Recognized as one of the commercial real estate industry’s top up-and-comers, director of safety for Shawmut West Steve Lee was named one of The 2021 Top Young Professionals by Commercial Observer. From his background as a firefighter for the United States Air Force and National Park Service, to his drive for innovation on jobsites, read more about what makes Steve a leader in the industry below and in his Commercial Observer Top Young Professional award feature here.

The most critical component of construction is safety, without question. If each person doesn’t go home safely every night, nothing else matters. As director of safety for Shawmut West, Steve is responsible for keeping thousands of people on Shawmut’s jobsites safe each year. He leads and oversees the safety management program for the West region—introducing new technology to jobsites; providing boots-on-the-ground to ensure all safety, health, and environmental laws, codes, and regulations are followed; conducting meetings with OSHA; and managing the region’s safety team.

Steve also works closely with Shawmut’s subcontractors to bring a new level of safety to their own safety programs, coaching and training them and helping them enforce world-class protocols. In the residential sector—known for not making safety a top priority—Steve has created partnerships with Los Angeles subcontractors to drastically enhance their safety systems, receiving recognition from OSHA, clients, and partners for the robust safety program that he and the project teams have developed and implemented.    

Steve’s dedication to safety and the well-being of everyone in and around Shawmut’s jobsites is unyielding. When the Covid-19 lockdown began in March of 2020, Shawmut’s California jobsites remained open as essential business. With crucial products experiencing shortages, Steve immediately got to work sourcing hand sanitizer and disinfectant solution to keep everyone on Shawmut’s jobsites safe, partnering with a local distillery to supply Shawmut’s California project sites.   

Shawmut is currently building one of the first cross-laminated timber buildings of its scale in Los Angeles, adding five new levels on top of an existing structure in Chinatown. This project is especially challenging, with power lines on one side of the project (requiring relocation underground), the Metro line running parallel to the project, in addition to being a site with a steep slope and different elevations. With complex structural work coupled with the use of a tower crane, pre-planning was critical for a safe build. Steve partnered with the project team and OSHA to obtain permits and carefully planned high-risk work months in advance—before anyone even stepped foot on site.

Steve is one of the driving forces behind Shawmut’s Technology Pilot Program, launched in 2021 and on track to pilot new software/hardware safety solutions this year. He focuses on identifying and testing programs on project sites that enhance communication, collaboration, and engagement in safety, including subcontractor qualification and orientation.