Superintendent Spotlight: Staying Safe with Chevron

By Eric Johnson

With decades of experience as an ironworker field supervisor for one of Swinerton’s steel subcontractors, Eric Johnson is now a Swinerton superintendent, currently working on Chevron’s Richmond Technology Center. 

Coming from an extended ironworker family in the Philadelphia area, I grew up hearing about and later experienced both how dangerous the work can be and how safe you can make it. I learned that often times, the safest way to do something is also the most efficient, as no time is lost in regrouping after an accident. This attitude and perspective carries over to any work: thinking out the work before it starts, consulting with the team involved, and identifying existing or potential hazards. Sometimes this can actually change the fabrication details of building components to be delivered on site. The key is open communication to gain the advantage of many individuals’ experience in doing the work safely.

Chevron’s Richmond Technology Center is made up of multiple occupied buildings, many of which are fully functioning research laboratories. These present unique hazards seldom seen outside of the industrial setting. In all cases, Swinerton invests the time up-front to produce a plan to mitigate the hazards with minimal impact to the lab workers. In following the plan, schedule and budget are met while achieving zero incidents or injuries. 

Due to the special safety concerns at the Richmond Technology Center, all workers are required to complete a site specific safety orientation that includes a video presentation and review of the Chevron Site Safety Booklet. Additionally, new hands are required to wear an identifying red safety vest so more experienced site workers can look after them in the event of an emergency. A daily all-hands group safety meeting adds immeasurably to having the entire team understand coordination and safety concerns and how to address them. It’s also important for crew members to understand the value in invoking Stop Work Authority. When the crew members realize that power, they will exercise it and benefit the project and their fellow workers; if a crew member doesn’t understand or believe it, the chain of safety is broken. 

Another important component of the safety program at Chevron involves our Swinerton Safety Ambassadors. These core laborers have been with us at Chevron since the beginning and are in constant liaison with subcontractors to ensure safety. They’ve taken the Chevron fire watch training and perform fire watch for “hot work” done by any subcontractor, as well as all traffic control. Chevron is so impressed by them that we’ve been asked to detail our Safety Ambassadors to Chevron tasks outside of Swinerton work. That’s high praise. 

For more than 10 years now, Swinerton has tackled a host of high-profile projects at the Richmond Technology Center with an outstanding safety record, to the well-acknowledged approval of Chevron. That is possible only because Swinerton has relentlessly taken the time to find the safest path forward on all projects.

One of Eric’s key strengths is his clear communication style. He is as comfortable outlining and communicating his plan to a researcher focused in the development of next-generation energy technology as he is with the crews in the field. He has earned a level of credibility by doing what he says he will do time and time again.

– Kerry Atkinson, Vice President and Division Manager