Friday, March 8, 2013

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UT System and contracting community explore best practices for safety on construction sites

Safety in the workplace is important no matter what the job, but it’s especially critical in the field of construction. Consider these startling facts from a recent survey by Build a Better Texas:

  • One in five Texas construction workers reported being seriously injured on the job, requiring medical attention.
  • Sixty-four percent of workers reported that they never received basic safety training.
  • Twenty-nine percent reported that their employers failed to provide them with hard hats.
  • More construction workers die in Texas than any other state.

The University of Texas System Office of Facilities Planning and Construction (OFPC) is taking proactive steps to address safety on the jobsite through dialogue with the general contracting community. The OFPC held its inaugural Leadership in Safety Forum Feb. 28 in Austin.

The forum, which is planned as an annual or biennial event, provided an opportunity for OFPC to engage the general contracting community on a range of topics including contractor safety successes over the past eight years, individual contractor safety best practices and ways to improve safety performance on future UT projects.

“Conversation was lively, lots of great best practices were shared and commitments were made to move forward with some pretty exciting stuff,” said Dave Dixon, executive director of OFPC’s Program Management Group.

Ten general contractors with the best safety performances on UT projects were invited to participate in last week’s meeting, and 30 of their senior management employees attended, in addition to participants from UT Austin and the UT System Office of Risk Management.

“Safety in the workplace and its impact on construction are extremely important topics for the construction industry as a whole,” said Tom Fisher, vice president of Hensel Phelps Construction Co. “We applaud UT System’s leadership and visionary approach to safety performance. They have raised the bar for both contractors and subcontractors alike.”

Through committees led by OFPC staff and industry representatives, the Leadership in Safety Forum will continue exploring the latest trends in safety performance on construction sites.

Richard Petty, OFPC construction services manager, said an important impetus for the forum was the success of  the Rolling Owner Controlled Insurance Program (ROCIP), a construction risk mitigation program that’s been in place since 1995.

“There has been tremendous, dramatic reduction in the amount and severity of injuries on construction sites because of it,” Petty said. “It’s been a very successful program, and now we want to take things to the next level.”

According to risk management’s Associate Director Paul Pousson, the operational and financial success UT System and its institutions have experienced through the ROCIP is partially attributable to a collective emphasis on safety, which gives UT System additional leverage when negotiating pricing terms and conditions with insurance carriers who underwrite the program.

“It’s all about saving lives and preventing injury,” said John Martin, Texas division president of Flintco, Inc. “The System has once again led by example in bringing the best in class together to openly discuss challenges and solutions to create safer work environments on our projects and our campuses. I was very impressed with the openness of dialogue among tough competitors, proving that safety is not proprietary.”

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and a fall 2012 enrollment of roughly 216,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state’s health care professionals annually. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $13.9 billion (FY 2013) including $3.1 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With more than 87,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

 

 

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