The value of maintaining a highly professional staff of safety professionals in a construction firm has been demonstrated in many companies through the achievement of very low incident rates and reduced worker's compensation costs. Those of us who have worked as safety managers and directors in the industry also recognize the benefits of improved client and subcontractor relationships. When highly qualified safety coordinators are assigned to projects, the credibility and reputation of the company and the construction managers is enhanced. However, attaining a high degree of qualifications, experience and professionalism is only possible when our construction leaders insist on proper training, professional certifications and conscientious mentoring to constantly improve their abilities. The result of these efforts goes beyond reduced incident rates and costs and includes a stronger safety culture that fosters continual improvement.

Planning for Long-Term Success

While a college degree in safety or another discipline does not necessarily guarantee success, many large and small construction firms regularly recruit safety management graduates from universities around the U.S., especially those with the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) accredited safety and health programs. Often, the greatest long-term success is from a summer internship where an aspiring safety professional can gain experience on a construction project for one or two summers and then be hired full time. PCL Construction has 10 safety coordinators and supervisors who started as interns and some have managed safety on projects valued at over $100 million with just one or two years experience under a senior safety manager. For this reason, PCL hires an average of eight to ten college safety interns every summer and of those, three to four are hired as full-time safety coordinators every year.

Recruiting safety interns can be difficult because of their ages and the proposed assignments that can be long distances from their family and friends. Over the past few years, we have recruited interns who suddenly decided to stay in closer proximity to their homes to work rather than go to projects hundreds of miles distant. Thus, we have learned that it takes persistence, flexibility and an effective back-up plan for our company to successfully continue a viable safety intern program. The back-up plan consists of return visits to campuses and telephone contacts with safety department heads to recruit interns.

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