I began my career in underground mining in the coal mines of Western Pennsylvania, United States. Safety was essential for survival. I owe a lot of what I’ve learned to the coal industry and the miners who helped keep me safe. I learned the value of strong safety systems, compliance with regulations and the benefit of employee involvement in reducing injuries — all before I became a safety professional. I’m proud of having been a coal miner and, due to my deep respect for safety, I jumped at the opportunity to become a full-time safety professional when I changed my career from mining to the construction industry.

Enhancing AECOM’s culture of caring has been key to my role as the chief safety officer at AECOM. As the company strives to lead our industry in safety, health and environment performance, our expectation is that all of our employees actively participate in AECOM’s Safety for Life program and are not only their own personal safety managers, but also look out for their colleagues. Employees are also encouraged to support our efforts by making observations of conditions in the office and field as well as reporting and investigating near misses.

AECOM has made great progress in reducing the frequency and severity of incidents. We can attribute this improvement to several factors, including support from executive and senior leaders, as well as a focus on leading indicators that concentrate on processes for incident prevention.

We also continue to develop our systems, processes and tools to improve our ability to support our global operations, with a particular focus on risk assessment and employee training. As a result, we have seen a significant reduction of injuries to our maintenance staff in Afghanistan.

Another factor that has contributed to our success has been the addition of talented safety professionals. With the addition of URS and Hunt Construction, AECOM now has more safety-trained supervisors than many other companies in the world. In addition, we now have more certified safety professionals than many of our competitors. This combination of trained supervision and licensed safety professionals forms the foundation for AECOM’s Safety, Health and Environment (SH&E) group to perform at a world-class level.

However, with such a large workforce, a challenge we now face is ensuring that we are providing a safe work environment for all employees. The risk profile of the legacy URS and legacy Hunt projects is far more complex than the majority of AECOM’s previous projects. Since both legacy URS and Hunt self-perform construction to build their projects, this means that our direct-hire employees have exposure to construction hazards that, if not mitigated properly, could cause serious injury.

Despite these inherent challenges, AECOM’s SH&E team has accomplished a lot over the past year. For example, becoming a member of the Campbell Institute is a high honor for our company, as it recognizes our SH&E best practices among top organizations. We’re also very proud that our Chairman and CEO, Mike Burke, was selected for the U.S. National Safety Council’s “CEOs Who ‘Get It’” list for his dedication to building a strong culture of safety at AECOM. Personally, winning an AECOM CEO Award was extremely gratifying as it acknowledges all of our employees for their dedication to our Safety for Life program.