“United in Safety: Connected. Supported. Safe.” That is the journey for Construction Safety Week 2022, and it couldn’t be more in step with the journey JE Dunn has been on in the Texas and Oklahoma region. For almost a decade JE Dunn has been cultivating a trusted relationship with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agency that has the same mission as JE Dunn and every other general contractor: to protect the lives and safety of our workers.
For me, this common goal is what makes OSHA one of the best resources and partners a general contractor can have. In my early career I built relationships with local OSHA leadership and realized that open lines of communication with general contractors is their top priority. But its authority and position as the governmental regulatory agency can create insecurities and walls that don’t always allow for deep connections and relationships.
When I joined JE Dunn in 2013 as a safety manager in our Austin office, I knew that wasn’t the experience I wanted for JE Dunn or our project teams. We needed to better tap into their resources and be a proactive partner, especially as JE Dunn was revitalizing and strengthening its culture of safety.
That opportunity came as we broke ground on the Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas. It is the only Level 1 Trauma Center in Central Texas and the cornerstone community hospital for Austin. The site was tight for a 520,000 SF hospital built on the university’s campus at a major downtown artery.
For the next three years, we knew all eyes would be on this project, including everything inside our fences. Instead of working to keep eyes out, we leaned into the opportunity and brought OSHA into our sphere.
With the support of the Project Executive, Greg Euston, and General Superintendent, Cliff Larson, and Senior Safety Manager, Marco Martinez, we proactively invited OSHA onsite for regular inspections and reviews of safety protocols. This connectivity kept us honest and transparent on a project where more than 700 people were on site at the peak of construction. Because JE Dunn proactively partnered with the agency that sets the rules of worksite safety, we became better connected, supported, and safe.
Almost 10 years later, JE Dunn continues to help pave the way for better partnerships between OSHA and general contractors. I’m currently the Chair of the Safety Committee for the AGC Austin Chapter, and in two years of service, we’ve onboarded five other general contractors and trade partners in Austin that are building their own partnerships with the agency. The vision we had on Dell Seton has organically grown into a larger purpose and is gaining momentum in the local construction industry.
The journey to safety is not a solitary one. We lean on our teams, our safety specialists, our trade partners, and our skilled workers to build safe, healthy, and supportive environments. Without a doubt, OSHA should be a close ally in that sphere.
This past fall, I had the privilege to see innovative first hand. The new Loews Arlington Hotel and Convention Center is a 500,000 SF, 22-story, 888-room hotel with a 570,000 SF convention center. This $550 million dollar project sits on a 10.6-acre site across the street from Globe Life Field, the new home of the Texas Rangers. JE Dunn and the OSHA Fort Worth and Dallas Office signed a strategic partnership agreement to use the project as an ongoing site for OSHA verification. I credit our project team, which includes Marco Martinez and Cliff Larson of the Dell Seton Medical Center project, for opening their doors on this massive project and allowing it to be in the spotlight for safety improvement.
OSHA will visit the work site regularly, note observations, identify hazards or improvements to correct during the walk, and discuss safety trends and best practices with workers. Additionally, JE Dunn safety personnel from other regions will train onsite and bring back best practices to their offices. We’ll provide access to our Blue Hat operational staff to be a resource in management of tower crane selection, placement, and operation.
For JE Dunn, a proactive OSHA visit is welcomed. It is a time to revisit our behaviors and protocols when setting up safety processes that directly impact the health of our people and projects. It is an opportunity to recalibrate our activities and see where improvement is needed. In truth, it is no different than what we are bringing awareness to this week on jobsites across the country: staying connected, supported, and safe.