With 5 weeks remaining, it’s crazy to think that I am over halfway done with my internship. Everyday offers something new to learn and has provided me with invaluable experience.
One of the more interesting parts of this project has been all of the considerations that must be made for working in and around a hospital. Constantly, areas where work is taking place must undergo risk assessments. These assessments break down all of the potentially harmful effects that can be caused by our construction work. This can be anything as major as a fire or power outage, or as seemingly minor as a window leak or dust infiltration. But, nothing can be taken lightly when working with hospital patients. To deal with these obstacles, it is our job as construction manager to put together a plan and rules for reducing risks in certain areas. The plan we put together is then evaluated by the owner and revised if necessary. For example, we are about to begin the tie-in process in which we will connect the new Barnes Jewish Hospital Building to the existing Shoenberg building. Since high temperature tools will be used to complete this process, combustible materials will have to be kept 35 feet from the existing building in order to eliminate the risk of fire. This is just one of many different ways that potential health risks are mitigated on our job site.
Recently, one of my main focuses has been the installation of the building roof. There are roofing areas on over half of the buildings’ levels and each one contains challenging details and constraints. I have been organizing the potential issues into a document which includes a picture and description of the issue, as well as its location. This can then be used as a tool to track the progress made towards solving the issue.
Everything that I have been a part of so far this summer has been a valuable learning experience. I am excited for what new things my last 5 weeks will offer!
After two and a half weeks on the job site, it is obvious that there are big differences between my experience last summer in the home office and being in the field. The office had something of an ebb and flow when it came to work pace. But here in the field there is more of a consistency to the daily activities. I can tell that there are pros and cons to both work environments.
I have learned a crazy amount since starting my internship. I have been a part of administrative processes such as requests for information, change order requests, and cost expenditures. It is impressive the amount of time and attention that has to be used to keep all of the paperwork properly recorded and organized. In the field, I’ve gotten to assist our quality control team by monitoring field inspections and our subcontractor’s progress. Every day, there are multiple meetings involving the project managers and superintendents to coordinate all of the work. Sitting in on these meetings, it is amazing to see all of the challenges and obstacles that have to be hurdled on a daily basis.
It’s great to work for a company that makes safety a top priority. Yesterday, we held our quarterly safety lunch for all of the field workers. The lunch was a great way to thank all of our workers and give them a chance to refocus on safety in the field. Plus, the barbeque was delicious.
My experiences so far have gone a long way towards growing my knowledge of construction. I am very excited to see what else the summer has in store.
Continuing with our Careers in Construction series, this week we’re taking a look at the professionals who ensure construction on Alberici’s jobsites is completed safely.
What do Safety Professionals do?
Alberici’s goal for safety is simple: execute our work in the safest means possible to achieve Zero Incidents on all of our projects. Our team of safety professionals leads Alberici in meeting our safety goals.
Before work begins on a project site, Alberici’s safety professionals develop a site-specific safety plan incorporating Alberici’s SafeRing program, Owner requirements and the specific needs and challenges of the project. Once a project begins, safety professionals take an active role in the field by conducting site safety orientations and safety audits and by observing work in the field to determine if it is being executed according to the safety plan. Construction sites are always changing; work progress may create a hazard in an area that was safe the day before. Safety professionals must adapt to this dynamic environment, constantly evaluating the jobsite for potential hazards.
Safety professionals work with project managers, superintendents, field workers and subcontractors to address safety concerns and to develop best practices to keep everyone on the project site safe. Building relationships is an important part of a safety professional’s job, as conducting effective training and coaching is essential to success in this role.
Building a Career in Safety
Many safety professionals enter the field with a degree in Health & Safety, Engineering or Construction Management. Some also come to the role with experience in the field. Specialized training including Construction Health Safety Technician (CHST), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and First Aid/CPR certification are important for a safety professional as well.
Beyond formal training, safety professionals need to think critically, communicate effectively and have passion for safety. Critical thinking is required to creatively and constructively address safety concerns as well as to analyze and interpret data. Effective communication is essential when developing site-specific safety plans and when communicating with project team members in the field. Passion for safety is vital because safety professionals need to stay on top of constantly evolving procedures, regulations and best practices. Most importantly, this role requires unwavering commitment to the highest safety standards.
When asked about his role as Safety Manager, Kyle Pfundt explained, "there's no other position where communication is this important. I can talk with a tradesperson about keeping his/her body out of the line of fire, then head to the client or project manager to talk about metrics or technical aspects on something very specific. If I can't talk to all of the people up and down the chain effectively, I will struggle with the common goal: working safely with zero Injures. Safety is people oriented. If I can’t effectively reach a large audience and be persuasive, the safety on a project can suffer."
Gene Roberts, an Alberici Safety Manager with a recognized passion for safety, was the keynote speaker at the AGC of Missouri's annual Spring Safety Banquet earlier this month.
The banquet honors and recognizes individuals and organizations for leading and performing work safely. This was the second occasion where a “non-celebrity” presented the keynote address.
Gene has worked in the construction industry 34 years with experience throughout the US and Canada in heavy industrial projects, healthcare, automotive, food and beverage and energy markets.
He spoke of Safety Leadership, and talked of several key points that resonated with the audience whether they were apprentices, attending the banquet for the first time, or long-term career individuals in the construction industry. Briefly, they were:
- Listening to safety concerns
- Leading by example, experience and willingness
- Always approaching safety in a positive manner
- Recognizing responsibility for safety
- Encouraging the reporting of safety concerns and correcting problems
- Coordinating and overseeing work
- Realizing that skill levels may vary, so the buddy system and mentoring are essential
- Realizing that no one has any more responsibility for safety and making sure that safety issues are corrected than oneself
Gene also talked about the rewards of being a safety leader – not so much in terms of money, but rather knowing you can face yourself in the mirror every day and lay your head on your pillow every night knowing that you did your best and that you made a difference. He spoke about how much one's family and friends mean when you commit to working safely. He also discussed how employers, trades unions, safety personnel and project management teams have to believe in safety, train and educate the workforce, respect the workers and be consistent with our message.
Safety Director Kathi Dobson has worked for Alberici since 1999 and is a proud member of the National Association for Women in Construction (NAWIC). To mark NAWIC’s annual Women in Construction week, celebrated during the first week in March, we asked Kathi to reflect on her career and the role of women in the construction industry.
1. What led you to the construction industry/how did you get involved in the construction industry?
I began my career as a nurse in a hospital-based setting. Later, I moved into a manufacturing setting as an Occupational Health Nurse where I was responsible for managing injuries, claims and training. In that role, I delivered confined space, aerial lift and fork truck training, and I became familiar with behavior-based safety, OSHA regulations and construction standards. This experience prepared me to make the leap to the construction industry, and I joined Alberici as a Project Safety Coordinator.
2. What do you like most about working in construction?
Honestly, there is very little I dislike about our industry. I love being able to collaborate with our team to solve the challenges our projects present. Being able to interact with both our tradespeople and project management teams provides a great deal of satisfaction.
3. Could you describe what you do in your current role?
As a Safety Director, I spend time on multiple projects, mostly in Alberici’s Automotive and Industrial Processes divisions. I often spend only a couple of days on-site, so I have to prioritize and manage my time well. While on-site, I work with project teams to provide assistance and guidance in order to ensure a safe work environment. I’m always available to coach, counsel and educate project personnel.
4. Tell us about your work with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC).
I’ve served in multiple leadership roles for over a decade with NAWIC. I’m currently serving as the National Safety and Health Awareness Committee Chair and also chair the OSHA/NAWIC Alliance, which works to raise awareness of OSHA’s standards and initiatives.
5. Do you have any advice for women entering the construction industry?
Don’t give up. Believe in yourselves. Persevere with conviction. Dare to pursue new horizons. Seek out others who can support and guide you. Find a mentor – male or female, we all need someone who can give sound guidance as we begin our careers. Most of all, be hopeful for the day that women are so common in the industry that we are identified not as female project managers, engineers and craft-workers, but simply as project managers, engineers and craft-workers.