In February 2009, Rush entered into an OSHA Strategic Partnership (OSP) with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), organized labor, state consultation, and specific sub-contractors. The OSP promoted construction site safety and health during the construction of Rush’s new hospital building, Orthopedic Building, parking garage and power plant. Rush is nearing completion of construction of the 14-floor, 806,000-square-foot hospital building near the corner of Ashland Avenue and the Eisenhower Expressway.
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. When construction on Rush’s new hospital building ends in a few weeks, a remarkable safety OSP will end with it. The results of that OSP will endure in the well-being of the more than 4,500 men and women who worked on the construction of the new hospital and other buildings at Rush. As many as 700 workers were on site at one time during the busiest periods of construction over the last three years.
OSP Achieves Successful Results in Construction Industry
The OSP was initiated by Rush and Power/Jacobs Joint Venture, the project contract manager. The OSP 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.
To achieve these goals, 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.
"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. "We are very pleased with the very low incidence of injuries during construction of this unique facility," says Mick Zdeblick, Rush’s vice president of campus transformation.
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 get 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 OSP. These inspections identified and addressed more than 150 hazards, with many of them corrected on the day they were identified.
The OSP also complemented Rush’s educational mission. The construction site served as the location of three field trips for participants in the OSHA Training Institute’s construction standards course, providing approximately 100 OSHA trainees with a rare opportunity to observe and visit a large urban construction site.
"Throughout this entire OSP, 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.
Thanks to 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 OSP, compared to the 2008, pre-OSP 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.
The OSP’s first annual evaluation also reported increased safety and health awareness and improved relationships with unions/workers, management, and OSHA.
"As an institution dedicated to health, Rush has a special responsibility to protect the health and well-being of the people who work here," Zdeblick says. "We are proud that this OSP has kept down incidents on our construction site and limited injuries to the men and women whose hard work has built our new facilities."
Key objectives of the OSP are to: provide a safe and healthful work environment for construction workers; prevent serious accidents and fatalities by addressing key industry hazards (falls, electrocution, caught-between, and struck-by) through increased safety and health training and self-inspections; develop and implement effective safety and health programs; and ensure compliance with applicable OSHA standards and regulations.
Origin: OSHA Region V, Calumet Area Office
Partners: Rush University Medical Center, Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, Illinois Safety and Health OnSite Consultation Program
OSP Signed: February 2, 2009
Industry (NAICS Code): Construction (2362)
Workers: 4,500 total
Source (Date): Todd Green, Director of Occupational Safety, Rush University Medical Center; William F. Coulehan, Compliance Assistance Specialist, Calumet City Area Office; James Dillard, OSPP Coordinator, Chicago Regional Office; Danielle Gibbs, OSHA National Office (June 2011)