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5 Questions With Vicky Shields, Safety Director

Dec 05, 2022

U.S. Engineering

At U.S. Engineering, our success depends on our people. Each person makes a lasting, positive impact on our customers, projects and teams. To highlight our internal talent, we created the “5 Questions With” series.

In this interview, we asked Vicky Shields, Rocky Mountain Region Safety Director at U.S. Engineering Construction, to talk about her decades-spanning career. Here, she discusses her career over the last 40 years at U.S. Engineering, her passion for safety and how she and her team impact the job site.

What were some jobs you held that led you to the position of Safety Director?

I graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in education. I taught for three years before leaving the profession to start a family. When my youngest started kindergarten, I started working for a small business in Loveland, Colorado, as an office manager. Although I had developed an interest in the business world, I still taught kids and adults at my church. One of my students was a controller at USE. He liked my style and decided to add me to the USE accounting team.

After I had been at USE for a while, they asked me to take on risk and safety-related projects, along with my accounting responsibilities. Since I was a kid, I’ve had a passion for workers’ safety. That was largely based on the work my father was involved with.

I was surprised and pleased when they offered me the job of safety officer. The fact that I had teaching experience and a passion for the safety world made me a natural fit. For the first 14 or 15 years, I was the only one on the team. Since that time, our group has grown to include six safety coordinators. Now, I do mostly management and administrative work, as opposed to being the field.

As Safety Director, what are some of the things you and your team do to ensure a safe work environment?

We have a close-knit group. We strive to serve the field team by being a resource and a point of contact. It’s important to us to support the field crew when they are solving jobsite issues. We offer new methods and equipment to keep things going safely and are constantly interacting with field team members.

In addition to being responsive, our ultimate goal is that everyone goes home unharmed and with the same physical ability to interact with family and friends. Training, professional equipment and proper tools are key to achieving this vision.

What do you love about your job?

The people. I love learning from them. I enjoy it when co-workers and colleagues are willing to share their expertise with me.

Active listening is key to being a safety leader. Team members in the field have to feel respected and comfortable to use me as a resource. I try to take a personal interest in each person, asking them about their families, friends and hobbies. Building a rapport and open lines of communication help to keep field crew members coming to us for help and resources.

How has your and your team’s work impacted safety culture as a whole at U.S. Engineering?

When I first started, we didn’t have someone dedicated to safety. Now, we are a trusted resource. We put 100 percent of our effort and time into creating a safe environment for our field members.

While our team is focused on each day, we’ve seen safety culture spread throughout the company over the years. Everyone has the right and the authority to stop work if they see an unsafe condition. The safety culture has become very strong here.

Where do we go from here? What are some things you’re working on to ensure that U.S. Engineering Construction continues a legacy of safety?

We have a strong safety culture, but there’s always room for improvement. It’s better to move efficiently and more safely when doing things. Every team member understands that providing a safe working environment is in our blood. We look out for one another – even those who work outside of USE. We’ve found that team members’ families want their loved ones to work for USE because they know we want to send everyone home safe and sound. That’s what makes the job exciting. I want this to be my legacy.

Vicky Shields, Safety Director, U.S. Engineering Construction


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