Executives from many of America’s leading construction companies united Monday to launch Safety Week, a period designed to showcase the growing, year-round industry commitment to preventing worker injuries.
At a New York City news conference, executives from four of the sponsor companies spoke of on-the-job practices and a broader culture change that continue to make the construction industry safer. In total, 44 companies are taking part in Safety Week, which runs through Friday and is being held for the second straight year.
“We’re making a difference, and we’re not going to let up,” said Charlie Bacon, Chairman & CEO of Limbach, and a co-chairman of the Safety Week effort.
Joining Bacon at the New York launch were Billy Gilbane III, Senior Vice President of Gilbane; Richard Cavallaro, CEO & President of Skanska; and Denis Hickey, CEO of Americas at Lend Lease.
Cavallaro said the combination of good procedures and good culture on job sites is the key to preventing injuries. “That’s about training, training, training and visible leadership,” he said. “I think this is a great opportunity for all of us in our industry.”
The construction industry, with roughly 10 million U.S. workers, is a driver of the economy and shaper of our local communities. Safety Week is supported by the federal agency charged with ensuring safe working conditions – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“Putting the thought of that fellow co-worker’s family in your mind when you are performing acts on a job site really changes the dynamic in the approach to safety,” Gilbane said. “Construction is a very macho, competitive type of industry. It has taken a long time to put the competitive edge to the side and do what’s right for the people, the individuals and the families that build these great buildings for us.”
This week’s event underscores a national trend: the industry is getting safer. Federal statistics show that overall construction fatalities are down 36 percent since 2006. Among construction trade workers in particular, fatal work injuries have dropped 42 percent in that time. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
Hickey said the leaders of the industry play a role in ensuring all workers know that nothing is more important than safety. He said the message is: “If it’s not right, don’t do it. Forget time pressure. Forget costs. Forget schedule. And really change what we do. Because it is about seeing everybody home at night.”
Bacon echoed the point, saying that the message to line workers on the job is: “We’re going to give you all the protection you can possibly imagine, but you’ve got to think about what you’re going to do before you do it.”
All of the companies nationwide are holding their own Safety Week events, from fall protection lessons to truck safety, from heat-stroke training to distracted-driving prevention.