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SAFE '09: SLAC and Contractors—Success through Sharing Safety Cultures

From left: Rudolph and Sletten Jobsite Safety Coordinator Larry Fabbro and Project Superintendent John Bailey, SLAC Field Construction Manager Raimond Cuadrado, SLAC B901 Project Manager Lori Plummer and SLAC Senior Safety Engineer Don Dains. (Photo by Brad Plummer.)

A good integrated safety program is always improving. As new projects and new challenges arise, the safety program must grow to meet them. When general contractors Rudolph and Sletten came to SLAC to work on two construction sites for the Linac Coherent Light Source, SLAC team members were challenged to combine two cultures of safety into one effective plan. So far, Rudolph and Sletten and the SLAC team members who work with them have celebrated 100 days of incident-free work on construction sites for three hutches for the far experimental hall, as well as the LCLS office building and its adjoining parking lot. Team members from both groups agree: their success comes down to good work planning, the right attitude and outstanding communication.

Construction projects begin long before steel-toed boots and shovels touch down on dirt. Ernie Gomes, department head for the field safety and building inspection office of the SLAC Environment, Health and Safety Division, sat on the panel to select a construction company for the LCLS projects.

"An important consideration in the choice of Rudolph and Sletten was their understanding of SLAC's values and SLAC's requirements for work planning and control," Gomes said.

SLAC Field Construction Manager Raimond Cuadrado and SLAC B901 Project Manager Lori Plummer made work plans for the project while Rudolph and Sletten searched for a team of skilled subcontractors with safe histories and good attitudes.

"It's really important that all the workers out here have the right attitude and the right approach to safety," said Rudolph and Sletten Senior Project Manager Casey Wend. "It's a team effort. If someone's mind is not in it, we don't let them out here because that can expose someone else to a safety hazard. We're looking out for each other."

All subcontractors hired by Rudolph and Sletten go through a subcontractor injury prevention course provided by the contractor, and obtain certification for any special jobs such as driving a fork lift. They are trained on personal protective equipment, safety codes and regulations, given training for specific tasks like those that might require fall protection equipment, and more. On the first Monday of every work week, Rudolph and Sletten holds a "tool-box talk" that goes through a safety topic specific to what is going on at the site that week. After all the training, the subcontractor's knowledge of safety and their effectiveness putting it into action will be overseen by SLAC.

SLAC and Rudolph and Sletten both require a full-time safety coordinator to oversee the construction site whenever work is going on. Some contractors give this role to a supervisor with other responsibilities, but Rudolph and Sletten Jobsite Safety Coordinator Larry Fabbro is focused on worker safety 100 percent of the time. Fabbro ensures a safe work environment is in place, talks to workers about changing conditions, and if necessary, stops work until safety issues are resolved.

In addition to Fabbro, SLAC ES&H personnel, including Safety Coordinator Michael Scharfenstein, ES&H Senior Safety Engineer Don Dains and SLAC Facilities Division construction safety coordinators frequently visit the site to do safety checks. On top of that, Rudolph and Sletten occasionally bring in members of the Corporate Regional Safety Department to provide a second set of eyes. Cuadrado put it simply: "We've always known, the more eyes we have on the site the better."

Safety is part of work planning from the very start, but it must also be renewed when the site changes. On a construction site, this happens quickly and often, as workers move dirt, construct walls, install piping and electrical wiring and move heavy materials, among other things.

"Construction sites change every day, every hour, every minute," Fabbro said. "Where you walked before there could be a hole or a piece of equipment. That's why you have to stay on top of it and keep focused. "

But no change to the construction site comes as a surprise, thanks to detailed work planning. At the beginning of the project and at the start of each day, the work that will be carried out is always written down in detail. Thanks to the clarity of written work plans, different people on the site can fully understand what other groups are doing or pick up where they left off, with no surprises that could present a hazard. "The work planning works," Cuadrado said. "We just have to follow it to the letter."

Good crew members, extensive training, eyes on the site and clear work planning are all knit together every morning at 7 a.m., when all of the subcontractors gather to stretch before a hard day's work. Cuadrado, Fabbro, Wend and Project Superintendant John Bailey join them, not only for the daily work planning meetings, but just to talk.

"The foundation for safety is communication. I want everyone to feel confident that they can talk to each other," Cuadrado said. "That's why I get up every morning and stretch and flex with the subcontractors. When accidents do happen, they happen on the ground with the workers; so I want them to feel confident that if they see something or feel something, they can come talk to me."

óCalla Cofield
SLAC Today, November 23, 2009