Photo by Sue Pearsall/ENR
The high-profile leaders expressing care at the Safety Week kickoff event included (from left) Lend Lease's Denis Hickey, Limbach's Charlie Bacon and Gilbane's William Gilbane III.
Photo by Sue Pearsall/ENR
Weeks Marine decorated one of its barges, which will be docked next to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, to publicize Safety Week. The effort promotes personal safety as well as onsite safety.

The grass-roots drive of industry executives to focus the nation's attention on construction safety has grown by leaps and bounds. Safety Week 2015, celebrated on May 3-8, kicked off in New York City with declarations from company leaders who are taking the time to express their care and concern.

"It's about good procedure and process; good culture; training, training training; and visible leadership that you see here today," says Richard Cavallaro, CEO of Skanska USA Inc. Two groups dedicated to an industry-wide safety transformation—the Construction Industry Safety Initiative and the Incident and Injury-Free Executive Forum—launched the program last year. This year, 44 industry firms have joined the movement as official sponsors. Participating companies have daily activities on their jobstes, extra training and celebrations.

Charlie Bacon, CEO of Limbach and co-chair of Safety Week 2015, says the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration moved its industry-wide safety fall-protection week to coincide with Safety Week this year. Also, 24 industry associations are sponsoring, including the Associated General Contractors, the Associated Builders and Contractors, the Construction Industry Round Table and the Construction Users Roundtable.

William Gilbane III, senior vice president of Gilbane Building Co., describing his company's program, called Gilbane Cares, says, "We're a family company, and we really look at everyone being lifeguards in the pool at our jobsites and treating each other as family members." The safety mentality goes beyond the jobsite, as well, Cavallaro adds, describing a worker who stopped on the road on a dark night to give a jogger a safety vest. "To me, that's a personal journey," he says.

OSHA's overall total recordable incidence rate for construction was 3.8 per 200,000 hours worked in 2013, down from 6.3 in 2005, but the goal of safety-conscious companies is zero incidents. "Every incident is preventable," says Denis Hickey, Lend Lease's CEO for the Americas. "We don't yet prevent everything. That's why we're standing here." The location of the Safety Week event overlooked the Related Co.'s $20-billion Hudson Yards development. "When you look at jobs like this that are wildly complex ... it's about preplanning, about giving people the right tools and about giving them the license to stop—if it's not right, don't do it," he says.

One advance is in engineered solutions. Lend Lease used custom-fabricated nets for fall protection during the steel erection of the 10-story Jerome L. Greene Science Center at the Columbia Manhattanville Development site in Harlem. The system saved the life of an ironworker on the job, Hickey says.

With participating firms strongly committed to safety, Bacon asks, "How do we wake up the hundreds and hundreds of others to join the journey? That's the point of Safety Week." For 2016, the execs are looking for alignment from top to bottom as well as getting more subs and owners involved.