What Construction Workers Need to Know About Healthcare Facilities

Construction workers are encouraged to work with the facilities team to best determine how to protect patients during a project.

By Mackenna Moralez, Associate Editor

When protecting people on a construction site, there are many “what ifs” that need to be considered. When healthcare settings are added to the mix, that list of potential situations only grows longer. Construction workers are encouraged to work with the facilities team to determine the best course of action when protecting patients, staff and visitors. Healthcare Facilities Today recently spoke with Brittany Burbes, project executive at DPR Construction on what construction workers can do to ensure the safety of patients during a healthcare facility project. 

HFT: How do you handle emergency situations or unexpected issues during construction while ensuring the safety and well-being of patients and staff? 

Brittany Burbes: “What-ifs” are part of the plan from day one onsite. We work with the facilities team to visibly tag, provide signage, and map out where shut-off valves are for the areas where they were working. We often are so engrained with the facilities team we have one of their house radios to ensure we have constant contact in case of an emergency. Our construction management team, including contact information and pictures, are visible at every entrance of our site. We often work with local Emergency Response teams to ensure if the construction site has an emergency that needs a response, they understand there is an active construction project onsite at the hospital and where it’s located. 

HFT: What permits and regulatory compliance steps are necessary when working on healthcare facility upgrades, and how do you ensure full adherence to these requirements? 

Burbes: In active healthcare construction, we utilize a lot of permits and logs to support quality control and ensure our teams have properly planned their work. It is our responsibility to ensure we leave every space we enter in better condition than we came - from cleanliness to ensuring the integrity of rated walls.

An example of a few are: 

  • Preconstruction Risk Assessment (PCRA) 
  • Infection Control Risk Assessment Permit (ICRA permit) 
  • Soil Disruption Permit 
  • Above Ceiling Work Permit 
  • Hot Work Permit 
  • Fire Watch Logs 
  • Interim Life Safety Plans 
  • ICRA compliance review and signoffs 

Related: Maintaining Safety in Healthcare Construction Projects

HFT: How do you handle the disposal of construction waste and materials in a healthcare facility to maintain a safe and sanitary environment? 

Burbes: The ideal approach for handling the disposal of construction waste is if our construction footprint is on an exterior wall of the building. If that is the case, we’ll always advocate working with the hospital to provide either a loading area to remove trash from the building or a trash chute. These methods allow for disposal without having to walk through any patient areas. That’s not always possible. If we are landlocked in the middle of the hospital, we use covered trash buggies to haul trash out of the building. 

The covered lid contains the debris and as the buggy leaves the jobsite, the individual wheels are wiped clean of dust every single time the buggy exits the jobsite. 

HFT: How do you plan to ensure that critical infrastructure, such as electrical systems, plumbing, and medical equipment, remains operational during the construction process? 

Burbes: Pre-planning is critical when working on an active healthcare campus. Our preferred level of engagement during design is to have the Construction team onboard early with the Architect and Engineer to help provide a detailed site investigation that outlines the necessary phasing and budget to support operations during construction. In addition to providing early site investigation, we typically meet weekly with the hospital staff, including facilities and construction teams, to provide a look-ahead of what necessary shutdowns are coming up in the next six months to ensure we have the right plan in place. Sometimes, that means our teams provide temporary lighting or switching power receptacles for devices to help support shutdowns. Sometimes, our crews work nights to lessen the impact on the facility. 

Mackenna Moralez is the associate editor of the facilities market.  

March 18, 2024

Topic Area: Construction , Safety

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