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Safety & Health at JSC: a high priority as Recovery Act repairs continue

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The repair of the Building 7 roof (center) is nearly complete. Notice the light color of the new roof. New materials are being used on the repaired roofs that no longer include use of gravel, eliminating a source of projectiles during high winds.
As the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funding enables NASA to make much-needed investments in crucial agency infrastructure repairs, safety and occupational health is vital to the program’s successful progression.

The goals:

The safety team focuses on a “zero injuries” objective for all construction projects. Their motto, “every worker goes home every night,” includes all JSC employees.

Accomplishing this goal means relentless commitment from stakeholders, which are those involved with safety and occupational health; environmental; technical designers; building occupants and all employees, procurement and service contractors.

“We implement best practices from the Construction Industry Institute (CII), NASA and other lessons learned,” said Gary Wessels, senior project manager. “We’ve learned from industry to help improve our construction safety here at JSC.”

Measures of incorporating safety and health:

Hurricane Ike repairs are being made while facilities remain operational and/or occupied. This requires roofing contractors to install protection from falling debris over entry/exit points like this one at Building 25.
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Hurricane Ike repairs are being made while facilities remain operational and/or occupied. This requires roofing contractors to install protection from falling debris over entry/exit points like this one at Building 25.
“We use OSHA as a minimum standard and we agree to go above and beyond the minimum requirements,” said Sean Keprta, Chief Clinical Services Branch. “Our job is to protect the JSC employees and the construction workers who come here every day.”

Sergio Leal, Facilities safety engineer, said safety and health requirements exist for all construction workers and are specified in written contracts prior to the start of a project.

Wessels said after occupational health and safety requirements are built into the design of the project, it is given to a contractor in the form of specifications and drawings. The contractor decides the sequence of work.

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Construction waste is transported to roll-off containers using chutes (pictured at B25). The orange fencing around the roof edge is part of a fall ban system. For some operations near roof edges, workers may also utilize a harness-based fall arrest system
The contractor is required to have a site-specific safety and health plan incorporating JSC’s requirements. The plan is reviewed and must be approved by NASA before any work starts.

Once onsite and before badging procedures ensue, a morning training and orientation session is conducted by the project manager for construction workers. Topics reviewed include emphasis that safety is everyone’s responsibility, knowledge of hazards, on-site driving safety and much more.

“We’ve learned a lot of best practices,” Leal said. “We’ve seen CII data that show best practices have helped the construction industry reduce the amount of injuries out in the field. So we have incorporated them into the specifications that go into the contracts because we want to make sure everybody goes home safe every day.”

“We have preparatory meetings with the contractors and stakeholders,” Wessels said. “And we have periodic meetings throughout the projects with the different stakeholders. We provide feedback to the contractor that we believe is proactive if we see violations or have questions about things that appear to be unsafe.”

Safety is good business:

The safety team promotes the belief that when no one is injured, the ripple effect of a worker’s injury, which also impacts his/her family, is eliminated. This philosophy starts at the top with the commitment to safety and health by our top management at the center and is transmitted all the way down to construction site.

Air quality in buildings undergoing repair is closely monitored using sampling equipment (shown). Plastic, installed on the ceiling tiles, prevents dust (that may contain asbestos) generated by vibrations from roof work from getting into occupied space.
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Air quality in buildings undergoing repair is closely monitored using sampling equipment (shown). Plastic, installed on the ceiling tiles, prevents dust (that may contain asbestos) generated by vibrations from roof work from getting into occupied space.
To eliminate and/or mitigate hazards before the work begins helps in prevention and improves a project’s schedule by eradicating down time that is inevitable if injuries occur.

Being proactive in communication is another method of good business practice.

“Before these projects start, we hold town halls to talk to the employees about what will be going on and about who to speak to if they have concerns,” Keprta said. “We, the team, Center Operations, Safety and Health, have learned over the years the value of communicating, early, and often, with affected organizations and employees. This is also effective once the projects starts, employees can call and ask questions or talk to Center Operations, Safety or Health, any time they have a concern.”

Lessons learned and best practices:

Keprta said even working within OSHA standards, there may still be noise, dust and odors, such as tar from roof work, that could impact productivity.

 Perimeter fencing like this around Building 1 is used as a security barrier to prevent unauthorized access into hazardous areas.  The scaffolding is an egress tower should workers need to evacuate from the roof in an emergency situation.
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Perimeter fencing like this around Building 1 is used as a security barrier to prevent unauthorized access into hazardous areas. The scaffolding is an egress tower should workers need to evacuate from the roof in an emergency situation.
“We work very hard to address employee concerns so that their work is impacted as little as possible during construction,” Keprta said. “We use a unique method of isolating the ceiling space (where the asbestos-containing spray applied insulation is found) from the employee occupied space while the roof work is going on. We conduct daily air monitoring in the work areas to ensure that the control systems are working, which allows the roof work to go on.”

The requirement of stair scaffolds versus ladders provides safer access to and egress from the roofs, giving emergency personnel access as well. There is also a secondary scaffold for emergency purposes. The orange fencing along the perimeter of some work areas is a fall-protection system installed for the workers and provides a controlled zone.

The safety team wants to remind JSC team members to expect the advent of odors, noise and blocked off areas that may cause some detours. Also pay attention to hazard warning barriers and do not attempt to cross them. Report any safety concerns to building and project managers. “We invite all the construction contractors and each worker to join us in helping every day to be a safe work day,” Wessels said.


Neesha Hosein
Johnson Space Center, Houston
281-244-2579

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