CHICAGO, Ill. — Rush University Medical Center is nearing the completion of a unique partnership with OSHA that has enhanced work site safety during the construction of its new hospital building and other facilities. The partnership has helped protect more than 4,500 men and women who have worked on these buildings. As many as 700 workers were onsite at one time during the busiest periods of construction over the last three years.
The end of the partnership will come with the conclusion of construction of Rush’s new 14-floor, 806,000-square-foot hospital building. The new hospital, scheduled to open in January 2012, is the centerpiece of a $1 billion, 10-year campus redevelopment plan called the Rush Transformation.
In February, 2009, Rush entered into a partnership with OSHA, the federal agency responsible for enforcing safety and health laws. The OSHA Strategic Partnership promoted construction site safety and health during the construction of Rush’s new hospital building, as well as the orthopedic building, a parking garage and power plant.
“During the course of our partnership, injury rates have dropped dramatically,” observes Todd Green, director of occupational safety at Rush. The OSHA recordable injury rate on the site fell from 24.1 in 2007 (one recordable injury per 8,330 man hours worked) to 1.7 in 2011 (one recordable injury per 117,156 man hours worked). The severity of the injuries dropped from serious to minor.
The partnership was initiated by Rush and Power/Jacobs Joint Venture, the project contract manager. The partnership was unique in that the Medical Center was the general contractor and had a separate contract with each individual contractor (known in such cases as a prime contractor). It was the first time OSHA had entered into an agreement with a multi-prime contractor project such as the Rush Transformation.
The OSP required that all new construction workers attend a safety orientation; that the contractors conduct regular safety talks, site inspections and corrective action programs; and that all of the construction workers receive site-specific safety training. In addition, Power/Jacobs organized a series of OSHA 30-hour training courses taught by the contractor’s safety personnel.
OSHA representatives attended monthly safety meetings with representatives of Rush, Power/Jacobs, contractors, trade union representatives and Illinois Onsite Safety and Health Consultation Program (a state program that assists businesses in identifying and correcting work safety hazards) to offer guidance. “We got a chance to discuss how we’re doing, and OSHA offers their services with regards to training programs. They’re a resource to answer any questions that people may have,” Green says.
An OSP audit team made up of representatives of Rush and all its contractors have conducted weekly safety tours of the construction sites to identify hazards since the start of the partnership. These inspections identified and addressed more than 150 hazards, with many of them corrected on the day they were identified.
Thanks the OSP effort, safety on the construction site far exceeded national norms. The project injury rate decreased by 78 percent in 2009, the first year of the partnership, compared to the 2008, pre-partnership baseline. The rate also was 25 percent below the national average for construction projects recorded in 2008 by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In 2010 the project’s incident rate dropped to 55 percent below the 2008 BLS average.
“Throughout this entire partnership, Rush has not received any OSHA violations or fines. The contractors on the transformation project have not been assessed any violations or fines. It’s been more of a consultative approach where OSHA has provided Rush with assistance. The result has been a safer job site,” Green says.
“As an institution dedicated to health, Rush has a special responsibility to protect the health and well-being of the people who work here,” says Mick Zdeblick, Rush’s vice president of campus transformation. “We are proud that this partnership has kept down incidents on our construction site and limited injuries to the men and women whose hard work has built our new facilities.”