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President’s Message – Latest Scoop 2023 Issue 2

Encouraging a Culture of Safety, Honesty, & Support for One Another

Keith Headshot

Early in the 1990’s, a Brubacher supervisor was overseeing the sitework for the expansion of a manufacturing plant in Lancaster. He was known for high expectations, helping eager learners grow to meet those standards, and managing projects well. One week that fall, a young loader operator learned just how deeply that supervisor cared about his co-workers as well.

That young man was going through a great deal of upheaval in his social and family life. He came to work feeling like he was carrying a ton of sand on his shoulders and a mind full of thoughts spinning 100 miles per hour. His best efforts to mask swirling emotions behind his glasses and under his hat did little to hide from the supervisor that something was different that week. The supervisor cared enough to notice, listen without prying about the situation, and share encouragement. Wiping the heavy fall dew from the cab windows and the tears that slipped down his cheeks, the operator started each day knowing his boss understood and cared about him beyond what he could get done that day. He valued the reminder to be intentionally alert while operating, given his distracted state of mind. To this very day, that no-longer-quite-so-young loader operator vividly recalls the weeks spent with a caring and exceptionally effective supervisor during a difficult time.

When I hear that story and as I interact with folks on our projects today, I am reminded of the incredible opportunity and responsibility we have to care for our co-workers. We can almost guarantee that someone with whom we are working is facing some type of situation, even ‘good things,’ that are causing stress, distraction, despair, or uncertainty.

It seems there are two extremes we must fight against. The first is the viewpoint that construction is a tough guy’s world where “you’re paid to get work done rather than tell me how you feel.” The second is the increasing frequency with which people either quit on the spot or just don’t show up, citing the need for a mental health break from the stress of maintaining a job while dealing with everything else going on in life. Neither of these approaches deals with the root issues. Ignoring reality by pretending that work is unaffected by personal life is as unhelpful as eliminating income to reduce stress.

We all know the construction industry is full of challenges to be overcome. In fact, the satisfaction of doing just that is what attracts many people to it. However, we would be foolish to ignore the impact that deadlines, weather uncertainty, rate of change, communication, and many other factors have on people, especially when coupled with other stressors outside of work. Because much of construction takes place in small teams and many companies like Brubacher are of a size where each person is known individually versus as a number, we are in a unique position to live out our core value of Teamwork. We do this every time someone asks how a coworker is doing, notices when something changes, offers a listening ear and encouragement, or connects them with a resource to help.

A few weeks ago, I participated in a pre-work safety huddle where the supervisor asked each crew member to share a safety reminder, concern, or idea. Everyone spoke a sentence or two, and after the stretch-and-flex routine, headed off to work. I complimented the supervisor for his approach because that short exercise gave a little window into how each person was showing up by observing their tone of voice and level of engagement in addition to gaining safety input.

The life situations and stress that we all experience sometimes feel overwhelming. This is especially true when support structures and relationships are broken or may even be the source of the difficulty. When we feel no one notices or cares, or that we can’t be honest about what we’re experiencing, we can be tempted to give up on life, or become addicted to harmful behaviors.

In September, Brubacher will participate along with many other construction companies in Construction Suicide Prevention Week (September 5-9). We will bring further awareness to the roles we each play in strengthening Brubacher as a workplace where we are caring, honest, and helpful toward each other. Our HR team members, workplace chaplain, and online resources are all available to assist Brubacher team members and their families. In addition, the employee portal on the new Brubacher website connects our team members with numerous resources for assistance, insight, and help for personal, family, health & wellness, financial, and career situations.

And about that young loader operator…the reason I know the story well is because I was the one who could barely function at work. I’ve thanked the supervisor years later, who remembers few of the details and didn’t think he did much, yet he impacted the direction of my life at a vulnerable time. Whose life will you impact today? With whom do you need to be honest about what’s happening in life?

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