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HammerTech Talks

HammerTech Talks with Paul Butler, Safety Manager at DPR Construction

By Georgia Bergers on December, 18 2020
HammerTech Talks
In this episode:
  • Why creating a "don't walk by culture" is becoming a foundation for better safety engagement
  • Lessons from COVID-19 that DPR Construction will take into 2021 and beyond
  • Career advice for those considering a role in construction safety!
PAUL BUTLER-FULL-med-adapt_v01

 

Georgia Bergers:

HammerTech Talks is a chance for you to join me as we dig into the world of construction pros to find out what makes them tick and helps them succeed. This series will open the door to an industry that we're passionate about and showcase the amazing people and ideas that are the infrastructure to building great things. Construction folk love a story and a laugh so we're going to have some fun and you'll take away new perspectives to improve your operations and help create the next normal in construction. For those of you who don't know us, we're HammerTech, we're a cloud-based performance and productivity platform, ensuring safety, quality, and operational efficiency. Let's get into it.

Hi everyone. Thank you for joining us for another episode of hammer tech talks. Today, we have Paul Butler who is a Safety Manager from DPR Construction, joining us based out of Raleigh Durham. Good morning, Paul, how are you?


Paul Butler:

Good morning. How are you? Very good


Georgia Bergers:

So Paul, tell us a bit more about the projects that you're covering in Raleigh.

 

Paul Butler:

So out of our Raleigh office, we work on a lot of different projects. We work in several like healthcare environments, hospitals, and we do a lot of lab work here. Some pharmaceutical and life science work. We do a lot of work for the universities we work for, I think every major university in the Raleigh area right now working for them. So we're, we're pretty busy and kind of have our hands in a lot of different things.


Georgia Bergers:

Yeah. And also access to probably some of the best graduates in the region because of that.


Paul Butler:

Yeah, for sure.


Georgia Bergers:

A lot of people in construction tend to travel from place to place for, for projects. And when I spoke to you last time, you said "I'm done with traveling". I need to, to sort of settle, settle in one, place and just sort of really move away from, that way of working. And I wondered why you chose Raleigh? And, and why did you elect to sort of stop moving around chasing those projects?


Paul Butler:

I mean the, no traveling really was more of a family thing. I mean, I, I like being able to go to places and do that, but you know, DPR gave me the opportunity to be home just about every night. You know, if I do travel now, it's almost by personal choice for something that I want to go and do. You know, that's gonna help me or somebody else out that I, it's a choice. Like, that's the nice thing. I'm constantly on the road. It's, it's really awesome here too. You know, we, we work for a ton of different clients in the area, but we have kind of the same pool of trade partners that we use. Not every project, but a lot. So we see a lot of the same people, you know, on different projects. And it, it, it allows us to build really good, strong relationships with them where they know what we expect, they know what you know, they can expect from us when they come to our projects and it really helps build, really strong relationships with them and really get to the, what we're looking for culture wise, what we're looking to build here.


Georgia Bergers:

What's the, what is it that you're looking to build? What is that sort of culture that you try and instill across your supply chain?


Paul Butler:

I mean, I think the culture we're trying to, build is that injuries are not just a part of construction. It's not something that just has to happen that it's possible to work injury free. It's, it's really tough work to do that. And it's kind of a journey I'd say to get there. It's not something that I expect to happen overnight, but I think unless you have that end goal of zero in mind you're never going to get there, like you have to shoot for it. And it's a, huge goal. But it's one that I think we have to have because incidents and injuries that are not acceptable to us and they shouldn't be, they shouldn't be acceptable to anybody in our, in our industry.


Georgia Bergers:

What do you think causes someone to say, Oh, you know, injuries are just a part of construction?


Paul Butler:

I think maybe just maybe the mentality or how they've kind of been brought up within the industry or what they've heard or what they've seen. You know, I, I guess I don't want to confuse it, that it's going to be easy to, to get that done and that it's hard and it's tough work, and it requires a lot of tough choices and discipline and everybody kind of pulling in the same direction. But I do think that that mindset unfortunately, is still out there, but I think that's what we're trying to change and show people that had that it is possible in that it is possible to do things, you know, fast to meet schedules, to meet deadlines, but also do it the right way and not people, you know, put people at risk to get there.


Georgia Bergers:

And so what does a really good week at work look like for you?


Paul Butler:

I mean, a really good week at work for me is you know, when I can go home at the end of the week and know that everybody on all of our projects also went home safe, sound, you know, the same way that I do every week. And that's to me that's a successful week. You know, and fortunately we have those, like, we do have those and they happen often. And we have, you know, a lot of projects that work injury-free every day, you know, for days, weeks, months, you know, durations of the project at a time. And it's just a matter of stringing all those together and getting every single one of them there, but that's, that's a good way for me. You know, we always have stuff to do. We're always working to try to get better. You know, we're not gonna just be happy that we're, you know, we're doing really good, we're going to keep working to be great. And that's where we want to get to.


Georgia Bergers:

And so what's something that you wish people knew about the role of a safety manager?


Paul Butler:

I don't know. There's a, you know, a lot of times, you know, people come to us to look just for confirmation that they're thinking maybe the right thing. You know, I, I, we're not the position that's gonna bless exceptions to rules and things like that's something I wish people would just stop doing. Like, you know, I know it might be tough or it might be inconvenient or easier make this exception one time, but that's not really what we're here for. You know, we can help them work through those problems and issues and come up with solutions. But the, the choice to maybe just get a free pass or something like that, that's not, and I don't think a lot of people do that, but it's tough sometimes standing your ground. It for sure is. But I, I think it's important that we do. And I think, you know, at least here our teams look for us to do that. Our, our leadership does as well. Like that's, you know, we're here to make sure to help our teams make the best decisions to make sure that our people are you know, going home safe every single day.


Georgia Bergers:

Why do you think everyone in the industry should stop walking by when they see something onsite that may not be, may not be right?

 

Paul Butler:

I mean, so we talk about it a lot and we, we do some of our training classes about, you know, not walking by things that aren't right, or never walking by an unsafe act or condition, like stop and say something or ask a question about it. You know, I think you know sometimes it can be hard to stop and say something to somebody else. Like there's a lot of things I think that influenced people whether or not they, they will, whether they're comfortable doing it, or maybe they're younger in their career, or they think that somebody else is gonna take care of it. You know, but I think to really get to where we all want go in the industry, it takes everybody, you know, not walking by those and getting a message that everybody has a voice on the project, and everybody can bring up a safety concern or issue, and that when they are brought up that they're dealt with the right way, you know, they're not, you know, screamed and hollered at for you know, bringing something up or slowing work down.

Like we're gonna get a truly care about it and we're gonna address whatever their concern is. Even if it's, you know, taking a few minutes to explain to them why, what we're doing is right, or why that is the safe way to do it. It it's, you know, I think we really need to look to just share our knowledge and tap into the knowledge that everybody has in and really educate you know, people in the industry to, as to, you know, what the right way to do things is. And I think a lot of times that can just start with just a simple question as to why they're doing something a certain way. You know, there's a lot of things that can you know, influence why they chose to maybe do something the way they did, whether it's safe.


Georgia Bergers:

Why is the 'why' important?


Paul Butler:

I think it's a, it's important to understand, you know, where that person's coming from and why they, they think you know, or maybe chose to do something, or maybe they didn't even choose to do it. They, maybe their supervisor told them to do it, and they didn't feel comfortable enough to speak back to their supervisor to question their supervisor. Maybe they don't have a culture that's strong enough to do that, but really understanding why someone's doing what it is that they're doing. If you can, you know, fix that, like that'll, that'll help fix the, I guess, the long-term behavior that that person is doing. It's not going to just, you know you know, fix the current condition that's out there in the project. You have to really get to the behavior and the why they're actually doing something and why they're behaving that way to, you know, to really change and make a difference. That's going to last longer than just taking care of, you know, whatever condition you come across in the field.


Georgia Bergers:

I've got another question, what do you think everyone in the industry should start doing more of? So you mentioned, you mentioned 'why' as, as being something that sounds to me like something you wish everyone would do, more of. Is there anything else?


Paul Butler:

Well, I mean, I think you know, I haven't done this for a ton of time, but I've done it long enough to see some change in, in my role in the safety professionals role in, in really more companies going to, you know, the way that they approach safety is, you know, more of a coach in a supporting role, rather than someone that's out there writing tickets on the project. That's, I don't think the intention of any company really anymore that that's the job to do. And I think the more we can encourage people to use you know, use us as a, as a resource to, to help them be safe and to come up with solutions rather than having to go there and, you know, tell people to put on their glasses or the tie off, or, you know, whatever it might be inspect this equate.

Like that's not, that's not, it's part of the, like, it's part of the role of making sure that people are doing things the correct way and helping them do it, but it can't be the only, the only part like, you know, our, our teams expect us to go to the projects and to, you know, to identify areas where they can be better and then help them be better. And that's what we try to do rather than just come in, send them an audit in disappear. Like that's not at all what the role of a Sage, a professional is on our projects.


Georgia Bergers:

And so how do you work with your team to navigate that shift together? Because, you know, you can wake up one morning and you can say, I'm not going to be the safety cop anymore. I'm going to become, become the coach, but your team might still be here. So how do you work with them to navigate that, that change and what we do as a coach rather than as cop.

 

Paul Butler:

I mean, I guess lucky for us, like we don't have a lot of teams that that expect us to come in and be a cop and say here you know, I think it's, you know, really, it's, it's trying to establish a relationships with our teams in knowing that every one of them is different and they all have slightly different needs based on what they, you know, their experience has been or how long they've been with the company or in the industry and what they've seen and haven't seen. So they're kind of all a little bit different in, in what their needs are. But you know, we, we focus a lot of our time on education and training and when we're out there and, you know, if we are out auditing or walking a project where we're taking somebody with us, you know, somebody that, you know, one of our project engineers or a superintendent or whoever it might be to, to really show them what we're looking for and how we inspect the job.

And I think building those relationships over time, that the people that have come from more of a like a culture where the safety professional does come out there and write tickets or, or do audits and do that, like approach it that way. Like, it takes a little bit of time to get them into the mindset that we are there to help them. And we are part of their team and we are, you know, we're there to help them. We're all, we all have the same end goal in line. Like our job is to make that project team successful and that's going to make for a successful project. And I think that's where that's where we really try to get to here.


Georgia Bergers:
We've so DPR undergone a bit of a transformation as relates to safety over the last couple of years where you've been using a lot more data to be able to measure performance. And I wondered how have you managed the, the new transparency? Because it can expose some really good things and it can expose some real gaps. So how have you worked with your teams to, to manage that new-found transparency?


Paul Butler:

I mean, I guess one of the really nice things about us is we are very transparent with just about everything anyway. So putting this transparency to how we're doing safety-wise on all of our projects has been, it's felt pretty natural for us. It's definitely helped and open our eyes to, you know, where we maybe have, you know, done thought we were doing really well and turns out we're not really doing as well as we thought we were. And then there's other areas where maybe we thought we weren't doing as well. And it turns out, you know, we're doing better than we thought. So it's really given us a lot of good information that we can, can use to go work on different parts of our safety plans and with our project teams to really make an impact and rather than guess where we need to work on. We're able to use that information and really focus our efforts to and just be smart and strategic with where we're focusing our efforts.


Georgia Bergers:

You mentioned that you'd been a part of a COVID task force for DPR, and I wondered how you got roped into that?


Paul Butler:

I'm not sure. Something, we've been roped into a bunch of them, and it's been, you know, it's I think it's kind of a natural fit for safety professionals that some of the COVID different things that we've done. And we've, you know, we've had a ton of help from our operations in, in different leaders, within the company everywhere. It's, it's been a kind of an all-in effort. It's been awesome that it hasn't just been dumped on to the safety group to, to really come in, fix and figure out how we're going to plan. Like we really, really worked together to come up with, you know, really good plans that are going to not only, hopefully limit our risk dealing with COVID. And if we do have somebody that ends up with COVID on a project, it's going to limit the exposures and kind of our plans. But yeah, we've, we've really worked well across the company with that, which has been awesome. So there's a lot of really smart people that have been able to, to, to help and put input into those plans and, and come up with some really creative ways to keep our projects safe and working. And yeah, it's been good.


Georgia Bergers:

And so what are some of the lessons that you think we'll take forward beyond COVID that you've learned through this? It sounds like a really collaborative process.


Paul Butler:

Yeah. I mean, I think for us, you know, we've really done some things were with COVID and some of our check-ins and apps that we've, you know, developed and worked through this, like, we really, really have a much better understanding with that and with, with HammerTech of how who exactly is on our projects all the time. And it's not that we, we didn't know before, but it really gives us some really useful information of how many people are coming and going every single day and visitors in and out. And it's, it's given us some areas where we can, can work to, you know, maybe control that a little bit better, or have a little bit better understanding of that. You know, it's really forced a lot of our projects, you know, with not passing a paper around as much as we used to, and, you know, not wanting to use the same pens and trying to eliminate, you know, common touchpoints that people have. It's really pushed our teams to start using some more of the, the technology, like HammerTech that we have to do, you know, inspections and to submit their pre-task plans. And to really it's, it's really forced them to do that which has been, it's been great to help us, you know, really implement that tool fully and really use it to its full function.


Georgia Bergers:

Yeah, that's really fantastic. And I guess, what, what are your hopes, you know, for the, for the coming years in construction? What do you, what do you want to see, to see change, whether it's in the safety space or whether it's in in construction at large, what are you, what are you excited about?


Paul Butler:

Well, after our last discussion, definitely looking forward to us coming to some sort of end of COVID like, that is definitely looking forward to that. I mean, I, who knows when that is, but I know that's something that it takes a lot of time away from some of the other things that we're doing and it doesn't, it's definitely an important thing that we need to be focusing in on, but we, and I'm sure everybody else in our industry is spending a ton of time that they hadn't planned for you know, worrying about and managing COVID. So definitely looking forward to that hopefully like whatever the end of that is, we'll see. The things that we're excited for here is, you know, we, we just want to keep you know, really building our culture here in, in Raleigh where I am at.

And you know, we, we kind of have this belief that, you know, as we get better, we're gonna make our trade partners better and they're going to go to other projects and work, and they're going to make those projects better. And it's, it's the kind of the rising tide raises all boats. So it's, you know, w we're really looking to, to spread that. And I know we're not the only ones that are working to get better. There's a lot of other, contractors in our area and in others as well, that are, are working to do that. We try to really push the industry forward every chance we get to get better and really push people to be better. And that's, that's what I'm looking forward to us continuing to work on that. Like I said, I think the goal is, has to be zero and that's our target. And we want to get there obviously as soon as we can but understand also that it's, it's a process to get there and getting every single person there is, it is a big goal, but it is the goal.


Georgia Bergers:

Yeah. What advice would you give to someone who's considering entering construction or becoming a safety professional? What would you say to them if they were like, Oh, I'm thinking about it, but I'm not really sure.


Paul Butler:

I mean, I think construction's a great career. I mean, whether it's in a safety role or something else, I would tell them to go for it. Like, it's, there's a ton of great opportunities. And I think as you get into it, you're going to decide and figure out what part of construction that you're passionate about, whether that's, you know, maybe some of the front end work of, you know, estimating or chasing after work, or if it's part of the execution as a project team, or, you know, the design or like wherever or safety, like there's a ton of different opportunities within construction to, but learn as much as you can about it and get as much experience as you can get a diverse experience from different types of projects. You know, don't pigeonhole yourself into, I only do this type of construction.

Like, there's, there's so many different things that you know, that you can do and opportunities like they're, they're endless, and there's so many, like, it's, it really is a good career. Like there's I mean, I guess I've been fortunate and blessed in my time. Like, I've never not had an opportunity to go somewhere else and work. It's not been like we've always had work and it's been, like I said, I've been very fortunate. That's not everybody in our industry, but I think the opportunity is there, if you're willing to do what it takes to go, you know, to where the work might be. Even if it's a temporary assignment, but get as much experience as you can and then follow whatever it is that you're passionate about. Like that's, if you like what you're doing, you're going to be better at it. And you're going to be a better employee and you're just going to be happier. So that would be my long-winded advice.


Georgia Bergers:

I don't think it's too long-winded. I, it made me, it's made me want to be back on the construction side now. Paul, thank you so much for your time. It was absolutely brilliant. Talking with you, have a great day.


Paul Butler:

All right. Thank you

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