PCL Invests in Better Building

A new school on campus results in safer engineering

Rahique um Maktoom Handoo* - 18 November 2016

Late last summer, Roger Keglowitsch and his son, a UAlberta engineering student, were at work repairing the family truck.

"He was giving me pointers on working safely," Keglowitsch says, with a laugh. It's funny because Keglowitsch, senior vice-president of heavy industrial at PCL Construction (a global constructor of buildings, heavy industrial and civil engineering projects), is well versed in safety and risk management. Still, he appreciated that his son had internalized the safety lessons he had learned at school and over the summer working in the PCL module yard. Keglowitsch knows it will serve his son well in his engineering career.

There was a time when industrial incidents, even fatalities, were tacitly accepted as a potential outcome of large construction projects. Times have changed.

"The construction industry pays far more attention to HSE - health, safety and environment - in our processes than it used to," Keglowitsch says. "It's the price of admission. If, as a company, you don't have a good safety record, you don't get to bid on large jobs." PCL's leadership comes at a time when other companies and industries are advancing unevenly in their approach to safety.

That's part of the reason the company decided to invest in the David and Joan Lynch School of Engineering Safety and Risk Management. The Lynch School was established in 2016 and built on the success and expansion of the Faculty of Engineering's ESRM programming. It is dedicated to graduating engineers who, like Keglowitsch's son, will learn good ESRM practices.

"We supported the program because we wanted to impact engineering at a core value level," says Mike Olsson, PCL's vice-president, human resources. He says the company donated to the Lynch School because it aligns closely with PCL's safety focus and it was an opportunity to invest in the next generation of engineers. More broadly, the school reflects the promise every engineer makes.

"We take an oath as engineers to design safe things that don't cause harm to society," Keglowitsch says. "But there used to be no educational component to that. You take this oath, but what does it mean?" Until the Lynch School's programming, it meant that safety and risk management happened on the job.

As of 2018, every single Faculty of Engineering graduate will have been through some Lynch School programming. They will take a base knowledge of ESRM to their first day on the job.

"With ESRM embedded as part of the curriculum, new engineers will fit into our culture sooner, and figure out why we place so much value on HSE," says Mike Olsson.

Beyond a deeper talent pool for the Edmonton-headquartered firm to hire from, there's a ripple effect to PCL's gift to the Lynch School. "Only a small percentage of those grads will end up working for our company," Olsson says. "But every grad will take that knowledge of more efficient and safer building standards out into the world."

The overall improvements to engineering design and practices will spread across industries and jurisdictions - even around the world - with future UAlberta engineers. And, as Roger Keglowitsch saw, new engineers like his son will make safer choices in their daily lives, too.

*With files from Mifi Purvis