Building Foundations for Team Safety

Establishing a culture of communication and collaboration is the key to success on The Lindley in San Diego

The Lindley in Downtown San Diego is the latest of three Swinerton projects that have reshaped the city skyline. The project stands as a testament to how our people are our greatest asset when it comes to maintaining safe, productive, and efficient jobsites. The 37-story high-rise project is characterized by strong teamwork, a shared sense of responsibility over jobsite safety, and a positive trajectory of growth and professional development for Swinerton’s self-perform teams. These qualities have taken time to build up over the course of the project, and rest on a foundation of lessons from similar projects that came before.

Sharing the Responsibility for Safety

The Lindley is the third in a sequence of high-rise projects in Downtown San Diego, following closely behind Radian, a 22-story mixed-used residential building, and Simone Little Italy, a 36-story luxury residential high-rise located just a few blocks away.

Almost all of the team at The Lindley—including Safety Engineer Bryan Gray, Concrete Superintendent Junior Arteaga, and Swinerton’s self-perform Concrete, Drywall, and Cleanup groups—are fresh off of the success of Simone Little Italy. Several members—including Bryan, Senior Superintendent Shawn Shafer, and the Drywall team—also played integral roles in the construction of Radian. With these past experiences in projects of similar size and complexity in Downtown San Diego, the team at The Lindley understands the importance of fostering open and honest communication, particularly when it comes to maintaining a clean and safe jobsite.

Jobsite housekeeping may sound like an incidental task, but it is critical to worker safety. Slipping and tripping hazards comprise a large part of fall-related injuries on construction jobsites and are often caused by poorly maintained paths of travel.

However, with a number of different trades often working in the same area, keeping a jobsite free of debris is no small feat. It requires everyone working in the vicinity to share in the responsibility for removing construction waste from walkways and stairways, calling out potential hazards and unsafe conditions, and keeping work areas organized and uncluttered.

“Maintaining a clean work area is essential to morale,” says Bryan, Safety Engineer. “At The Lindley, everyone takes pride in making our jobsite a nice place to work.”

Jobsite housekeeping is a frequent topic in The Lindley’s Monday morning Weekly Safety All-hands meeting, which the team leverages to reinforce, emphasize, and encourage behaviors that supplement the safety culture they have built. It is a time for open communication between trade partners and Swinerton’s general contracting and self-perform teams to not only talk about who is doing what on the jobsite, but to reinforce how everyone plans to work together to create a safe and healthy environment.

Each week, the team covers the schedule, weather forecast, and key activities that can impact the work environment. Equally important are discussions on worker morale, mental health, hydration, diet, rest, and making sure one’s body and mind are fit for the workday ahead.

In the team’s commitment to fostering safety—both physical and psychological—these meetings are also an open forum for trade partners to bring up any issues or concerns, for the awareness of other trade partners or to be swiftly addressed by the Swinerton team. Ensuring everyone feels secure in their safety and invested in their place of work is a largely intangible component of safety, but it is nonetheless critical to reinforcing worker confidence, thereby boosting productivity and efficiency.

Creating Momentum from Consistency

Productivity flourishes when self-perform teams and tradespeople can show up to the jobsite feeling secure in its safety measures, knowing that their peers are looking out for them. Swinerton’s focus on the fundamentals is what builds the foundation for teams to effectively pre-plan and implement mitigation strategies for high-hazard activities, or seek safer and more effective strategies for how to perform work.

Bryan Gray explains, “Safety and productivity don’t have to be at odds. When you leverage both properly, one can really empower the other.”

The Safety Carpenter role is one such efficiency identified during the Lindley project, held by Jorge Sierra, a Journeyman Carpenter. Hand-picked by Swinerton’s self-perform Concrete leadership—including Concrete Superintendent Junior Arteaga and now-Assistant Concrete Superintendent Travis Kazemier—Jorge is primarily responsible for establishing and maintaining The Lindley’s protective systems, which include a guard wire cable system deployed on all floors above ground, toe-board protection chipboards that line the entire perimeter and prevent rolling materials from dropping off the sides of the building, stairway handrails, deck penetration covers, and ladder access where stairs have not yet been poured. When a new deck pour is in progress, he is already preparing the safety systems that will go on it. If a protective system breaks, he is there to quickly remedy it.

Since he began in the role, Jorge has undergone extensive training, obtaining several certifications and competencies that have made him an invaluable asset to the project team and his peers. His commitment to calling out hazards and unsafe conditions has also emboldened other trade partners on the jobsite to speak up.

Whereas having many different trades can naturally result in lapses in communication due to timidness or unfamiliarity, Jorge’s example paired with the project team’s active efforts to solicit trade partner feedback during the Weekly Safety All-hands meetings have created a culture where the entire team shares in the responsibility for general jobsite housekeeping and feels empowered to speak their thoughts. When everyone shares in the responsibility of maintaining overall jobsite safety, they allow specialists like Jorge to focus on efficiencies that create greater synergy between the project’s overall safety and productivity.

“Camaraderie and communication are the ‘special sauce’ that makes a project come together,” adds Senior Superintendent Shawn Shafer.

Consistency also creates a positive momentum on the jobsite that propels growth and professional development. When safety standards are continually met and exceeded—as at The Lindley—Swinerton has seen its self-perform teams thrive and embrace opportunities to grow their careers.

Jorge Sierra’s development as Safety Carpenter represents a powerful joint effort between Swinerton’s general contracting team, Safety department, and self-perform Concrete group to identify, train, and empower a new safety leader. Additionally, through their experience on past high rises, other members of Swinerton’s self-perform teams have built up their confidence and accelerated personal and professional development—from their time on the Radian and Simone Little Italy, and now continuing through The Lindley.

Driving Value with Our Culture

The Lindley is a microcosm of Swinerton’s nationwide efforts to build firm safety foundations based in industry-recognized strategies, and exemplifies our continued focus on developing a strong network of highly trained safety professionals. When we consistently meet the fundamentals on every project, we cultivate great jobsite cultures where our trade partners are empowered to perform high-quality work and our people exceed industry expectations as well as achieve greater safety performances, training and development, and continuous improvement at the project and company level.

The efforts of The Lindley project team, as well as all of our teams across the nation, are steeped in our core values of ownership and leadership. Rather than just complying with safety regulations, our teams embrace and hold themselves accountable for reason behind them: sending everyone home safely, every day.

By taking personal responsibility for the safety and productivity of our jobsites, and everyone who works in them, we create environments where our people feel empowered to perform their best work, grow professionally—and deliver seamless, quality buildings.

How Establishing the Fundamentals of Safety Elevates the Finer Details of Productivity

Given its proximity to other buildings, The Lindley requires special attention to prevent construction debris from affecting neighbors and pedestrians below. To create an efficiency for the entire 37-story project, the team custom-designed an outrigger safety netting system along The Lindley’s eastern façade. Comprised of six separate nets stretching out from the building, this system mitigates the potential for damage to the hotel directly flanking the jobsite.

Outrigger netting systems are common among high-rise projects, particularly in dense cities such as San Francisco and New York. Safety netting systems are most effective when they are deployed within a few floors of the top deck. Moving them up as the building is constructed often entails manually pulling them in, breaking them apart, wiring them, bringing them up the building’s interior stairwell, and reinstalling them—a process that can take several days of manpower. Such a system would be highly inefficient at The Lindley, where a new concrete floor was poured every week.

After deliberating on the effectiveness of nets currently available on the market, The Lindley project team opted to custom-design their own system. Their design includes loose- and fine-mesh nets strung between two posts that stick out horizontally from the deck (see photo below). These are supported by 45-degree angle bars connected to the deck below, and four points of connection at the upper and top decks.

As the building grew taller, the Swinerton team identified the next “jump points” for the netting system and preinstalled extra sets of mounting clamps on the slab edge. Rather than being pulled inside the building and manually dismantled, the entirety of each net was lifted by crane to the next jump point a few floors up. There, another team would be waiting to receive and refasten the net system. This method required eight people working on four different levels simultaneously. As opposed to days of manpower, each jump took just 90 minutes.