More than a walk in the park, safety walks are strategic events
“You can't delegate safety—it's something we all have to embrace,” shares Rob Ward, president and CEO of Skanska USA Commercial Development (CDUS).
During recent safety walks on One Skanska project sites across the D.C.-area, Rob saw CDUS and USA Building (USB) teams’ commitment to safe working practices on display and a collaborative spirit emblematic of our core values.
When it comes to shaping our future, safety walks play a critical role. As a routine but vital component of our Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) team’s strategy, these walks exist to evaluate project work activities, identify current or potential hazards and provide solutions.
Safety walks are also an opportunity to strengthen rapport between leadership and on-site teams, and create understanding of the complexities a team might be facing as they work toward completion.
“Frequent and ongoing site safety walks help one gain appreciation for the dynamics occurring on a construction site,” shares Dan Matheson, SVP, Construction & Design, CDUS.
On site, logistics, equipment, paths of travel, hoisting, crew turnover and other elements are constantly changing. Safety walks illuminate how these variables mix and add a layer of complexity.
“Only by getting in the field and observing site conditions firsthand can one see and appreciate the challenges faced with keeping safety a priority,” explains Dan.
These outings are also a chance for leadership to engage with Skanska’s continuous improvement management model, Plan-Do-Check-Act.
EHS Director Carlos Alvarez believes safety walks are a chance for meaningful connections. “Everyone has a personal commitment to safety. These walks give leadership the opportunity to reflect on that commitment and speak directly with craft workers about their work, family and life.”
“These moments motivate all of us to work smarter and safer, and are a reminder of why we work safely–so we can make it home to our families,” continues Carlos.
DC-area project teams hold fast to values
Our OZMA, 17xM and Heming at 1800 Chain Bridge Road projects, all One Skanska projects that involve CDUS and USB employees, recently hosted Rob. Rob met with jobsite leaders to gain an understanding of the scopes and challenges of current and future activities.
Beyond assessing work activities, Rob used the time to look for examples of Skanska’s culture and values in action.
“Across the board, I’m impressed with the commitment to safety and overall consistency happening on our jobsites. We continue to improve and get better at it,” says Rob. “What’s most notable now is the shared commitment to making safe working practices a part of our culture. Twenty years ago, we were actively working at this and it was changing the way we operate. Now, it’s ingrained in our culture,” he continues.
Synergy among business units also stands out.
“I witnessed great partnerships between our CDUS and USB employees on our project sites. Everyone's committed to building safely,” says Rob. “Be Better - Together and Care for Life are evident when you visit our sites and see our teams collaborating firsthand,” he continues.
“When I walked onsite and in the trailers, I couldn’t tell who was a CDUS employee and who was a USB employee, and that’s a good thing. We’re all working toward a common goal and guided by shared values,” says Rob.
Rob’s safety walk was also a chance to see innovation at work.
At Heming, a SkyStrip® Plywood Sheet Stripping Machine is being used to improve the concrete placement process. The cutting-edge tool is a triple threat piece of technology as it reduces:
- Lost labor time due to injury in the shoring process
- Material waste in the manual sheets stripping process by 50 percent
- The manpower needed in the sheet stripping process
“Seeing tools like this in action show us what’s possible when it comes to keeping our people safe,” says Rob.
Other tools and technologies being used across our One Skanska projects include SafetyRespect perimeter edge protection systems, Ramtech Wireless Emergency Evacuation System (WES), engineered reusable concrete formwork systems, cameras on tower crane blocks, and construction helmets.
Safety is a journey, not a destination
For Rob, these walks are a great opportunity to focus on where we’re at.
“We talk a lot about safety being a journey. While we see great work happening, there's still this road to zero that we would like to achieve, so we must constantly look for ways to improve,” Rob reflects.
Building and sustaining a culture of continuous improvement is a theme in the new CDUS business plan and will carry the business unit for the long haul.
“This type of culture needs to permeate everything that we do, especially our safety efforts,” says Rob.
“How do we constantly get better? The intersection of innovation and safety is a great example of that culture at work. As technology becomes available and practical, we can start to integrate it into our projects and find ways to keep our employees and our sites a little bit safer every day,” he says.