McKeon Group’s Health & Safety Manager
“I am currently working as something I never thought was possible, but I now know that – in the construction industry – anything is possible if you believe in yourself. I have the most wonderful work family, who are always there whenever I need them.”
Veronica joined the McKeon team back in 2018, bringing with her over 12 years’ experience in construction. Veronica took on the role of Health & Safety Manager across McKeon Group, taking an active role in projects spanning a variety of sectors, from residential and commercial, right through to education and healthcare. For Veronica, the role of Health & Safety Manager is not just about legislative compliance and enforcing best industry practice, it involves seeking out new and innovative tools, technologies, and processes to ensure McKeon Group staff, contractors and clients are well equipped to deliver projects safely and efficiently, to the highest possible standards.
In her own words, she was never a fan of playing with dolls, nor had she any particular interest in what were seen as ‘girly activities’ at the time. Veronica worked from an early age – initially in hospitality. While she describes her decision to enter the construction industry as daunting, she quickly saw and understood the potential of a career in the industry, and she was hooked. She began her Health & Safety journey by studying Occupational Health, Safety & Welfare part-time in UCD and then undertaking a series of training courses, including Safe Pass, Site Safety Rep, Certificate in Managing Site Safety (IOSH), Health & Safety at Roadworks, PSCS training, Harness & Lanyard Inspector, Working at Heights Instructor, Manual Handling Instructor & Assessor and many more. Veronica is currently studying for her Masters in Environmental, Health & Safety Management, supported by McKeon Group, while working full-time. If she could change one thing about the current education system today, it would be to introduce awareness of different career options at a much younger age.
Learning on the job
In addition to the training and regular courses, there is a huge amount of learning that comes from working across so many sites at once. Veronica credits some amazing colleagues and mentors for much of her ‘on the job’ learning over the past decade and a half, including Sean Harvey, with whom she worked on a large commercial project, and Aisling McArdle, an experienced H&S Manager.
Working within McKeon Group, Veronica is involved in projects across each division of the Group on a daily basis, ensuring a wide range of experience.
“No two days are the same. I might start the morning visiting a university campus and spend the afternoon in a water tower 30 metres above Dublin city. It’s amazing. Another day might bring me to a bank or commercial fit-out project in the city centre, before visiting an electrical installation in a maze of underground tunnels!! Each project requires a fresh approach so there is always something new to learn, building experience and knowledge everyday. My work with McKeon Group takes me all across Ireland, from pharma plants in Bray to an AV fit out in Limerick and many counties in between. I love that I get to see so much of this beautiful country while working.”
“The projects that really stick out in my mind are not necessarily the most glamorous or highest value jobs, but there were certainly some interesting ones that presented unique challenges and problems to be solved. For example, during the pandemic – at the height of lockdown restrictions – we were working on a pharmaceutical project to provide for the installation of a huge tank that would not fit through the doors of the facility. The tank was fitted with pressure sensors that could not be disassembled so we had to innovate a solution that involved opening the roof and maneuvering the tank into place with cranes, before fixing the roof back in place. It was like something you would see in a movie!”
On being a woman in construction
As the parent to a young daughter, and someone who has experienced the opportunities of the industry, Veronica firmly believes in workplace equality. Her mantra is that there should be no distinction between male or female in the industry as everyone has different skills and strengths: “It’s how you use them that counts!”.
While most parents regale their children with fairytales, Veronica’s daughter has grown up listening to stories of exciting building projects and stories from construction sites and can point to many homes, schools, and buildings in the area that her Mammy has contributed to – what a proud legacy.
“There have been a few formative experiences for sure, and these can be due to youth, inexperience and learning to work with different personalities. For the most part, I have not had any problems being a woman on site. Although, I recall one particular site inspection when I was pregnant – where I was asked if I had much longer to go or should they start building bigger ladder towers for me! Once I finished laughing, it brought it home to me that most people were not used to seeing or dealing with pregnant women on site. I think that’s changing now… I hope that’s changing”.
Would you recommend a career in construction?
“Yes! And while I love the technical learning and application of health and safety on site, I would recommend a trade to someone looking to enter the construction industry as these skills really open up the entire industry to you.”