The new president of the Associated General Contractors, Chuck Greco, was talking about safety with a reporter at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan, where AGC held its annual convention on March 17-20. There, Greco described what has happened when he had to dismiss a worker for repeated unsafe actions.
"Their wives would call me and say, 'Please give him another chance.' And I'd say, 'If I do that, I'm hurting you, because I've done everything I can to impress him that, if he gets hurt out here, you're the person who is going to suffer.' "
Much of that, most people agree, depends on the craft workforce. For example, Greco notes, every worker at a jobsite must have the authority to stop work if he or she perceives a hazard. Further, a safe and productive jobsite depends on empowering foremen. "They are the ones who direct and control those craftsmen. Get [the foremen] on board and empower them, and they can ask for resources."
Apart from safety, construction's struggle to attract enough craft workers to the industry could be corrected by redefining the industry and its workers, notes Greco, saying, "It can be very high-tech and cleaner," with small improvements such as better places for workers to eat lunch.
As for the idea that, early in their careers, young construction craft workers should think about shifting to office work, Greco disagreed. "If that craft is your passion, then you are going to be good at it," he says. "You will probably rise pretty quickly to be a manager, foreman or superintendent. [I'm] not saying work yourself out of the field, but, within that, we are all looking for leaders [and] for career craft leaders."Greco, 59, is chairman of Linbeck, the Houston-based construction manager, where he has worked for 36 years. A thoughtful man who chooses his words carefully, he plans to focus the association's attention on programs that contribute to the long-term future of the industry.