Whitepaper: 08.06.2012

A Safe Construction Zone

Keeping School Sites Safe during Construction and Renovation

Today more than ever, educators are being challenged to balance cost with the demand for quality learning environments. When building new school facilities or renovating existing sites, it’s important to work with a general contractor that places a priority on managing schedule, cost and quality — all while maintaining a vigilant focus on safety.

Safety is the number one priority on every construction project McCarthy works on, but it is especially important during school construction. Tight sites and busy corridors are common challenges when considering construction safety in a school environment.

Partnering For Safety
McCarthy’s safety philosophy is built upon the notion that everyone needs to be on the same page for a safety program to work. With school projects, that means the owner/district, school staff, students and parents, the general contractor, architect and subcontractors all play a role in making safety a priority at school.

Prior to setting foot on a project site, McCarthy develops a site-specific safety plan and emergency evacuation plan in conjunction with district representatives and the architect. Each school project is assigned a safety manager who reviews the plans and makes any necessary corrections. The plans are then posted on-site and reviewed with all workers and subcontractors on the project.

“McCarthy believes that education, mentorship and continual observation on-site are key factors in promoting a culture of safety,” said Kevin Maas, project safety manager for McCarthy’s Education Services team in the Southwest. “Through teamwork and a constant focus on safety, we’ve made the quest for a zero injury work environment not just a priority, but instead a core tenet of our company.”

This proactive approach to safety has resulted in McCarthy achieving a safety record four times better than the industry average. McCarthy strives to not only be the safest commercial construction company in America, but to improve its safety numbers every single year. Last year (2011), McCarthy had the lowest recordable injury rate in company history, and the Southwest Division completed the entire year without a single recordable incident.

Scheduling Impacts Safety
Because schools often strive to complete school projects over summer break when school isn’t in session, general contractors like McCarthy have developed innovative scheduling methods that enable projects to be fast-tracked for completion.

For example, earlier this year McCarthy was awarded the phase I project to replace classroom buildings at Greenway and Thunderbird High Schools in the Glendale Union High School District in Phoenix. The $14.6 million contract funded demolition and new construction on both campuses.

McCarthy began work on both campuses in March and demolished old buildings prior to starting construction on the new, two-story classroom buildings, being built using concrete tilt-wall construction. This construction method enables both projects to be fast-tracked for completion prior to the start of school in fall 2012.

“Our Education Services team really shines when we’re able to put our unique scheduling expertise to the test,” said Justin Kelton, vice president of operations for the Education Services at McCarthy. “Our crews are working two, eight-hour shifts on the Glendale Union High School projects all summer long in order to complete these buildings prior to the start of school in August. An efficient safety plan must be in place in order to strive for zero recordable injuries, which keeps the project timeline and budget on track.”

Affecting the Bottom Line
While construction safety clearly affects the construction workers on-site and any students and teachers who may be nearby, there are ramifications that extend beyond the people who may be harmed.

When accidents happen on a jobsite, they can result in costly delays in the construction schedule. In often-compressed school construction schedules, every day counts.

“When we have two crews working separate eight-hour shifts each day, there’s little room for error. That’s why safety has to be a top priority from the beginning, and our team needs to be thinking about it all the time,” said Kelton.

McCarthy’s nationally recognized safety program includes site-specific safety plans, ongoing employee training, and strict safety policies to ensure staff, students and employees are kept safe throughout the project.

On jobsites, the safety program begins with an orientation involving several high-impact videos and a 25-question test for everyone completing work on the project. It continues with daily safety meetings for each crew on-site. These meetings address a variety of topics ranging from fall protection to dealing with electrical hazards. It also gives the team time to review any updates or changes that have taken place on the jobsite.

In addition to daily safety meetings, McCarthy requires crews to complete Task Hazard Analysis (THA) forms for each and every task completed on-site – from the electrician putting up lighting to the drywaller hanging drywall. The form requires those working on the task to identify the hazards involved, the equipment that will be in use, and the steps he or she is going to take to avoid hazards.

“Task Hazard Analysis forms are a way for us to ensure that those working on our school construction projects understand all the safety precautions necessary to complete their part of the project successfully,” said Maas.

Safety = Success
McCarthy has successfully completed more than $3 billion in K-12 education construction projects across America. With a focus on safety, McCarthy will continue to help owners/districts provide the best education possible, at the best final cost, for the most valuable future resource – our children.

“Focusing on safety is the most important thing we do every day,” said Maas. “A school project can go from successful to a mess in the blink of an eye. Our safety program is in place to do everything possible to avoid that scenario.”

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