Construction sites in the Puget Sound area, and across the U.S. continue to be plagued by racist and discriminatory acts. The industry has increased its efforts to combat this, often using extraordinary methods.
Turner Construction will call the police and shut down the site for two hours if an incident occurs. This is to meet with subcontractors and employees.
This is a good example of the seismic shift that has occurred in an industry that, for decades, was focused primarily on physical safety. In recent years, this outlook has expanded to include emotional and psychological safety.
The industry is already understaffed and needs to build up its workforce.
Bill Ketcham, Seattle General Manager and Vice President of Turner Construction, said that in an interview conducted this spring, the industry as a whole has not felt safe for women or people of color.
He just returned from the Turner Inclusive Environment Summit in SeaTac, where around 100 people representing 50 subcontractors as well as other Turner partners were present.
Ketcham stated that Turner has been on a continuous journey to create safe, inclusive workplaces. We're now at a point where we need to work with organizations and trade partners.
Turner has a strict policy of zero tolerance when it comes graffiti or etchings. Meetings that follow site closures are not just managers presenting a few slides to workers.
Ketcham added, 'It is also about having an honest conversation with the group and having a dialog to help everyone understand where we are at and why we do these things.'
In construction, where schedules are tight, it is tempting to ignore hate speech. Ketcham claims that this is not changing the construction industry.
The Associated General Contractors created a Culture of CARE program that promotes hiring based solely on skill, regardless of race or sexual orientation. AGC's site shows that Turner and nearly 200 other construction companies have joined the program.
Ketcham stated that the key to success was ensuring a good working relationship between workers and their supervisor.
We can implement the best programs. We could talk about it all day. Ketcham explained that if the relationship between them is not positive, and there is no caring environment or safe place to work, there will be groups of people who won't want a job in this industry.
Turner set out a 10-year plan three years ago to create a company which reflects from top to bottom the demographics in each of its communities.
In 2021, the company had 11,000 worldwide employees. Of those, 6,500 were in the U.S. 71% of them were white. 11% were Hispanic. 8% were Black.
Of Turner's U.S. white employees, 53% of them were men while 18% were female.
Ketcham stated that 'construction has been a male-dominated industry for a long time, and that's partly because we haven't created the open, caring environment that we are trying to create.