NASA Construction Safety Working Group Holds First Annual Meeting

NASA Construction Safety Working Group Holds First Annual Meeting

3-minute read
Construction Safety Working Group

The newly established NASA Construction Safety Working Group held its first annual meeting at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) July 8-9.

The group, which has been meeting virtually since February 2013, took advantage of the face time by focusing on teambuilding and developing a communication strategy for the members. Dr. Nathalie Castaño, an organizational development specialist at KSC, helped the group define a working charter and determine how the group will contribute to NASA's continued success.

"NASA construction represents the highest-risk activity currently ongoing at NASA centers," explained Gerry Schumann, the working group chair.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, work in construction is more than four times more hazardous than work in the professional, business and technical services and accounted for over 19 percent of all worker fatalities in calendar year 2012.

Chief of Safety and Mission Assurance Terry Wilcutt echoed the importance of Construction Safety when he spoke to the group, noting the need for constant attention to safety on construction sites and the importance of avoiding a silent safety culture. He also challenged Construction Safety managers to take a leadership role on NASA construction sites across the agency.

The high-risk nature of construction helps define the working group's primary goal: proactive accident prevention. The goal is to stay ahead of potential problems by focusing on root cause error precursors that can contribute to mishaps and then creating robust hazard controls for those root causes.

To achieve that goal, the group studies NASA Mishap Information System report logs on construction incidents. Each center then considers, "Do we have a hazard control in place to prevent that from happening at our center?"

"We [SMA] provide customer-centric solutions for construction challenges, because every NASA center is unique," said Kelley Kiernan, the working group's technical representative and one of its leaders.

The group's secondary goal is to share construction safety information between centers in order to capitalize on experience.

The Construction Safety Working Group

The Construction Safety Working Group

"We exchange NASA best practices and lessons learned," said Kiernan. "Our impetus was to dialogue across the agency and create value for NASA, and it is paying off for NASA Construction Safety by improving our ability to partner across the agency for effective hazard controls. Construction is a high-risk operation, so to be effective, we really need to mitigate that risk with human factors behavioral-based safety tools — even great employees make mistakes."

Building a Virtual Team

Although the group will continue to meet face-to-face annually, members plan to meet virtually every other month to continue working on accident prevention goals. Castaño led the group in a discussion about what constitutes a high-functioning team, the importance of trust in virtual teams and guidelines for long-distance communication.

"We're a virtual team and our formal team building training is going to allow us to be effective in the modern virtual world," said Kiernan.

Construction Safety Working Group

NASA's Construction Safety Working group began meeting in early 2013 and was chartered by October of that year. Chaired by Schumann, OSMA's institutional safety program manager, the group evaluates Construction Safety concerns, issues and audit findings; shares best practices that can assist centers in addressing noncompliances in Construction Safety; provides advice on potential policy updates; and promotes Construction Safety throughout the agency.