Slideshow: Contractor Insists on Safety First on Arena Project

August 03, 2011 / by / 0 Comment

By Jennifer Willis
Communications Staff
Photos by Zane Ewton

The August job walk at the Arena, the last one before the grand opening Sept. 1, was one for the record books.

About 200 people, many of them first-timers, showed up to get the last behind-the-scenes look at the stunning new building before it opens to the public. And stunning it is.

The facility boasts 17 restrooms, five concession stands, two grand staircases, two escalators, four locker rooms, a state-of-the-art hospitality lounge and a vault buried at center court filled with Bibles.

The numbers are staggering: 8,870 yards of concrete, 793 tons of structural steel, 75 miles of wire, 400 pieces of exterior glass and 11 companies from five states all working toward completion of what is certain to be the pride of west Phoenix.

For Neil Baker, general superintendent for Perini Building Co., the numbers that he is most proud of involve safety.

Neil Baker, Perini Building Co. General Superintendent

Baker takes safety on the job seriously; he designed the safety program that Perini uses. With 255,000 total man hours on this project — including 69,000 by Perini employees — it’s no wonder he has done everything possible to ensure the site is safe.

Each worker goes through an extensive screening process and then is sent through orientation and safety training. There is training for every single aspect of the job, from the big and dangerous to the small and nitpicky. Subcontractors had to show proof of safety training by their workers before they were hired.

“I have to give a lot of credit to the subcontractors that were brought in and their safety programs,” Baker says. “They did a good job of keeping each other competitive and making sure everyone is safe.”

Although safety is plenty serious, Baker tries to make it fun with incentive programs.

“Each month we have a Safe Crew of the Month Award,” he says. “We make a big sign with their pictures and really try to make a big deal about it — because it is a big deal. We try to do things to get everyone involved in safety awareness because the more involved everyone is, the more likely we are for success.

“At the end of the day, I’m not looking for people to become tattletales but instead to be more proactive and aware, giving that warning to someone who may be standing in an area that isn’t safe to be standing in.”

The diligence paid off. With all the man hours and power tools, and all the tons of steel and concrete and wire and glass, there have been only two minor recordable injuries — and no work time has been lost.

“This was a big scaffold job,” Baker says. “The roof level was scaffold, the bowl level was scaffold. These are very dangerous conditions to be working with. To not have any lost-time injuries is huge.”

Perini has won several safety awards for projects in the past, including the President’s Safety Award in Arizona (three times in the past seven years). The company has been nominated again for its safety on the Arena project.

Reach Jennifer Willis at 639.7383 or

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