Antti Jokela’s daily work as Occupational Safety Manager for the Finnish branch has been turned upside down by the challenges introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a safety expert with considerable experience of various construction sites, Antti can also see the silver lining:
“Occupational safety can’t simply concentrate on safe working methods, the health and well-being of employees go hand in hand with occupational safety. Our primary goal is to ensure that people stay healthy and happy during the pandemic as well.”
Antti’s daily work requires the ability to listen to others, and that skill is particularly highlighted in times like these.
“It’s important to ensure that we understand each other and don’t automatically assume that the other person is on the same wavelength. This must always be remembered, no matter what the topic is. You must be able to fully comprehend the other person’s situation or problem so that you can do your absolute best to help them. This is also the best way to achieve consensus on the necessary action,” says Antti.
Simply interacting with people is not enough to build a safe working community. Systematic safety activities in daily work and close cooperation must be supported by strong knowledge of legislation and regulations and understanding their interpretation. Integrating these perspectives often leads to solutions.
Close teamwork and stakeholder connections
Antti’s working days in occupational safety can be hectic, but he feels he can influence his use of time and ways of working up to a certain point. Independent work is a great counterbalance to meetings and training. The state of occupational safety and the effectiveness of activities are monitored and analysed at the group level from, for example, the perspective of construction or in the various business divisions of the company. At the same time, the company wants to focus on the future and constantly develops better ways of supporting construction sites in safety management. When construction sites or the line organisation face challenges, they contact the occupational safety team and assign helpers to investigate the situation.
“Our team is amazing. Everyone is so professional and has multiple skills; no one needs to know or do everything on their own. We spend a lot of time comparing different perspectives. Even though our work sometimes includes unpleasant things, support is always available. I guess it’s a cliché, but we really are more than the sum of our parts,” Antti says, praising his colleagues.
A typical working day for Antti means juggling several things at once and working closely with the cooperation networks. A large group of people is working on comprehensive occupational safety in the company.
“It’s been wonderful to see how inspired and active our people are as occupational health and safety delegates, occupational safety officers of units, shop stewards or at construction sites, for example. They want to promote safety skills and really commit to their work,” says Antti.
The company has also joined forces with the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT and representatives of other businesses in the development of occupational safety in the construction industry. The activities include cooperating with occupational safety and health authorities and other official parties. Investigating legislative amendments, the impact of authoritative interpretations and the best practices at a practical level requires a systematic, long-term approach and, sometimes, long hours.
“We must be able to offer precise instructions on working at YIT to ensure overall progress in the best, safest and healthiest way while fulfilling legislative requirements,” Antti sums up.
Help is reciprocal
Antti often mentions the perspective of offering and receiving help, and no wonder. It is one of the most important aspects of Antti’s work.
“It makes me feel great when my actions can improve safety and I can play a role in preventing people from getting hurt or worse. I aim to assure people they are going in the right direction and find the best operating models for problems by thinking them over with the people involved.”
Antti still warmly remembers the help he received when starting as a foreman after working as a builder. Antti’s previous carpenter colleagues supported the young engineer in his new supervisor role and offered valuable tips. Antti knows that some of the carpenters who helped him still work at YIT, and he hopes they are still offering advice to those in need.
A path in the shape of a career at YIT
Antti originally started as a construction worker at an YIT apartment building site in Lahti after finishing his military service in 2003. The next year, he entered a university of applied sciences and spent his practical training focusing on responsibility repairs and foremanship at YIT. As his skills improved and he gained more experience, he moved on from the tasks of a foreman to become a site manager in various apartment, commercial property and hybrid projects.
“After spending a decade at construction sites, I wanted to gain a different perspective on construction and stepped into a new career as a safety engineer,” says Antti.
Since 2017, Antti has worked as an Occupational Safety Manager for YIT’s Finnish branch. His practical experience from his years on construction sites and his ability to understand the bigger picture in projects is extremely useful in his current position.
“I’m very pleased with my current role and the challenges it offers. I get to cooperate with the company’s management as well as site employees and everyone in between. I want to promote overall occupational safety and health and improve my skills so I can do my work even better.”
According to Antti, the team spirit among his colleagues and the support of his team keeps everyone going and is a source of inspiration and energy. In his free time, Antti likes to enjoy nature and exercise or participate in national defence activities, which are close to his heart and offer a counterbalance to his work.
In ensuring safety, Antti understands the need for strict rules and restrictions but also sees new possibilities. He challenges everyone to take a moment to think about and, possibly, change their perspective:
“Each of us is given so many opportunities to impact the safety of our joint working environment. It’s all in small choices and actions. Of course, we need to assess the risks of our work, but we also need to have the courage to care about our coworkers and take action if we see suspicious or dangerous ways of working. There are nice ways to speak up. Showing that you care instead of ignoring the issue is the best way to respect not only your own life but that of others as well.”