Safety manager: 'We're all one accident away from disaster'

On-the-job safety is serious business for Chris Medina, who’s in charge of protecting hundreds of workers on a $1 billion Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) extension project that’s headed toward San Jose.

Student Profile: Chris Medina, Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety

“This is the biggest job I’ve ever worked on,” said Medina. “It’s a tremendous responsibility that I take very personally.”

As safety manager, Medina treats his workers as family members. “These people are my friends,” he said. “I know their children. I’ve seen them grow up. We’re like an extended family.”

Originally from Illinois, Medina joined the project’s lead firm, Skanska, in 2008 when the BART project began, stretching 10 miles along the Peninsula from Fremont to San Jose. It is expected to be completed by 2016, with another 10 miles of subway track extending the project to 2023.

“It’s called job security,” he said, “but we’re all just one accident away from disaster. I say a prayer for my crews every morning.”

Medina, who earned his UC San Diego Extension Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety in 2008, recommends the courses to his Skanska counterparts. “For my money, it’s the best program there is,” he said. “Everyone really knows their stuff, plus they’re approachable and easy-going.”

A black-belt in martial arts, Medina teaches karate to children with a large dose of “patience and discipline.” In much the same way, he makes sure his work crews unfailingly adhere to all safety policies and precautions.

“You’ve got to make safety your own personal goal,” he said. “I always tell new guys that my brother lost his leg in a construction accident about 20 years ago. I refuse to let that happen to anyone on this job.”

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