Simply put, a deeply caring culture matters because people matter and our people are our greatest asset.
I’ve worked in the construction industry for many years, and am thankful to have been part of a slow but steady transformation. Construction was once a business that didn’t hold safety in high regard, and incidents were almost viewed as a right of passage—they showed you worked hard. Today, working safely is expected across the industry, it’s part of the job.
Recently, one of our Ironworkers retired after 47 years, and he said his greatest accomplishment was never having a major accident in all the work he ran throughout his career. For him to so proudly voice this achievement is a small, but meaningful, example of how the perception of safety has changed. Our caring culture is demonstrated all around us with so many examples, like Skanska teams wearing red to bring recognition to heart disease or individuals reaching out to those struggling in their personal lives. Despite the significant health and safety challenges faced in 2020, 95 percent of Skanska projects across the U.S. reported zero lost time due to injury—that’s real progress.
While we’ve realized tremendous improvement in the industry and at Skanska, we all know we can achieve much more, including eliminating all incidents on our projects. There’s nothing easy about this effort. But, I’m confident that, as we always do when faced with a problem, we’ll use our collective energy to change for the better by putting Care for Life into action.
Driving the safety evolution
Putting Care for Life into action can be compared to driving a car. When we travel in first or second gear the car makes a lot of noise and moves, but it’s slow and we make little progress. When it comes to expressing a Care for Life culture, we talk about it, feel it and believe it, but visible actions don’t necessarily follow—again, we make little progress. The third gear—that next level where your car is traveling quietly, fast and smooth—this is Care for Life in action.
So, how do we specifically get to this third gear?
- Have conversations, even if they’re uncomfortable. Let your people know that you don’t want them to get hurt and then work with them to ensure that fact.
- Plan for work—thoroughly. This requires an engaged team that never goes into an operation without truly knowing what the activity encompasses and what they’re doing.
- Listen and collect ideas from everyone. Some of the best ideas come from our instincts, so check in with those new on the job as well as seasoned experts.
- Possess the courage and empower your teams to stop work if it’s being done in an unsafe way or if things don’t feel quite right.
- Hold people accountable for their actions. This is a tough, but important part of caring. To do this right and fairly requires investigating what happened and ensuring it’s a learning opportunity for the individuals and the team.
- Be present and communicate. Be a part of the conversations, share your ideas and speak up. Everyone can be a leader in safety.
Reinforcing and energizing Care for Life
Recognizing the selfless behaviors of our team members reinforces and promotes a positive safety culture. Such recognition can be as simple as a genuine thank you. Sharing with your project team or region how an employee champions safety is also a great way to keep the momentum going and establish a healthy competitive atmosphere of “doing good.”
Shifting to third gear: our greatest opportunity
It’s easy to talk about safety. The harder part is taking action: communicating, planning, speaking up, staying focused and looking toward the future. We must always take a critical look at ourselves to see if we can do things differently or better—one way to do this is through the Plan>Do>Check>Act continual improvement model. Our greatest opportunity for improvement lies in shifting to third gear—putting Care for Life into action and embracing a deep, lasting sense of caring.