Best Person for the Job: Kathi Dobson

Kathi Dobson knows safety. The former occupational nurse has overseen Alberici Constructors’ safety programs, policies, and procedures in the Detroit, Michigan area for nearly 25 years. But don’t mistake her role as Safety Director for simply being an OSHA compliance monitor.

“Safety leaders do much more because our goals and responsibilities are to assure that workers are educated; workers are protected from harm on the job, and they are also provided safe haven from external/personal risk,” Dobson said. “As a safety director I also have to manage a lot of things I never anticipated – things like assuring that a project has adequate safety coverage and dealing with a subordinate who may be struggling personally or professionally. I never dreamt that my position would make me advisor, counselor, technical writer, visionary, adjudicator, supporter, adversary, janitor and more…but I love what I do.”

One of the initiatives Dobson has been a part of is a corporate and industry-wide transition from hard hats to helmets. “We are working to educate the construction community of the benefits of chin-strapped helmets through YouTube, Construction Safety Week and advocating during OSHA Alliance meetings and more,” she said. It has had a big impact on the work done by Alberici as well as their partners, subcontractors, and owner-clients.

Dobson has made an impact on safety in the construction industry through her involvement with other organizations, too. She has served on national committees, including the Z359 fall protection committee and the American National Standards for Construction & Demolition A10 construction & demolition standards committee. Dobson has been appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Health & Safety (NACOSH) by the US Secretary of Labor. She is currently serving as co-chair of the NACOSH Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group. Dobson also works to advance education in the industry to help those who are struggling with mental well-being, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, or contemplating suicide.

Over the years, Dobson has seen many changes in the industry. “When I started with my company, I did not see another woman in the field for 6 or 7 months,” she said. “For me, I was the exception for sanitation/toilet facilities, PPE use, and facing challenges that I did not belong on the project, or I was not knowledgeable enough to understand construction or construction rules and regulations.” She saw it first-hand and has worked tirelessly to support others in similar situations.

“The future generation of workers will not tolerate the same-old, stale-old, male-old way of doing business in our industry,” she added. “Better wages, better health care, better childcare and better maternity care will all keep women from leaving our industry.” Flexible scheduling, actively promoting construction as a career path for the next generation, and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts will help more women join the field, she said.

Dobson found support in NAWIC, which led to her advocacy for women in construction, particularly women in the building trades. “The greatest impact NAWIC has had on me personally was to validate and hone my own leadership abilities. This did not happen in a vacuum – it only happened when I got engaged and involved in regional and national activities and had an opportunity to meet many different women leaders in construction within our organization,” she said.  She has served in many leadership roles for NAWIC as part of the Detroit Chapter (Board of Directors, Secretary, VP, President, Block Kids Chair, Membership Chair, Scholarship Chair, WIC Week, Safety & Health Chair), the North Central Region (Safety & Health Chair, WIC Week Chair) and NAWIC National (Safety & Health Chair, OSHA-NAWIC Alliance Chair.)

“I tell women that construction is a great career choice. It’s made me successful personally and professionally and allowed me to do more than I ever could have imagined.” Her advice for women considering a career in construction is to “remember that things may get rough. There will be detours and roadblocks along the way. Learn from them and be resilient, be true to your own strong, bad-ass self and don’t take any crap.”

If you know of a NAWIC member that deserves to be recognized as a Best Person for the Job, contact us today!