Safety is more than hard hats, work gloves and other personal protective equipment. It’s about the environment on a job site. It’s about providing the right tools and training for field crews and staff. Safety is a priority that can be reinforced through education, training, skills and action to limit harm and see that everyone goes home safe.

Architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals, especially those working in the field, who possess a more nuanced understanding of safety, will be more prepared for various risks, injuries and other emergencies.

Training Makes All the Difference

Construction Safety Week is May 2-6. For those in this industry, there will be training courses, toolbox talks and other reminders. But there is perhaps no better reminder than the knowledge of how appropriate safety training and awareness can help see that everyone goes home safe.

In late December 2021, several safety and field personnel working at our Wood County Solar site in Wisconsin used their training to save a man’s life. A field crew member began experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath and informed his supervisor. He was escorted to the health and safety trailer before losing consciousness and going into cardiac arrest.

When it was apparent that his heart stopped beating, an automated external defibrillator (AED) was used to restore his heartbeat. Once his heartbeat was restored, an individual in the health and safety trailer conducted cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to keep the crew member stable. These heroic efforts bought valuable time to save the field crew member’s life before local first responders could transport him to the hospital, where he made a full recovery. Without proper training, the correct resources, and the quick thinking of peers and safety professionals, this crew member could have lost his life in minutes.

Celebrating Construction Safety Week

As we head into Construction Safety Week, this incident serves as a strong reminder that while participating in a safety training may seem secondary to getting a project completed, it is actually the first priority.

The work of AEC professionals is about safety, first and foremost. It is not an afterthought. Safety is how construction professionals get the job done. The most important resource a construction manager or site supervisor has is people, and safety measures should reflect that priority.

Most people who participate in CPR training hope they never have to use that training. But, if that training can save a person’s life, it was well worth the time, energy and resources. For their heroic efforts, the health and safety professionals and field personnel who saved the life of the project crew member received the first Burns & McDonnell Blue Heart Safety Award in March 2022. This award is presented to individuals who exemplify and demonstrate the highest quality of safety awareness. Their courageous efforts were meritorious. These efforts also demonstrate the value of comprehensive safety training and having the necessary resources, such as an AED machine, on-site.

It may seem cliché to say that safety is more than hard hats, work gloves and other personal protective equipment. While those are critical parts of a comprehensive safety program, holistic awareness and training are the important underlying components of a safety program that truly improves employee safety and health outcomes.


Safety is a core principle at Burns & McDonnell. It’s a commitment we build into our plans, designs, construction and operations for all projects.

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Jamie Butler has nearly 30 years of experience in the construction industry and serves as the vice president and director of corporate safety and health at Burns & McDonnell.