by Larry Carpenter
Having spent the vast majority of my career in the life sciences and healthcare sectors, I am fortunate to have gained a deep understanding of the special requirements and approach that these projects require of our industry. When it comes to safety at these facilities, whether new construction or renovations to existing facilities, zero failures is the bar by which these clients measure success.
Safety does not happen by chance. Planning, communication, and commitment are required by all participants. A truly safe project is one where the project is planned not only for the safety of the workers constructing it or the occupants during a renovation, but for the safety of all who use, operate, and maintain it throughout its lifetime.
One of my previous clients, EMD Serono, is at the forefront of such efforts. On one major ground-up project, they engaged the entire design, construction, and facilities team in a custom-created version of Harvard’s School of Public Health program “Safety in Design and Construction, A Life Cycle Approach.” The program highlighted how thinking differently about safety can impact the way the entire team operates. For example, the idea of using parapets wherever possible not only made safety for the roofing crews easier to manage, it left behind a condition that would be safer for the maintenance of the building’s rooftop equipment and negate the need for tie-off in most locations. Throughout the project, construction safety and maintenance, as well as aesthetics, function and cost, were constantly considered in the decision process.
EMD Serono’s efforts paid off. The program created a culture of safety within the project leadership team, and this mindset was instilled in every project participant, subcontractor, supplier, and worker. The team developed an entire program to encourage, enhance, and ensure the project would be safe for all. Worker orientations, meetings, training, and incentive programs were all part of this larger effort to establish and maintain a safety culture. The program was a success — hundreds of thousands of worker hours were completed with zero lost-time accidents recorded at project completion.
The open communication and team atmosphere that results from such an extensive safety program is contagious. A sense of community is formed on the jobsite — from the laborer cleaning, to the highly skilled specialty mechanics. Beyond just safety, the entire team feels invested in the quality of the project.
The culture of safety mentality has changed the way I do business permanently. Whether a life sciences, healthcare, corporate, or academic client, zero failure is still my measure for success for every client and on every project.
Larry Carpenter is project executive at Timberline Construction in Canton, Mass.