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Zero - Everyone On A Dryden Construction Site Goes Home Safe. It Happens Everyday, No Exceptions, For More Than 14 Years.
May 30, 2013

Dan Crowley, Ralph Anton and Jim Eastman were presented the Triple Zeros award.Dan Crowley, Ralph Anton and Jim Eastman were presented the "Triple Zeros" award. (NASA / Ken Ulbrich)

Workers bury a section of new fire water pipe, which is used to supply fire hydrants and sprinkler systems.Workers bury a section of new fire water pipe, which is used to supply fire hydrants and sprinkler systems. It is one of more than 80 active construction projects at Dryden. The safety culture developed at Dryden has been successful for more than 14 years – no one has lost a day of work to an accident on a Dryden construction site. (NASA / Jay Levine) › View Larger Image Clouds of dust arose from the ground where about a dozen men worked to bury a section of pipe they had installed across a Dryden parking lot. One man with a hard hat was in the trench working on the pipe before it was buried, as another watched to ensure he was safe.

Once the man completed his task, a bulldozer pushed dirt over the five-and-a-half-foot deep trench. Beep, beep, beep sounds became louder as an excavator, which had a sheep foot roller attachment, lumbered over the trench as it compacted the fill dirt over the new pipe.

It was part of nearly 4.5 miles of fire water pipe - used to supply fire hydrants and building sprinkler systems - that was replaced. The pipes extend from the water tanks on the hill to the former space shuttle area, with a number of stops in between on the continuing underground infrastructure project, said Kevin Andrews, one of 15 Dryden project advisors that monitor construction work.

"When we visit the job site we perform quality assurance by ensuring the contractor is following their safety plan, adhering to the terms of the contract and performing quality control on their work," Andrews said.

The project is one of dozens of examples of how processes and procedures in the Facilities Engineering and Asset Management team's, safety program have kept people safe on Dryden construction sites for more than 14 years without lost-time injury. Everyone goes home without injury every day.

The accomplishment was noted at a Dryden Monday Management Meeting April 22, the anniversary of the achievement. Dan Crowley, Facilities chief, Ralph Anton, Safety, Health and Environmental office manager, and Jim Eastman, Acquisitions director, received the "Triple Zeros" award in the form of three zero-shaped Mylar balloons.

Deputy Center Director Pat Stoliker said Dryden is clearly setting the standard for other NASA centers as well as industry to follow.

"This is evidence that our proven safety practices are working," he added.

It takes a team to achieve an accomplishment as big as recording no injuries that required someone to miss work for more than 14 years, according to team members.It takes a team to achieve an accomplishment as big as recording no injuries that required someone to miss work for more than 14 years, according to team members. Above are many of the people who work together to continue building a culture of safety at Dryden. The key organizations that make up the above team include the Facilities, Safety, Health and Environmental and Acquisitions offices. (NASA / Tom Tschida) › View Larger Image A team effort

Only through collaboration between the three organizations can such a safety achievement be reached, Crowley said.

For example, the safety office offers expertise in Occupational, Health and Safety Administration regulations, fire safety and electrical work and a wealth of experience they like to bring to the table to solve challenges, Anton said.

"We help to facilitate a safe operation by ensuring everyone is on the same page. We let everyone know that anyone can stand up and say something is not safe and we will work together to mitigate it. Safety is all about communication, communication and more communication. We communicate internally, with other codes, outside agencies and with our customers. It's great to be part of a team that has a safety focus, yet makes things happen," he said.

The Acquisitions office is another key component of the team.

"We have daily safety meetings with contractors and inspectors and weekly status meetings that include the COR (contracting officer's representative). We keep track of what's happening and the type of issues going on during daily and weekly meetings with the safety guys, Code F, the contractors and the subcontractors. The first agenda item is safety and the biggest safety concern of the day and we just try to keep on top of the effort and plan for safety down the road. For example, if an electrical outage is planned, we all ensure electrical safety is stressed," said contract specialist Jim Hillman.

Big projects, big goals

Facilities manages projects worth tens of millions of dollars, oversees a cast of hundreds including contractors and subcontractors and has about 325 separate ongoing activities, about 80 of which are active.

Many of the jobs are not small ones, with some of the current and recent high profile work including the Facilities Support Center, the Consolidated Information Technology Center, major road and utility work, and separate $10 million projects to upgrade Dryden's electrical substations and the Loads Laboratory.

It all starts with a philosophy and buy-in from every member of the team that no one should be injured doing their job, team members said. It doesn't matter who you talk to in Code F, they will tell you the same thing - the goal is for no one to be injured.

Bill Werner, a facilities operations specialist, has worked at Dryden for more than 20 years in different roles in safety and facilities, both as a contractor and a civil servant. His varied experiences help him to bridge communication gaps among team members. It wasn't always like it is now and he spoke about how he, and the culture, have changed.

"We were not communicating as well as we could have and should have. I was looking for the simplest way to do things without others. I had a single focus then and through experience I learned I was making a huge mistake. I learned we need the group (safety, facilities, contracting and the mission program) to understand what we are doing, why we are doing it and how to keep people from being affected by what we do," he said.

Wil Noffsinger, left, and Andrew Boykin show the digital master controls of Dryden's electric power housed at Substation 16.Wil Noffsinger, left, and Andrew Boykin show the digital master controls of Dryden's electric power housed at Substation 16. (NASA / Tom Tschida) › View Larger Image

Hazardous Project Result - No Injuries

The Substation 16 recently underwent a $10 million renovation. Completing a project of that magnitude without injury requires a "massive amount of review throughout the construction," said Andrew Boykin.

Start to finish plans and the nuts and bolts of the safety elements were in place long before the project was approved. Every day discussions of the plan ensured everyone understood what needed to happen.

Electrical work is dangerous, but other elements like crane lifts of 80,000-pound transformers, were equally hazardous, said Wil Noffsinger. Working smart is another building block of safety. Power outages have risks and as many as 15 center-wide outages could have been required. However, collaboration and planning reduced the outages to just five, he added.

His experience is valued.

"My biggest asset was understanding both sides and developing trust to reach our goals. We all look at things differently, but we all want the same things. The managers coming up are not tied to past preconceptions and are working to create a partnership that makes things more the way they could be than the way they have been," Werner said.

He also credited the investment in training that has helped people to understand what's going on and to see clearly what's right and wrong on a construction site.

"That added value is one of the reasons we are maintaining the safety record. I don't want to see anyone hurt or sent to the hospital and I really don't want to explain why a person is not coming home from work in the same condition they came to the job," Werner said.

Developing a culture of safety

Meetings held every day on construction sites that recap the biggest safety concerns are part of the safety culture evolution. Weekly safety meetings are also part of it, as is buy-in from every member of the team. That's not to say there aren't close calls from time-to-time, but they are treated as an opportunity to improve.

Crowley recalled a string of near death accidents on a major Building 4800-renovation project in the late 1990s when he knew changes were needed. Crowley began at Dryden in 1988 as a facilities maintenance manager and served as a facilities project manager from 1991 to 2003 when he became Code F chief.

"I'm standing there watching the NASA doctors and nurses respond to the accident trying to save someone's life. In the process of getting the guy into the ambulance, all three of them became victims. The guy was covered with lead paint removal chemicals. He had gotten hurt in a man lift accident and the impact resulted in the chemicals spilling all over him," Crowley recalled.

But poor communication makes the situation worse.

"Nobody tells the medical team what he was doing, so they get these lead paint removal chemicals all over them and now there are four victims. It went from one victim to four victims in five minutes. Now we had to call another 9-1-1-response team. In that moment I am standing there completely useless and helpless as the project manager watching this unfold on my project. "I'm not doing this again," Crowley said.

Infused with a new sense of purpose, he went to peers in Code F and Center management. There were a few other accidents after that on other project managers' activities and they came to the same conclusion that Crowley had - a change was needed to stop the procedures and practices that were leading to people becoming injured.

Although Crowley likes to keep a low profile in the responsibility for the safety record, his staff members say his passion for safety resonates with them. Crowley began oversight of center construction programs, master planning, facilities operation and maintenance, energy and logistics management when he was selected for the post in 2003. He also served as chairman of the NASA Operations Engineering Panel.

Crowley received the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal for construction safety in 2007 and a 2008 NASA Quality And Safety Achievement Recognition award for leadership in building a culture of safety.

Expectations and team

Crowley's team credits him with the leadership and passion for safety and he credits the team for following, refining and scrutinizing procedures. Because they have a regular review cycle for procedures, challenges are resolved before they become a breeding ground for accidents.

Another way to look at what Code F personnel have done is that they share an expectation that accidents are preventable and developing a culture that takes safety very personally. By constantly seeking to improve they keep the dialogue going - everyday.

John Trigg is the Jacobs/Tybrin task lead for 15 facility project advisors. He is responsible for big picture monitoring of the jobs his team is working, helps to develop processes, reports, customer relations and safety.

Trigg comes from a safety background, having chaired a safety committee for the Monsanto Company. The Jacobs/Tybrin team reviews technical submittals for construction projects, including safety plans and hazard analysis. This group also coordinates digging activities, the use of cranes, area closures and utility outages so that accidents are prevented.

"We all are lined up on the safety goal line. It's not follow me, it's a combined effort," he said.

For team members, safety isn't just part of the job, it's a key thread in the fabric of their lives.

Alan Brown contributed to this report.

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Page Last Updated: August 8th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator