Plans for the future can change in an instant when you find something you are passionate about. That’s what happened to Vanessa Salazar, a Health, Safety, and Environmental (HSE) coordinator working for PCL in California. Salazar started her PCL career in 2007 as an administrative assistant on the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Terasaki Life Sciences Building, and over the next seven years, her career with PCL took a number of unexpected and fateful turns.
Vanessa Salazar loves being a part of the
construction industry in California.
Salazar and one of her PCL colleagues.
FROM THE BEGINNING
Salazar was born and raised in Inglewood, California, where she currently resides. After graduating from high school, she found herself considering various options for her future. Like many other recent graduates, Salazar spent some time trying to decide what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
At the time, Salazar’s good friend Jorge Rodriguez was a PCL hourly carpenter who was transitioning into the role of safety coordinator. He mentioned to Salazar that PCL was looking for an administrative assistant. She took the position so that she would have the employment flexibility she needed to continue her studies and obtain her bachelor in business management from the University of Phoenix. Her original plan was to advance into business marketing with PCL once sh
e had completed her degree, but she found that she simply loved being in the field and involved with construction projects. Some of the fondest memories Salazar has from early on in her career at PCL are of helping Rodriguez conduct safety orientations, reviewing a Health, Safety, and Environmental Operating Procedures (HSEOP) manual, and preparing presentations for employees on-site. “I love the challenges in safety because it forces me to educate myself,” said Salazar. “There are always new hazards, regulations, personalities, hiccups, and unforeseen events, but it’s the way you choose to embrace them and react to them that makes you effective.”
PASSION FOR SAFETY
It wasn’t until Salazar managed her first safety incident investigation that she knew that she had found her true calling in life. Everyday Salazar asks herself, “What can I do to educate workers and trade sub-contractors, or what more can I do to prevent incidents from happening on the jobsite?”
Now, fully dedicated to her role as a safety professional at PCL, Salazar has tremendous support from the superintendents, construction managers, safety manager, and peers with whom she works. “Everyone is approachable and willing to spend the time to mentor, clarify, and educate,” she said. Today, Salazar is applying her passion for safety on the UCLA Community Health Sciences (CHS) and the UCLA Pauley Pavilion projects for PCL. As her career evolves, Salazar hopes to manage high-risk projects and eventually hold an upper management position. For the time being, she is enjoying time spent learning about what it takes to keep safe the people who work for one of North America’s largest general contractors.
"I’m passionate about the well-being of those I work with and believe that I can help change the safety culture for the better,” said Salazar.