respects the inherent risk at all times. When the right level of respect is given, the team watches out for the risk every waking minute.

Genuine care

While processes and strategies are essential for dealing with risks and hazards, what’s also key is genuine care: When the construction industry reaches the point at which each person on a jobsite genuinely cares for their own well-being and that of the people around them, then it will be possible to eliminate worker injury. We’re getting closer to that point, as demonstrated by the more than 40 companies sponsoring this year’s industry Safety Week. These firms – including Skanska – are putting competition aside to work together to improve safety, demonstrating the type of big-hearted approach we all need as individuals.

Paul Haining

Paul Haining

Chief environment, health and safety officer

More Posts - LinkedIn

Our top blog posts of 2014

Between the MetLife Stadium we constructed hosting the Super Bowl, completing a Santiago Calatrava masterpiece and making major progress on one of the largest U.S. public-private partnerships, it’s been an exciting year for us! As we close out the final days of 2014, we’re taking a look back at our ten most popular posts here on Constructive Thinking. We can’t wait for what 2015 will bring.


Here are those posts, in order of popularity:

1.  Ever wonder how an underwater tunnel is built? Check out this step-by-step guide to the process currently underway at our joint venture’s Elizabeth River Tunnels P3 in Hampton Roads, Virginia: How we’re submersing 16,000-ton segments to create Virginia’s newest tunnel.

2.  This year’s Super Bowl saw the Seahawks and Broncos face off in MetLife Stadium, which we completed in 2010. The Seahawks took home the Vince Lombardi trophy inside one of the nation’s most technologically-advanced and energy-efficient stadiums. Here’s How to build a stadium that can tackle the Big Game.

3.  Before we could immerse the tunnel tubes for Elizabeth River Tunnels, first we had to float the 16,000-ton hollow concrete segments 220 miles down the Chesapeake Bay. We recapped the incredible journey in photos: Virginia’s latest highway tunnel begins with a trip down the Chesapeake Bay.

4.  Our high-stakes concrete pour at Miami’s Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science required 25 hours of non-stop placement to complete the suspended, martini glass-shaped 500,000-gallon seawater aquarium tank without any cracks. Gizmodo was impressed by our team’s precision. Watch teamwork in action in a stunning time-lapse: Our team was neither shaken nor stirred on this epic concrete pour.

5.  The Calatrava-designed Innovation, Science and Technology Building at Florida Polytechnic University is one of the most striking and challenging buildings we have built. This fall the university, the first STEM-focused college in the Sunshine State, welcomed its inaugural class of students. You don’t want to miss these pictures: This Calatrava masterpiece comes to life exactly as envisioned.

6.  At Skanska, we’re engaging with our clients to find ways to use building information modeling to improve the whole life cycle of buildings, not just during design and construction. For a facility owner, utilizing BIM for operations and maintenance uses can have substantial benefits. Here are Five ways virtual modeling can improve facilities management.

7.  Airports play an essential part in our economy and our lives. And yet, in the U.S. many of our airports have gone decades without major upgrades. MacAdam Glinn, national director of our Aviation Center of Excellence, examined the economic and consumer forces shaping our airports in the infographic The evolution of airports: trends in aviation construction and on NPR.

8.  Public-private partnerships are becoming increasingly important financing solutions for the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. While much attention has been focused on how P3s can help cities and states move forward on transportation projects, there’s growing interest in using P3s to improve such social infrastructure as courthouses and hospitals. Learn more in P3s aren’t just for transportation – here’s how they can help with public buildings too.

9.  As we work toward an Injury-Free Environment®, it’s essential to understand the potential hazards and the kinds of behaviors that can lead to harm. For Safety Week 2014, we crafted a visual reminder of what is at stake and what can be done to prevent accidents: It’s work, not war: How to prevent deadly harm in construction.

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

Learning and living the Injury-Free Environment mindset

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.

Angelica Sepulveda

Skanska USA superintendent

More Posts

Empowered by our ethics

Before becoming one of Skanska’s Ethics Roadmap champions, I hadn’t a clue as to what it meant.

Even worse, whenever our company talked about achieving zero ethical breaches, I only associated a breach with illicit behaviors (actions landing you in jail). However, after spending time on the ethics task force, I realized that ethics is a powerful opportunity for everyone.


Since Skanska supports every employee to act in accordance with our core values, this foundation empowers every one of us to steer individual and corporate actions toward what makes ourselves and our organization most successful. Simply put, business ethics is the practice of how I conduct business in the best service of our culture and our values.

And what do we value? For me, it was important to see Skanska’s Five Zeroes not as values but as the result of living our values around safety, honesty and transparency.

For example, at Skanska we highly value human life and – most importantly – the quality of each life. This is the guiding force for our conduct as it relates to safety. This value empowers people at all levels to make better decisions that influence our job site actions.


Last month, Joe Davidson, the safety manager on one of our Seattle development projects, told me about actions he took relative to a trade partner that was using compromised high-pressure equipment. Joe advised this company’s foreman of the need to replace hoses and scaffolding equipment that were creating a potentially dangerous environment. The foreman replied, “Our company cares more about dollars than us.” Joe told the foreman he didn’t believe that, given the vocal commitments that company’s leaders made in support of safety. Joe took the issue to the trade contractor’s president, informing the executive of the amazing crew engaged on our job, noting their top-notch quality and high level of commitment. Joe then asked the executive if he knew what his employees thought of him.

The equipment was replaced immediately.

Joe creatively captured the attention of those able to make a change. Joe was empowered by Skanska’s strong Injury-Free Environment® culture and his own personal value of human life, and these drive him to conduct business in a powerful way.

When colleagues like Joe step up to do what’s right for safety, that’s evidence of a strong safety culture. Similarly, when people stand up and call attention to behaviors that violate our values or breach ethical standards of any sort, that’s how we honestly live our values and have the ethical culture we all seek.


Lisa Picard

Lisa Picard

Skanska USA executive vice president

More Posts - Website - LinkedIn

In Tampa, it’s easy to see our safety commitment

There may be nowhere that safe driving is more important than in construction work zones, where both those behind the wheel and those working along the road are at risk. Along the four-mile stretch of Interstate 275 in Tampa that a Skanska joint venture is expanding, we have installed a billboard to emphasize the imperative of safe driving. This sign is the most visible aspect of how Skanska and the Florida Department of Transportation are working together to improve safety on this project.

The billboard – the first of its kind in Florida – features a young boy’s face pressed against a window, as if waiting for his parent to return home, and the words: “Because your safety matters to them… Please drive safely.”


“Hopefully this will touch drivers’ hearts, and encourage them to slow down,” said Sal Taddeo, Skanska executive vice president.

Additionally, the sign reinforces Skanska’s Injury-Free Environment® culture, and reminds project team members that acting safely isn’t something that we do only at work – it needs to permeate all aspects of our lives.

“It sends a positive message to our workforce of who we are and who we should aspire to be,” Taddeo said.

The billboard was erected in March and will remain up for at least six months. Skanska is fully covering the costs for the initial six-month period. We see this billboard as a springboard for further safe driving awareness efforts, both on the I-275 project and on other Skanska projects nationwide.

“This idea is becoming contagious,” Taddeo added.

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

Safety Week ends soon, but working safely never ends

Safety Week draws to a close tomorrow, and while this special week is so valuable in raising awareness of safety’s importance, Safety Week is not a time to be extra safe – every day is a day to be extra safe. Here we share how some of Skanska’s colleagues have pledged to continue their safety journeys throughout this year:

“When I walk through a project, every worker knows that I’m watching them work. If they have a messy work site or are doing an unsafe act and I don’t react, I’m clearly telling them their unsafe behavior is acceptable. My silence is a deafening loud consent. I pledge to not walk by an unsafe situation. I pledge to stop and correct the actions and make sure each and every worker understands the importance of working safely. I pledge to take the time.”

–          Mark Leintz, vice president of operations, Riverside, Calif.

“I pledge to thoroughly consider safety when preparing budgets and estimates for our future projects, so that our Operations teams will have the resources they need to have safe jobsites.”

–          Clinton Aldridge, senior estimator, Atlanta

“I pledge to bring a Skanska Young Professional along on all of my future Executive Site Safety Visit walks. I will engage with that person to make sure they understand the importance of safety on our workplace, and will teach him or her about the EHS tools we have at our disposal.”

–          Sean Szatkowski, vice president of operations, Metro New York


The team stretches and flexes at the Novartis Cambridge Campus Expansion.

Language barriers are one of the three key challenges to promoting IFE, so I pledge to continue delivering Skanska’s safety message – in Spanish – to our Spanish-speaking workforce.”

–          Rachel Rockett, project engineer, Raleigh, N.C.

“Regardless of time and place, I will have the personal courage to speak up when I observe someone putting themselves or others at risk.”

–          Terry Bendrick, development director, Seattle

“My safety pledge for 2014 is to rediscover the core value in safety each and every day. To help me do this, I plan to collaborate on a deeper level with my colleagues, not only to find inspiration for living out the demands of our safety principles, but also so that I can respond more concretely to helping others understand the benefits of building a robust safety culture. Time given to safety is never time lost, but is rather time gained. I believe that a full and genuine commitment to safety must involve everyone around us. If we are all-in with our safety commitment, our relationships, our work and our lives will be more fulfilling.”

–          Denny Quinn, executive vice president, Evansville, Ind.


At West Memorial Place in Houston, safety preparations begin bright and early.

“Each day, I will remember that every worker on our project sites is someone’s brother, sister, father, mother, niece, nephew or cousin, and so I will make sure our teams create an IFE culture on our projects such that if my family member was working on that site, I would be fully confident in their safety.”

–          Andy Allen, project director, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“I pledge to use a hands-free device if I must make calls while driving, and I pledge to not check my phone – even if at a stop light.”

–          Annie Kraft, project analyst, Alexandria, Va.

“How often do we see a worker without gloves or safety glasses and while we should mention to them to correct that, we move along because it’s not a big issue. We see the big issues as things like fall hazards, trench safety and impalements – until someone loses an eye because they weren’t wearing safety glasses. Going forward, I will consider each and every safety issue to be a big issue.”

–          Robert Rush, superintendent, Raleigh, N.C.

86thstreet cavern

Safety underground: a Project Executive addresses the craft team at 86th Street Station Cavern 2nd Ave. Subway Project in New York.

“I will thank one person each day for choosing to work safely.”

–          Hector Sanchez, field engineer, San Antonio

“We all need to take ownership of safety, not only on the job but in our lives. This year, I have committed to the following safety vision: be visible, work the same way at home as I do at work, and never walk by an unsafe act. By being visible, workers can see that I am engaged in more than just talking about the safety program. By taking safety home with me, I am committing to changing my behavior in all that I do. By never walking past an unsafe act, I am committing to engaging and holding myself personally responsible for changing behavior and preventing accidents. What we do and how we act does make a difference. I choose to save a life.”

–        Todd Sutton, senior vice president of operations, Riverside, California

“I will continue each day to be responsible for the men and women on my work site to the degree that I care for my sons and daughter. I will continue to see each person who enters our work environment as a precious individual whom must not be put at risk. I will continue to spread this culture each day by training our trade partners, setting a good example and learning from near misses.”

–          David Luffel, superintendent, Atlanta

“I pledge to stop and talk about safety with at least one tradesperson every time I enter the construction site.”

–          Dan Kolakowski, senior vice president, Metro New York

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

How our projects are finding safety success

Eliminating accidents takes proper planning, proactive communication and a commitment to protecting oneself and those around you. While Skanska’s Injury-Free Environment® mindset and certain safety protocols are standard across all our projects, projects always need to innovate to meet their individual circumstances. Here are a few ways some of our projects are successfully keeping their people safe:

Making safety personal:  Zero lost-time injuries on a project is impressive, and that’s what our team achieved during the 25 months they spent constructing the Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy in North Windham, Conn. Superintendent Bruce Laudone had two goals in mind when he decided to lead all 480 safety orientations: he wanted to gauge firsthand the level of expertise of our trade partners’ workforce, and he also wanted every worker to begin to get to know him and hear his explanation of Skanska’s IFE culture. By meeting every worker, Laudone wanted to improve lines of communication and create a team mentality so both trade partners and Skanska would be working to deliver the best building possible. “It’s the personal touch that was a differentiator,” Laudone said.

                                              STEM Academy                                                       

The team at Barrows STEM Academy in Conn. achieved zero lost-time injuries over their 25 month project.

At the Ambulatory Care Center expansion Skanska is building at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, our team’s success here is also based on a personal approach to safety, said Ryan Aalsma, Skanska project executive. “We’re really trying to tap that energy that comes from the heart, that desire for people to do what’s right,” he said. “In this case, what’s right is no one getting hurt on our jobs and everyone going home safely.”

Also key at Lackland is keeping safety “fresh,” so it remains top of mind for everyone on site. “You have to make your safety commitments up front and revisit them every day,” Aalsma said.

Integrating safety into the project: Our Los Angeles Exposition Line Phase 2 transit project hires many local workers as apprentices to learn construction skills, and even with thorough, first-day safety orientations those new workers are not immediately familiar with job-site hazards. So apprentices are required to wear blue hard hats for their first 90 days of work so more experienced workers know to pay extra attention to them.

Los Angeles Exposition Line Phase 2
The team at Los Angeles Exposition Line Phase 2 is focused on safely building a light rail.

At Barrows Academy, attention to detail meant building safety into the pre-construction process. From when they first saw the project documents, our team was looking for safety concerns and how they could address them in construction. Then, Skanska was very straightforward in addressing those concerns in trade partner bidding documents, in part because of this project’s strict public procurement rules. At every stage of trade contractor procurement – from scope review to contract review to execution – safety was emphasized. “Even before they received their contracts, our trade partners understood how important safety is to us,” said Beau Burgess, project manager. “This understanding carried forward into construction.”

It begins at the top:  At Barrows Academy, Laudone understood that the buck stopped with him. By leading all of the safety orientations, Laudone made it clear that he was not only committed to safety but also someone that workers could turn to with concerns. For example, if a layout worker made a mistake rather than trying to hide it he would bring it to Laudone’s attention because of a non-blaming, open-door philosophy. Similarly, workers felt comfortable bringing up potential safety issues. “I’ve been on a lot of job sites where it’s us vs. them,” Laudone said. “Here, the trade contractors looked at us as a partner in creating this building.”

At the same time, if a project’s safety performance isn’t where it should be, the project leaders should be open to critiques and making subsequent adjustments to improve safety, Lackland’s Aalsma said. Additionally, the Lackland team has focused on doing Executive Site Safety Visits “with conviction,” said he. Any problems that are identified are quickly resolved.


At the Ambulatory Care Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, safety starts at the top.

At Barrows Academy, Expo Line Phase 2 and Lackland, our teams have demonstrated that a disciplined approach to safety can pay tremendous dividends. How will you incorporate these lessons into your own work?

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

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

More Posts - Website - LinkedIn