Expert Advice for Safety Challenges During Occupied Healthcare Renovations

We recently gathered an exceptional panel of healthcare construction safety professionals for a discussion about common challenges during occupied healthcare renovations. The panel provided meaningful advice for tackling a variety of safety challenges pulled from both their experience and from our customers’ field notes.

ICYM the virtual roundtable, we rounded up advice for three common pre-planning challenges:

1. Overlooking a proactive, collaborative ICRA
2. Not planning for human behavior
3. Improper temporary wall documentation 

Stay tuned for more expert tips, including ICRA adherence and other post project green light challenges. You can also watch the full webinar here.

Challenge 1: Overlooking a proactive, collaborative ICRA 

Patient, staff and worker safety is paramount during an occupied renovation - and we all know blueprints only go so far. Our panelists unanimously agreed with observations from our customers: proactive ICRA planning is equally as crucial in ensuring safety as it is challenging.

“Many times, design professionals do not meet with epidemiologists, who have a better understanding of the potential risks. The outcomes are job shutdowns, delays, and most importantly to all of us, increased cost to the contractor and to the institution. That has an impact on patient satisfaction as well.” - Paul Guttman 

Expert Tips for an Effective ICRA
With 23 years of successful projects under his belt, Paul Guttman shared learnings from Michigan Medicine’s proactive ICRA planning process. 


Challenge 2: Not planning for human behavior

Overlooking human behavior factors during pre-planning can lead to dangerous and costly mistakes, according to Dr. Janet Haas. Perception of risk, such as understanding the full scope of potential infection risks to patients and staff, is a significant component of human behavior. Inexperienced subcontractors may not be aware of the added risks of occupied healthcare construction.  

Expert Tips 
The first rule in anticipating human behavior is to make it easy to do the right thing, according to Dr. Haas. It is also critical to ensure easy choices make it convenient for workers to maintain infection prevention and dust containment protocols.

This is especially true for construction area enclosures.

As Dr. Haas explains in the following clip, 'easy' containment choices like plastic walls with zippers or building drywall can actually cause more problems than they solve:

"If I had a nickel for every time I walked past a place that had the zippers up, I’d be a very rich person indeed.” - Dr. Janet Haas

This is precisely why simplicity, efficiency and ICRA-IV requirements are all designed into our modular temporary wall solutions. 

Challenge 3: Improper temporary wall documentation  

Our panelists described numerous incidents of temporary construction walls being torn out and completely rebuilt due to not meeting ICRA, NFPA, ASTM or other healthcare code requirements.

"If temporary walls are constructed improperly, they are going to have an impact on your project, both from a budget and cost perspective," Paul Guttman noted.

These costly delays are often caused by improper design plan documentation - especially with fire-rated temporary walls. Our panelists mentioned contractors are often not aware of fire-rated wall requirements until reaching the job site. 

Expert Tips

  • Ensure architects properly document and draw temporary walls 
  • Include UL and fire-rating requirements 
  • Include temporary wall documentation requirements in Policy Standards  
  • Require architects to specify pre-engineered walls as alternative to conventional
Read more about fire-rated wall testing requirements here and download our ASTM E119 & E84 QuickGuide here.  

A huge thank you to our healthcare construction safety experts and contributors. Stay tuned for more of their tips!

  • Paul Guttman, AEC-Construction Services Senior Project Manager, University of Michigan
  • Janet Haas, Principal Consulting Epidemiologist, Innovative Infection Prevention
  • Josh Brackett (PE, SASHE, CHFM), Fire Protection Engineer & Life Safety Special Projects Manager, Baptist Health
  • Bill Cooper, Senior Vice President of Sales, STARC Systems

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