Construction for Saskatchewan's new maternal and children's hospital is resuming later today after additional safety precautions have been put in place.
Last week, construction was halted after the forks from a forklift accidently pierced the windows in a four-bed patient room in the same day surgery area on the main floor of Royal University Hospital (RUH). No one was in the immediate area at the time, and no one was hurt. A safety investigation immediately began into what occurred, with some immediate corrective actions being identified and implemented.
However, Saskatoon Health Region asked for a more comprehensive safety plan from Graham Construction in light of this incident. Graham has spent the last few days reviewing this event and assessing the safety of the construction site overall. This additional safety review was completed with all levels of Graham management including senior managers, project managers, superintendents, safety officers and foremen.
On Sunday afternoon, Graham presented their safety plan to Saskatoon Health Region senior and operational leaders.
"We appreciate how open, transparent and swiftly Graham has responded to our concerns. I am confident that with the additional safety measures now proposed, we will be able to better protect patients, families, employees and physicians who are working within just a few metres of this very busy and complex construction site," says Dan Florizone, President and CEO, Saskatoon Health Region. "This served as a wake- up call for all of us. As exciting as this hospital's construction is, construction of any kind brings real risk to those working in and around the area and we need to be diligent in making safety our top priority."
The extra measures proposed now include:
- the creation of a control zone between the construction area, the hospital and surrounding traffic;
- placing plywood across windows facing the construction site on the ground and main floor of Royal University Hospital; this will help prevent the possibility of debris hitting those windows, and causing harm to our patients, families, employees or physicians;
- expanding field level risk assessment for each construction worker to review not only risks that could cause harm to each worker, but to identify risks where a construction worker could cause harm to those working within Royal University Hospital and walking near the construction zone;
- establishing a safety committee of both Graham and Saskatoon Health Region personnel to review upcoming construction activities, the potential safety implications and to put in actions to mitigate those safety risks; and
- removing the current ground level pedestrian pathway from the Royal University Hospital parkade that runs next to the construction site to the escalator pod/Royal University Hospital pedway.
"We strive for zero safety incidents and this incident should not have happened. We are so fortunate that this was a near miss and it helped us hold a mirror up to ourselves," says Tom Holfeld, district manager with Graham Construction and Engineering. "We put in a lot of effort into reviewing and updating our safety plan for this site, and we are confident that positive and meaningful changes will be implemented to improve safety for everyone affected by the construction of this hospital."
This morning, Graham reviewed the incident with their crews, along with their comprehensive safety plan, and conducted training on changes to their process for field level risk assessment. They also started to put in place concrete barriers for a control zone between the construction site and Royal University Hospital.
With these new measures in place, it is now safe for hospital construction to resume.
Also, effective Tuesday morning, given Graham's safety assessment, the outside ground level pedestrian path from the Royal University Hospital parkade to the escalator entrance will be permanently closed. All parkers will be asked to walk inside the parkade to the elevator entrance located on level three, for the sake of their own safety.
Other pedestrian pathway and parkade changes will be occurring in the coming months, as safety plans continue to evolve and actions are put in place.
"We will have some tough choices ahead as we put safety ahead of convenience, and we know being inconvenienced isn't always easy," says Florizone. "But if this experience has taught us anything, it's that keeping people safe isn't just another task, it's essential. We need to be diligent not only when incidents happen or when harm results, but in predicting what might happen and preventing it from happening in the first place."