by Mike Earley, PE, LS, LEED GA
I recently overheard a couple of engineers talking about the components of a public safety project they were working on. This got me thinking…
My background is in site civil and mechanical engineering, but I am also a licensed land surveyor and managed our Survey Department for the previous five years. Now, as Chief Engineer, I realize the advantage of this winding career path that I’ve been on – it gives me an opportunity to see projects from all angles. So when I overheard my coworkers talking about a project that the client was calling a “public safety project”, I realized that, to me, every project is about safety.
This thought honestly made me pause. I started mentally going through all the projects I’ve personally worked on and some of the ones I know the company is working on. It became a weird mind game. How does industrial compliance equate to safety? Easy…keeps harmful “stuff” out of the ground and air. How is designing a new sanitary pump station and force main a safety project? Easy…public safety as a whole benefits by having waste transported directly to a treatment system. What about a site redevelopment project? Well, this generally involves removing and capping contaminated soil or removing hazardous materials from historic buildings, and improving the site infrastructure to accommodate public use. I could go on and on…too easy. I needed to challenge myself, so I thought about my recent work in survey. How is surveying a plot of land a safety project? Well, sometimes neighbors disagree, so helping to establish a boundary can reduce the risk of physical altercation and free up local law enforcement! Seriously though, if a client wants to put in a swimming pool, they need to know where to put the required safety fence in order to keep accidents from happening. Also, surveying and mapping topographic features and underground utilities also sets the stage for design teams and clients to better plan for safety (i.e., not design a structural pile vertically into a utility line!).
I played this game for far too long, and then my mind pivoted to another large part of my role as Chief Engineer – making sure that all of the people working on all of these safety projects are safe while they are working on them (there may be an “Inception” joke in there somewhere, but my mind is too tired from my previous game to think of it). I’m proud of the development of our safety culture here, but my new role has forced me to think about it in a different way. When I was out on a job, I followed our procedures (job hazard analysis, personal protection, situational awareness, etc.) and did my best to make sure that my team had what they needed to perform their jobs safely. But now I get to think about this from a much more macro perspective and get to influence how we, as a company, can be safer in all aspects of our jobs. So I’m working with Rob Levandoski, CSP, CIH, CHMM (if you google those letters, you’ll see pretty quickly why Rob is the ideal person to talk to about safety), who is the president of our LLC, Manufacturing Solutions. Rob’s daily job is to literally make other companies safer and more efficient at the same time. So together, he and I are reevaluating company procedures. Safety policies are living documents. They are never complete. They are ever-evolving and can always be just a little bit better.
The first big step we’ve taken is to reinvigorate our safety program. We’ve introduced PriorityZer∅,, which outlines our approach to creating and maintaining a safety-conscious work environment. You can read about it here (https://www.fando.com/safety/). This is just the beginning. You’ll hear more from Rob and me in the coming months about our observations and how we’re adapting and improving. I think it’s important to share this information because safety is a universal concern. And if sharing lessons learned, challenges, and success stories helps someone else, then I’ve done my job. Which means, I suppose, that even this blog is a safety project. Mind blown.
About the Author
Mike Earley, PE, LS, LEED GA is Fuss & O’Neill’s Chief Engineer. As part of his commitment to safety, he’ll be taking some courses to add some more letters after his name. In the meantime, if you’d like to play the “how is XYZ a safety project” game, please email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.