METRO TARGETS WORKER SAFETY DURING SUMMER’S EXTREME HEAT
Strategy includes earlier work hours, longer breaks and fluid replenishment
METRORail and contractor Houston Rapid Transit (HRT) are blazing light-rail tracks on the North, East and Southeast lines, and chilling 9,000 pounds of ice each day to make sure crews stay cool enough to work during the season’s high temperatures. Maintaining safety on the new lines (scheduled to open in 2014) calls for expertise and coordination and Safety Coordinator Daniel “Red” Motley has plenty to offer. Motley comes to METRO with 30+ years of experience, most recently in the mid-east as construction safety leader for one of the largest petro-chemical projects ever attempted. Today he is in the field daily, checking on rail expansion crews and work conditions and notes “This safety program is excellent and we are doing everything possible to protect our workers.”
Crews are given regular training to prevent and recognize heat illness. Construction schedules are adapted for worker safety so activities start between 5 and 6:00 a.m. and usually end by 2:00 p.m. Crews are instructed to be aware of and limit disturbance to the community during early hours.
“Safety is a core value for both METRO and HRT,” notes Douglas Reehl, HRT project director. “We firmly believe that every accident is preventable. A safe workplace is our goal, and we strive constantly to find new strategies to meet it.”
The heat index is tracked daily, Reehl says, and precautions taken, but work halts when the index reaches 105. In addition to earlier work hours, each crew has extended break time and shaded pop-up tents and tables, with water coolers, sports drinks and access to ice. HRT trucks also make daily deliveries of fresh oranges and popsicles to crews to maintain hydration.
About METRO Houston’s light rail service began with the 7.5-mile Main Street Line (Red Line). The line opened in 2004 and runs down Main St. from UH-Downtown through the Texas Medical Center to South Fannin. With 16 stations and 37,000 passengers per day*, it is one of the most successful and heavily traveled rail lines in the nation. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) is the region’s largest public transit provider, offering safe, reliable and affordable transportation services about 370,000 times per day. METRO’s services also include: Star Vanpool, METROLift, HOV lanes, HOT lanes, Bikes-on-Buses/Trains program, Park & Ride and road improvement projects. More information can be found on ridemetro.org.
About Houston Rapid Transit (HRT) HRT is a joint venture formed by four experienced construction and engineering firms: Parsons, Granite Construction, Kiewit and Stacy and Witbeck, Inc..
*Based on boardings per-track mile.