When Martin Lopez, Safety Director at GCON Inc., first joined the construction management firm three years ago, he set out to build the company’s safety department from scratch.
“I was the first full-time safety professional for the company,” Lopez tells Highwire.
Lopez had worked in safety for nearly two decades before heading up safety operations at the Arizona-based firm, which is among an elite group of companies to receive Highwire’s Platinum Safety Award this year. Platinum-level safety performers score 95 or better in the Highwire platform. This score is a measurement of several safety factors, including leading and lagging safety indicators, EMR, DART rate, and the overall strength of safety management systems and protocols.
GCON’s Platinum Status is a welcome recognition of the job Lopez and the company’s executive leadership have been doing to build an effective safety team that can oversee projects nationwide. The firm’s work spans from “ground-up construction to intricate interior renovations,” including, among others, high-tech and mission-critical projects.
Building a safety department from the ground up
Lopez says building a solid safety department means modernizing the department’s standard operating procedure and having buy-in from all staff members, including executives. Once an effective process is in place, the focus becomes hiring the best talent possible.
For Lopez, that meant reaching out to colleagues in his network. When seeking talent, Lopez says it’s important to hire with loyalty and longevity in mind.
“I have a very strong team of folks that I’ve worked with, some of them for twenty-plus years, who trust myself and the company,” Lopez says, “because when we hire, we hire for life. And that isn’t common.”
Lopez says GCON’s safety team is now up to 12 members who handle operations across several states. Lopez says his newest hire will be dispatched to Oregon; their next will focus on commercial work.
Taking feedback to heart means constant improvement
One of the qualities that set Lopez apart from other safety professionals early in his career is his strong people skills.
“The whole thing about safety is that your people skills are as important—if not more important—than your technical skills,” Lopez says. “Because we deal with people every day. We’re trying to understand human behavior. And then the question becomes: how do we change mindsets? How do we help folks to do the right thing by themselves? That’s been my strategy.”
A fascination with the trades has also shaped that strategy. Lopez says he spends a lot more time out in the field building relationships and trying to understand each trade. “Sometimes I’m taken aback by what they can accomplish,” he says of the teams he supervises.
“I think the key to our success has been that we try to understand the trades and the challenges they face,” he adds.
Another key to GCON’s success, Lopez says, has been the company’s focus on constant improvement. When the company first began using Highwire, management was very serious about correcting deficiencies identified through the software, he says.
He praised Highwire’s “extensive” and detailed analysis of safety systems and overall performance metrics.
“I think it speaks volumes about the fact that [Highwire] does such an extensive review of not only our safety record, our OSHA logs, but our program itself,” he says. “We take that feedback to heart.”
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