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A Day with the Safety Manager at an Office Construction Site

Article August 7, 2018  |  Text by Markéta Miková Text by Markéta Miková

The “grind” starts at six a.m. Wearing a reflective vest, with a protective helmet, gloves, and goggles and safety shoes, Eva Nykodymová is heading out to check how the construction of a new office building is going. We spent a day together with her.

Thin, long legs, blond hair, blue eyes. You’d more likely expect to see a woman like this on the runway than at a construction site. Nevertheless it’s among construction workers that Eva Nykodymová, as the safety manager at Skanska Property, spends a large part of her working hours. “I’m not the only woman here on the site. It’s true that beginnings are hard; you have to know how to earn respect and you have to know your subject. And when all else fails, gallows humor helps,” she laughs.

During her first experience as a safety manager, her teammates prepared an unusual “welcoming” ritual for here. “At my first job I had to climb up a twenty-meter silo, or else the boys wouldn’t give me the time of day. I was scared, but I made it,” she says.

3 × 3

The workaday world of Eva Nykodymová currently revolves around the number “three.” Her job as manager is to unite the three company agendas that are under her care: work safety, sustainability (including building certification), and legal obligations for coordinating occupational safety and health.

Three projects are occupying her time right now—mainly the construction of Praga Studios (in Prague’s Karlín district), with the completion of the Visionary office building (in the Holešovice district) and initial work on Parkview (in the Pankrác district) in second and third place.

She also starts her day three times a week at 6 a.m. at one of these three sites. When asked if she minds it, she answers: “On the contrary, I’m glad; I’m an early bird, and in the mornings I can work on documentation in peace. Also, in the afternoons on these days, I pick up the kids from school, so Skanska has to portion off my time. Then it’s time for active relaxation. Right now in the summer that means biking, skating, or the pool.” (Incidentally, she doesn’t have three children, but “only” two.)

The First Part of a Glass Puzzle

We also participated in one of the review days at the Praga Studios site. Starting at 7 a.m., Eva attended a morning meeting with the main contractor and subcontractors, where work at the site was divided up and coordinated.

We then joined the team of project manager Žofie Pažitná for a walk through the whole site. The greatest attention was devoted to safety verification, and we also witnessed the installation of the first element in the building’s glass facade, with a height of 5.5 meters, which was in the works for at least a year and a half.

Eva then walks through the site with the team and goes over individual safety-related points one by one.

Even though it’s not the first Wednesday of the month (the national monthly siren-test day), safety sirens sound on the site at high noon. This is likely a test of all the audio signals that, if needed, warn the workers and instruct them to evacuate the site. “Thank heavens, even after 500 days of construction work on this project, they’ve never had to be used for real. But we practice the evacuation process regularly all the same,” says Eva.

From Suspenders to Suit

Before heading out to check another building site, Eva heads over to the office for a few hours, finishes some other documents, and works on other tasks. The start of a project, before all of its processes have been set up, is always demanding—both for Skanska’s internal teams and for all of their contractors.

After construction is completed, complete documentation for is prepared for the new owner. The work in digital form in the BIM (Building Information Model) system is also helpful for work safety and more.

Mondays and Wednesdays are when Eva exchanges her construction outfit for a business outfit, because on those days she’s usually at headquarters. There she works on other important tasks from the areas of both safety and, more recently, WELL certification. WELL is a completely new type of office-building certification, and Skanska Property is striving to be the first developer in the country to acquire it.