ENR Honors Iron Workers’ Vicki O’Leary for Groundbreaking Work in Improving Safety and Diversity
Engineering News-Record (ENR) named Iron Workers (IW) General Organizer for Safety and Diversity Vicki O’Leary 2019 ENR Award of Excellence winner in recognition of her groundbreaking work through the organization’s initiatives to improve jobsite safety and workforce diversity and her thought leadership in the building trades. She spearheaded several IW initiatives to improve diversity and safety including “Be That One Guy,” a program to stop workplace harassment and psychological violence.
IW General President Eric Dean brought Vicki on board to spearhead diversity initiatives in 2016. “Vicki is passionate about changing the culture to ensure women and other marginalized groups are on equal footing,” says IW General President Eric Dean. “She’s a dynamic individual who gets things done.”
In 2017, the IW and employer-ironworker partnership IMPACT introduced a paid maternity leave program, the first of its kind in the building trades. It wasn’t the end of O’Leary’s efforts to improve safety and diversity. She worked with the IW leadership to rollout the “Be That One Guy” program to fight workplace harassment that threatens safety and productivity on jobsites. “It is a safety issue and it’s time to treat it as such,” says O’Leary. “Workplace harassment is a dangerous distraction in our line of work. When ironworkers are distracted from their tasks full of potential hazards, it could lead to life-threatening consequences.” The program enlists bystanders to take a stand against psychological violence, harassment and intimidation of any kind against anyone. “We want them to not be afraid to speak up and tell an aggressor to knock it off,” says O'Leary.
The program is multi-faceted. Town hall meetings will be held to encourage an open forum for dialog and education. O’Leary worked to include bystander training and intervention best practices in key IW training programs such as new officers, apprenticeship coordinators, shop stewards and safety director training. The IW leadership believes such initiatives will not only make jobsites safer, but also improve worker retention. Other building trades are following suit and beginning to introduce similar maternity leave and anti-harassment programs.
O’Leary is also the chairwoman of the North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) Tradeswomen’s Committee. Through her leadership, NABTU’s Trades Women Build Nations conference has become the premier event for education and support for tradeswomen. She continues to extend IW innovation and thought leadership in safety and diversity to all building trades through her role on the NABTU committee.
This video about Vicki and her work made its debut during the ENR Award of Excellence gala in New York.