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Designing Out the Hazards and Handing Influential Workers a Role in Inspections

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Construction safety lapses have killed many construction workers in Vietnam during its recent economic expansion, with 5,952 accidents in 2007 alone. That year, the Can Tho Bridge, 170 kilometers south of Ho Chi Minh City in South Vietnam, collapsed during construction, killing 53 people.

Those statistics loomed large in the minds of the design and contracting team for the Dragon Bridge in Da Nang, one of this year's Best Project winners.

The designer and contractor took pains to produce design and erection methods that would enhance and support worker safety, the project team says.

For some of this year's Global Best Project winners, jobsite safety went far beyond safely designed structures and construction methods.

Some contractors and owners tried to address the deeply embedded cultural tendencies and communications problems that can multiply hazards. Among the methods used were eliminating hazards in the design phase and giving influential workers a role in inspections throughout the project.

On the New Europe Bridge over the Danube River, between Vidin, Bulgaria, and Calafat, Romania, Spanish contractor FCC Construccion says it worked hard to "engineer out hazards" in order to eliminate risk.

The contracting team worked more than 78 million job-hours, with only four lost work days—a rate of 0.01 according to its submission.

While one Best Project judge noted the lack of specific information about how the strong safety result was achieved, Thomas "T.J." Lyons, a Gilbane Corp. safety manager who frequently works overseas, says, "The philosophy of working to first engineer out hazards reflects an important value" that is changing construction workplaces. "The opportunity to prevent through design stands out," he adds.

The contractor on another winning project took a similar approach when it came to fall protection.

PCL Inc., Edmonton, the contractor for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba, engineered and inspected means of access. Owing to the complex geometry and height of the building, most work had to be performed from elevated platforms, scaffolding or mechanical lifting equipment.

That approach "reflects the most contemporary of safety efforts," says Lyons. "They should be commended on their efforts (and results) on removing fall risks by placing work within the protection of rails, rather than hoping the workers would tie off" their safety harnesses.

Another element of the museum project safety program required all on-site workers to identify the scope of work they were to perform, any hazards and the applicable safety measures. PCL required the workers to sign the document and initial it after every break.

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