Company: Skanska USA Inc.
Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Manager:
Workforce: About 280 people
Common Hazards: Falls, overhead work, sprains, lacerations, hazardous energies, working around heavy equipmens.
“My philosophy is simple: Everyone deserves to make a living without the risk of injury, and deserves to make it home safe each day. Additionally everyone deserves to retire in good health so they can enjoy it.”
~ David Douglas
I began working at the age of 17 as a laborer and carpenter for my dad’s construction company. Soon I was managing projects and eventually opened my own construction company. I entered the Environmental Health and Safety career-track 18 years ago. My career in safety began when I was first introduced to the philosophy of an Injury Free Environment (IFE) culture, which promotes collaboration and safety as a value, where no one should ever be at risk of an injury. The opportunity to take safety to a deeper level was something I couldn’t pass up. About three years ago my wife and children became very concerned about my health and stress levels.
This caused me to take actions to improve my own health. I realized that my health choices were just as important to them as they were to me, so I began to research all I could about health and wellness, and how I could help others. I now strive to incorporate health and wellness programs into our safety culture, also involving our trade partners, to help find ways we can all promote a healthier and safer workforce.
My philosophy is simple: Everyone deserves to make a living without the risk of injury, and deserves to make it home safe each day. Additionally, everyone deserves to retire in good health so they can enjoy it.
Wellness is supported from the top down. Prevention is the best way to obtain good health and wellness. It’s similar to how eliminating a hazard is the best way to prevent an injury. With wellness, we look at ways to improve cardiovascular and general health. We promote tobacco cessation, regular physical activity, stress management, early screening, nutrition education, and more. Skanska has provided resources for many work groups and programs that educate and promote health and wellness. Those resources include health fairs, safety week, and national and regional wellness councils. Focusing on the health and wellness of our people has proven to increase productivity, create better morale, eliminate huge waste in healthcare costs, and reduce injuries. Over the years we have come a long way in getting people home from the job site safe, but it is also important to focus on their health and help them to retire healthy.
The number of people rethinking unhealthy choices is growing daily. For Skanska, EHS and human resources have partnered to help provide education and resources for health and wellness programs. We have great participation from our staff and trade partners. For several years now we have been doing morning stretching and exercise, and have encouraged ergo breaks throughout the day. Skanska has several workgroups that set up activities and trainings to promote health and wellness. We also use training sessions called “Lunch and Learns,” which are open to anyone who wants to participate. We also offer incentives, including providing discounts at health clubs and offering health screenings and education through health fairs. As a result, several people are getting help for heart disease, diabetes, and weight loss. For our catered meetings, we offer healthier food choices and water instead of soft drinks. We have also partnered with health professionals to promote health awareness.
Aside from the typical construction hazards, some of the unique challenges we face include difficult access to elevated work areas where we have to design scaffolding with unique fall-protection plans for multiple crews; moving material into spaces that require special equipment to keep the crews from strains and sprains; and working around live systems requiring intricate lockout/tagout plans. We also have to watch out for impacts to facilities while working around live systems that could create other hazards for the crews. We also focus on developing project schedules that allow for proper planning and prep work. Also important are establishing proper staging areas where we have implemented LEAN principles for logistics and communication, keeping people up to speed on changes in the environment, and mitigating possible hazards before a project begins. All of that requires EHS involvement early on during the planning process.
One of the keys is communication – not simply telling but also listening. We encourage crews to give input, to be included in the planning and development of our programs. This has been extremely successful as crews have ownership in the programs. The planning process is a collaborative effort that includes the general contractor, engineers, designers, owners, trade managers, and craft. Every person needs to know that they are a vital part of the team and that they are empowered to stop the work if they feel their safety, or the safety of a co-worker, is at risk. Before a project begins, all of the trades review and walk the work area to identify hazards. The team then comes up with solutions for mitigating hazards. We require crews to participate in pre-task planning for each project. On-the-spot recognitions are also important to encourage the crews to watch out for each other. The crews participate in opendiscussion venues to come up with innovative ideas for ergonomics, safety, and efficiencies. When we have new people on a project, they buddy up with experienced personnel until they are familiar with the culture.
I would recommend they always continue to learn. Research, educate, and improve yourself so you can teach, equip, and inspire others. I would also say to get involved and show you care. Build relationships and partner with your clients, managers, and coworkers to understand what their needs are. A great way to do that is to focus on their health and wellness in your overall safety plan. ▉
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