The workers line up early, wearing their hardhats, work boots and safety vests, ready for a day’s work on a busy construction site. Within minutes they are stretching, squatting and twisting their bodies in a rhythmic warm-up.
It’s still dark outside.
The daily movements are part of Stretch and Flex, an essential component of the comprehensive approach to safety as part of Pittsburgh International Airport’s Terminal Modernization Program.
At the end of each stretch and flex session, participants make announcements and discuss what’s going well, what can be improved, and the risks workers may face that day.
Three sessions allow team members across the project to participate, including those working on the new terminal, the Multi Modal Complex, and employees working in the project management office.
Stretch and Flex is about more than warming up workers’ bodies and preventing soft-tissue injuries, said Jason Timmerman, Vice President of Environment and Workplace Safety with the Allegheny County Airport Authority. It’s about developing a team mentality and providing an opportunity for contractors to build relationships with other contractors.
“A lot of times in union environments, it’s very siloed,” Timmerman said. “We want to try to break down those silos as much as possible. If you have a relationship with somebody, you’re more likely to speak up and protect them if they’re either at risk or in a risky situation.”
The cornerstones of the TMP safety program are building relationships and continually improving. Another program, “You Asked, We Did,” is an environmental health and safety department-led initiative that encourages everyone on the construction site to share their thoughts on how safety can be improved. Anyone with a suggestion can scan the QR code on a special hard hat sticker to offer their suggestions.
“They know what the dangers are on the project, so we’re taking that valuable feedback and implementing it into everything we’re doing from a safety standpoint,” Timmerman said.
The TMP project also includes a monthly lunch-and-learn session, where workers are encouraged to share candid observations with project leaders in a small group setting.
Those sessions have produced many improvements, such as having a more delineated roadway, heated bathrooms, marking overhead utility lines, additional dust control on the site and sending inclement weather text notifications to the trades.
“We want workers to want to be here, and the No. 1 way to make this a project of choice is by protecting them,” Timmerman said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to protect every person out there all day, every day.”