With more than 40 years of experience in the construction industry, our latest employee spotlight features someone who has had the unique opportunity to watch the industry grow and evolve throughout times of economic prosperity as well as hardship. Tim Carpenter, a Portland native, has spent half of his career as a valued member of Lewis’ team, contributing to some of the most unique and complex projects we’ve ever built. Tim started his career as an apprentice and has grown to a superintendent and now serves as Lewis’ Portland’s office Safety Manager, leading our field teams in the implementation of the latest industry safety standards.
BW: What first drew you to pursue a career in construction?
TC: Looking for summer work in high school my dad had a connection with a large commercial general contractor in Portland and I had the opportunity to hire on as a union laborer. Working in downtown Portland on new high-rise buildings was pretty exciting for a young guy like me. The characters I met on the jobsites were especially intriguing and the stories told in the job shacks during lunch time were very entertaining. This was also in the pre-OSHA days before there was any thought about Safety Culture or protecting the worker. I’m sure my parents never understood the risk they put their child in with this “great” summer job. One thing I did get out of working those summer months was how people intensive the industry is. That all of our efforts, working together toward a common goal, could produce these buildings. I realized that the people in the construction industry were really great people and I was drawn to them. I’m sure this is what got me hooked.
BW: You’ve had the opportunity to participate in some of Lewis’ most influential and high profile projects during your career, do you have a favorite project? And if so, why does it stand out to you?
TC: I have been fortunate here at Lewis to have worked on several very interesting and challenging projects but the one that will always be at the top of my list is the Elephant Lands Project at the Oregon Zoo. Everything we did was “one of a kind”. Fromthe caging elements that had to protect the keepers and public from a 14,000-pound elephant to a 12-
foot deep elephant pool that provided continual filtration for the 170,000 gallons of water it contained—remember, elephants poop 100 pounds every day! The entire project was completed within the Zoo grounds and in proximity to the 1.6 million visitors the Zoo receives each year. The elephants were on site during the entire three years of construction and our team successfully worked around them to complete the project.
BW: Lewis’ safety moto is “Working Safe for Life”. As Portland’s Safety Manager, what does that moto mean to you?
TC: First and foremost, it’s about the workers. You might be surprised to hear me say that I really don’t care about the “safety numbers”. What I do care about are our workers on each jobsite, that at the beginning of the day they come to work safe and healthy and at the end of the day, I care that they return home to their families safe and healthy. If we can make that happen every minute and hour on our jobsites, the numbers will take care of themselves. Safety needs to become a habit and I’m seeing a lot of improvements here in Portland. The training of our workers has expanded and our larger jobs have implemented a jobsite Safety Coordinator that provides another level of safety awareness as well as a resource for developing better safety plans for each activity. Our pre-task planning process is being taken more seriously and we are discussing things like access to the work area and ways to improve the ergonomics for the workers activities. The use of the SafetyNet for inspections and reporting has just been put through a successful trial run as well and will be coming on line for all of our projects shortly. We are living up to the “Working Safe for Life” moto and I’m excited to participate in its success.
BW: Construction is continually evolving and the industry has changed a lot over the decades, what’s the biggest change you’ve had to adapt to during your career
TC: While there have been many changes in the industry throughout my career, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to cross train with other personnel—leveraging the strengths of every individual to help the collective team and the project achieve success. I’ve been able to work with project engineers and office personnel to learn more about Revit and Building Information Modeling (BIM). Being in the industry for more than four decades has proven to me that there’s always something to be gained from someone else’s expertise, no matter their age or role.
Even though technology has made many advances during my career, the need to continually learn and adapt will always remain constant. Professionals who enter the industry today will likely look back and marvel at the advances they’ve seen in the industry over the decades, just like I have.
BW: Is there anything that people would be surprised to learn about you?
TC: After my high school summer job in construction I went off to college. The best part of this experience was meeting a group of guys that were always gone on the weekends climbing rock, snow and ice in the Cascades. I soon found myself completely caught up with them and risking our lives to get to the summit of various peaks and rock walls. My parents, as always, were very supportive but often said “how are you going to support yourself without an education and a real job”? And then the light went on, I could work in the construction industry, go through the carpenter apprenticeship program and take the summers off and climb! My life was set.
Working through the winter months, saving what money I could allowed me to travel to places like Alaska, the Canadian Rockies and Yosemite Valley to climb some of the “classics”. While on a climbing trip at Smith Rock State Park, my rope got tangled up with another climber’s rope, she was a really good rock climber, cute and our ropes have been tangled up ever since. After a honeymoon in Yosemite climbing rock walls, 35 years of marriage a couple of awesome kids and five beautiful granddaughters, there’s absolutely nothing I would change. Once a year we take the granddaughters to Smith Rock State Park for a day of rock climbing, it’s a pretty cool scene to see!
BW: Do you have a personal philosophy that you live/work by?
TC: I believe the majority of people in our industry want to do a good job, work safe and produce a quality product. Sometimes all they need is a little coaching or mentoring to get them headed the right direction. Every day we have the opportunity to affect someone’s life by listening and understanding their struggles and I see this happening everyday here at Lewis. That’s why I love working here.