Safety Week


Sue Behling

C.D. Smith Site Safety Manager

Safety is the construction industry’s top priority, which is why it’s important to establish a safe work environment where people feel empowered to speak up when they see something unsafe. Creating a safe work environment is a critical part of C.D. Smith Site Safety Manager Sue Behling’s job.

“I also onboard everyone who comes through here. When they come through here, I make it very clear to them that if they see something, or something doesn’t feel right, or they’re having an issue, to please come to me. I will take care of it.”

Behling says she prides herself on handling situations immediately.

“My group of people and largely a lot of the people on the site know that they can trust me, that they can come in here and if they’re hurt, I will bandage them up. If they have an issue, I will do my best to handle it.”


Behling says she also tries to get to know the people on-site.


“I take an interest in everybody. I learn if they’re expecting a baby, if their kid is in soccer, and I’ll ask them about it because it makes them feel like they’re not just a number. They’re a person on-site. And it goes a long way.”

An occasional Hi-Chew helps too.

“And I hand out candy. It drives my boss crazy, but it makes people happy. You cannot be upset when you’re eating a Hi-Chew. It’s not possible.”

Behling says people come to her often regarding safety on site.

Behling remembers when someone previously on-site came to her because he needed someone to talk to.

“He needed more help than I could provide. But he also was embarrassed to call and to get the help that he needed. I was able to make a few phone calls and figure out who he needed to talk to and to call that person and explain the situation and he was able to get the help that he needed without feeling embarrassed. It was all kept extremely confidential, quiet, and long story short, he’s in a much better place than he was two months ago. He was able to get the help that he needed.”

Risk Identification

During the planning process for the Wisconsin Center expansion, the construction management team of Gilbane | Smith was tasked with identifying potential safety risks on the job site and finding ways to mitigate them.

“With the height of the building and with the proximity to the existing streets, the size of the overall building, and then the size of the components that are going into the building, it was an extremely tough job in the sense that the equipment and the logistics to actually put the building together in such a tight area and taking into account the volume of product that needs to come into the site, it was very much a chess board rather than a checkers board,” Gilbane Building Company General Superintendent Dan Zess said.

Zess said the project team must always be three or four moves ahead.

“As it would relate to where your next step is, where you are going, make sure that you have enough real estate and room in front of you and then, furthermore, make sure that you’re exceptionally timely with the work that is getting in place,” Zess said. “In a building where you’re working on three different floors at any given time, taking into account that elevation as it relates to swinging loads adjacent or over the top of somebody, you just need to be really cognizant of who’s working around you, how close are they to you and do they understand how you’re performing your work so that they can weave and interact with you properly.”

Zess says with a building of this size, you have to build it like a tiered wedding cake.

“You want to provide that wide base, and then the next tier that’s a little bit narrower, and then the next tier that’s a little bit narrower to try and keep everyone not over the top of anybody,” Zess said.

By assessing these potential hazards and identifying critical steps to make activities safe, Zess plays a crucial role in making the Wisconsin Center expansion site a safe workplace.

Brain Matters

The most important tool we have is our brain, and protecting it inside and out is critical. Regarding physical brain health, Matt Roberts, an ironworker foreman with JP Cullen, says hard hats and helmets are essential to the ironworker uniform.

“It gives you a safe feeling knowing that you have it on… For fall protection, it doesn’t matter what it is. A washer, a nut from a bolt falls even from a few feet and hits you in the bare head. It’s going to hurt.”

Roberts says the little things matter when it comes to your mental health.

“For me, I work out a lot. It’s a way for me to escape and just get into my own zone and do my own thing. I also try to eat right. Being in good health mentally, you feel a lot better. Just the small little things like that… I also like to listen to a lot of audiobooks,” Roberts said.

Roberts says everyone on the site has their way of caring for their mental health.

“I’ve got one guy that does a lot of painting. These guys and women have different things that they can do to cope mentally away from the job too.”

He wants to remind his colleagues not to be afraid to ask for help if they need it. Check out the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention website for resources.

Continue Learning and Demonstration

Aaron Casper, a carpenter foreman for C.D. Smith, has safety tips for using a saw on the job site or at home.

  • Make sure your area is clean and your working surface is stable
  • Make sure your blade is sharp and set to the proper depth
  • Prepare the space and the material to avoid kickback, which is when the material the operator is cutting is propelled toward the operator at a high rate of speed
  • Keep two hands on the saw if you can

Take Action and Thank You

Cory Steinhaus

Senior Safety and Health Specialist, Staff Electric

What can you do to contribute to a safer working environment? Cory Steinhaus, a senior safety and health specialist with Staff Electric, says he works hard to keep people safe on the site so they can enjoy their time off the clock.

“We’re here to protect our people on-site, but we only get them for 8 hours. They have 16 hours a day when they’re with their family and friends and people that they love and care about. That’s the time that I want our people to be able to participate in and relish because they haven’t been getting hurt at work and they can do those things that they want to do.”

Steinhaus says it’s important to establish trust.

“When people feel more comfortable to reach out and call you first rather than trying to figure things out with others or maybe take a shortcut. When they trust you enough to come to you, that’s when you know you’re doing a good job.”

As a safety specialist, he says thank you’s can be hard to come by, but he appreciates when he hears them. Steinhaus shared a recent story about a thank you that he received from an electrician’s wife.

“He was having a conversation with his wife, and she said, ‘Doesn’t this as an electrician scare you?’ And he said,’ Absolutely not. My safety department would not allow us to get into a situation like that where we would be performing work that way for that hazard to exist for us.’ And she just looked at him and said, ‘Well, I want you to go to work tomorrow and tell him thank you from me. Because I appreciate that he’s looking out for you like that.’ It was really kind of cool to hear.”