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    A Water-Soaked Safety Win in North Carolina

    June 07, 2022


    During Construction Safety Week, contractors nationwide provided valuable trainings and resources for their teammates and partners, but workers on the Harkers Island Bridge Replacement project in Harkers Island, North Carolina received a truly immersive experience. Balfour Beatty engaged workers in a training and drill to prepare them in the event a crew member falls off the bridge into the water below. This training was conducted in partnership with Carteret County Emergency Services, Harkers Island Fire Rescue and the Otway Fire and Rescue Department.

    The training simulated an injured worker falling into the water, utilizing a mock crew to act out the proper protocol for the real crew. The worker was held steady in the water while members of the local rescue team waded over with a floating stretcher and a neck brace. Once the worker’s neck was stabilized, he was loaded onto the stretcher, lifted onto a waiting rescue boat and brought to shore. 

    Prior to the safety training, team members get the opportunity to interface with the local rescue teams. The first responders on these teams provided valuable feedback as well as additional training on procedures and equipment used in these situations. 

    While the content of this training has been covered with the crew several times over, this was a particularly valuable opportunity as the workers were able to observe the emergency protocol acted out in real time. 

    “It’s really critical for our team to receive this kind of hands-on experience,” says Pete Distefano, senior project manager. “And it’s a great opportunity to put faces with names and make sure that everybody knows each other.”

    Many contractors rely on well-built relationships with local rescue teams, but the Harkers Island team is especially cognizant of the benefits of not merely reliance on, but partnership with the local fire and rescue departments. 

    “These simulations give our team the opportunity to get familiar with the equipment the responders need to use in these situations,” says Eric Yates, environmental health and safety manager. “In rural areas, many responders serve on a volunteer basis. This can lead to a degree of unpredictability for response times. It could be critically important that our team is familiar with rescue equipment and protocols while crews are in route.”

    Balfour Beatty project teams are not the only ones to benefit from this kind of training. This drill is also advantageous for the local rescue crews. As a result of the exercise, the emergency responders gained firsthand knowledge of our project site and operations and will know what to expect in the event they are called upon to respond to an emergency at our site, which could result in a more efficient rescue. 

    In addition to the water rescue drill, the Harkers Island team reinforced Zero Harm in other ways during Safety Week. Workers began each day of the week with a Toolbox Talk centering on the Safety Week theme of “Your Frame of Mind Matters”. These trainings focused on mental health and wellness, ways to ensure that everyone onsite is fit for work and resources that can assist those who are experiencing mental health crises. Over the following days, workers spent several hours reviewing CPR training as well as general and job-specific emergency action plans. 

    “What the team did at Harkers Island is fantastic, but in reality, it is part of their normal planning process,” says Mark Johnnie, vice president for Balfour Beatty’s U.S. Civils operations in the Southeast. “In this case, our team is prepared to respond to someone who may have fallen in the water as they will truly be the ‘first responders’.”

    The team at Harkers Island exemplifies Balfour Beatty’s people-first commitment to Zero Harm, which goes above and beyond Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. 

    The Harkers Island Bridge Reconstruction project is slated for completion in early 2025. As the project progresses the team will continue to collaborate with local emergency services teams to ensure the health and safety of our teammates, partners and the community.