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

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Safety is Everyone’s Business and Teamwork Makes It Happen

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.”  We asked Bill Flemming, President & CEO of Skanska USA building, to share his thoughts on the importance of workplace safety.

As a leader in construction, it’s our obligation to deliver our projects safely, using innovative and sustainable solutions with great efficiency and quality. Creating an Injury Free Environment® – one that sends every worker home every night the same way they came to us in the morning – is of paramount importance. To me, we are not successful if we put our workers at risk to deliver projects. We work safely, or not at all.

2016-05-04 PHOTO-BillFlemming-SafetyWeekNYC

Bill Flemming (center), President and CEO of Skanska Building, tours a NYC project site during Safety Week 2016.

A zero lost-time accident rate doesn’t happen by chance. It takes thoughtful planning and execution to ensure the safety of everyone involved. After the work is done, acknowledging what went well – and identifying what didn’t – leads to better preparations for the next time. We are continually raising the bar on how we work to create the safest work environment possible.

Safety extends beyond the job site as well, into our offices and our homes. Sometimes the simplest and most repetitive of tasks are the ones that present the most overlooked dangers. Making safety a part of our everyday habits – for ourselves and our friends and families – will also get us to a zero accidents.

Two years ago, I asked everyone at Skanska USA Building to make a personal safety pledge. At the same time, I made a pledge to visit more of our projects with the purpose of talking to our workers about the importance of safety.

For Safety Week this year, I visited job sites with my peers from Hunter Roberts and Lend Lease, and we talked about the importance of safety in everything we do. We agreed that anything that makes our sites safer was worth doing together in full collaboration.  Moving forward, we will be developing a unified orientation program that can apply to all three organizations, which will save each firm from doing individual programs for a new employee. This cross-company approach will make our workers safer and provide more consistency to our safety protocols.

On those job site visits this week, I also witnessed, first-hand, the lengths our workers go to in creating an injury-free environment on our projects. Their dedication to safety was inspiring and tells me we can get to zero accidents on all of our job sites all the time.  It takes everyone committed to making it happen.

Bill Flemming

Bill Flemming

President, Skanska USA Building

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Observing Safety Week: Ladders Last

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.”  This year, Skanska is putting a special focus on ladders, which are often connected to injuries throughout our industry. Whether you are a professional in the industry or doing work around your home, the below infographic demonstrates the hazards presented by working with ladders and some alternatives to working at height. 

2016-04 INFOGRAPHIC-LaddersLast-FINAL

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.

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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

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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.

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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:

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

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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.

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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.

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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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It’s work, not war: how to prevent deadly harm in construction

Every day we face decisions that impact our safety and the safety of those around us. As we work towards an Injury-Free Environment®, it’s essential to understand the potential hazards and the kinds of behaviors that can lead to harm. From near misses to major mistakes, we all have to do our part to build a safer work environment. This Safety Week, we’ve crafted a visual reminder of what is at stake and what can be done to prevent harm:

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.

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