Deb Avery is an Environmental Health & Safety Specialist at Texas Materials Group. Here she explains what her job entails and what gets her excited to go to work.
Tell us about your background. I have 30 years of experience in HR and Safety. I spent 23 years working at a beverage manufacturing plant, so when I joined Texas Materials, construction was all new to me. I enjoy learning about what we do across our different lines of business. I found that construction is really similar in a lot of ways to manufacturing in terms of the attention to safety, regulations and the importance of keeping records well-documented.
What do you do in your current role? The work we do at Texas Materials involves aggregates, concrete and asphalt production, road construction and transportation. Along with these areas of the business come a number of federal and state regulatory requirements from entities like OSHA, MSHA, and the Department of Transportation. It’s my role to ensure we have all aspects of our safety and training documentation in place to comply with these requirements. Staying on top of compliance helps us continue to run smoothly as a business, but most importantly, it helps keep our people safe.
Why is training and documentation so important? Our main focus, and what drives us on a day-to-day basis, is communicating effectively to our employees and educating them on how to be safe in their jobs. Especially for recent hires who may be new to construction, the safe way to complete a task isn’t always the most intuitive. So it’s extremely important that we constantly check in with them on how to do their jobs safely, the right methods and tools to use for a task, and how to know when it’s time to stop, take a step back, and reassess if a safety issue comes up.
We have a safety motto which is: SEE STOP DO. This means, If You See Something, Stop, and Do Something about it. It’s our way of reinforcing that safety means not only that you look out for yourself and think about how to complete a task safely, but also to look out for your coworkers and your neighbors and make sure they’re safe too. With safety, it’s never just about one person.
What do you enjoy about your job? What I find interesting about working construction is the pace of the work, the fact that it’s a different environment than most other sectors, and above all, the people that I work with. I also love that there’s always something new to learn, and as employees we’re empowered to help create changes and improvements where necessary.
What has been a notable experience you’ve had in this role? One of the most unique experiences I’ve had since working here at Texas Materials was the opportunity to train for and participate in a cultural assessment team at the national level for our parent company, CRH. We conducted a survey of every one of our employees to find out how they feel about the safety culture of our company.
As part of this team, I traveled all over the country to meet others that work for CRH and get to know them, and ask them some questions to find out what they think of the company and our safety culture. We asked them to think about if they were CEO for a day, what changes would they make to positively improve our safety culture, and how would they implement them? It’s interesting to get outside the office, see some of our locations nationwide, and meet some of the people who are doing the day-to-day work.
Any advice for women considering a career in this industry? Put aside all of your preconceived notions about what it would be like to work at a construction company! This company has a family atmosphere, and in all the years I’ve been here, I have never experienced anything but respect from anyone I work with. It’s fast-paced, there are a lot of things going on all the time, there are opportunities to learn and grow, and that’s what keeps me here.
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