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Safety Success During the Construction of the San Diego Central Library

Central to the success at the San Diego Central Library project was general contractor Turner Construction’s dedication to safety. One of the determining factors in the best-value bid process for choosing the concrete subcontractor on the project was the company’s safety record and program. Turner Construction’s full-time safety manager on the project worked closely with concrete subcontractor Morley Construction’s team of safety professionals, led by Morley’s project safety engineer Joe Whiteman.

The Morley crews followed typical safety precautions on the job, wearing safety glasses, hard hats, gloves and Class 2 high visibility vests every day. Because of the height of the building and features like inclined columns, a 46-foot-high concrete gravity arch and cantilevered roof sections, safety harnesses, lanyards and other fall protection equipment were also daily safety PPE for crews.

Workers had three safety meetings each day. Mornings on the jobsite started with a stretch and flex class followed by a toolbox meeting on the jobsite hazards workers would face that day. “Because conditions change throughout the day in regard to safety, we also held ‘halftime talks’ with employees for five minutes after the lunch break,” Whiteman adds.

One of the leading safety issues on this project was the aggressive construction schedule. The safety teams for Turner and Morley were in close contact to ensure safety plans changed along with the construction schedule. “When changes happened, we were on site to adjust the safety program and engineer any issues out of the job,” Whiteman says.

Another safety challenge for Whiteman’s crew was the number of one-off designs throughout the building, which required the safety team to create a specific safety procedure for each unique element. “For example, the 46-foot-high, 70-foot-long concrete gravity arch required a specific safety plan that engineered safety into every step of the process, including form erection, concrete placement and stripping forms,” Whiteman says. “There was no safety precedent for that type of construction, and there were lot of instances of these one-off features to safety engineer.”

Morley crews experienced no lost-time accidents during the more than 400 days on site. As testament, Turner awarded Whiteman, Morley project superintendent Jim Picard and general foreman Ben Larsen each with project safety awards.

Read more about the new San Diego Central Library in the profile of Morley Construction Company from the April/May 2012 issue of Concrete Contractor magazine.