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Richard Goettle, Inc., Geotechnical Engineering and Construction, On Site Tour, August 20, 2021, Part 1

Sep 8, 2021, 14:52 PM by Jessica Bloomer
Part 1: ERC faculty and students toured one of the Richard Goettle, Inc., Geotechnical Engineering and Construction sites, August 20, 2021

Overview by By Libby Keller & Ashley Edgerly   

On August 20th, 2021, the University of Cincinnati ERC hosted an onsite field experience with the geotechnical engineering and construction company, Richard Goettle Inc. Goettle has been subcontracted for a project with the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) at their Mill Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). As MSD’s largest plant, Mill Creek WWTP treats over 100 million gallons of wastewater every day. This plant began operation in 1959 and now needs expansion, with plans to intersect the route of the current flow of water and waste to accommodate increasing levels and create a better, more sustainable environment. This project includes massive underground construction and needed Goettle’s expertise in excavating the sewer site to approximately 65 feet below grade to safely gain access to the pipes and build new concrete structures with adherence to stringent safety protocols. Risks at this site were discussed to include ladder falls, concrete burns, exposure to chemicals underground in the soil (e.g., lead), and overhead falling objects. This project is adjacent to the Mill Creek, adding safety risks of potential flooding and water fluctuations, so the groundwater is continuously pumped out to keep the area dry.  

Written by: Libby Keller & Ashley Edgerly

The health and safety team includes a full-time safety technician (with a Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST) certification), and they establish the emergency response plan with the foreman and site supervisors. Teamwork is extremely important to keep everyone safe on this site, and the companies work together to ensure this. The contractors and subcontractors collaborate daily in their safety analysis meetings, where they decide the best approaches and learning styles to communicate the safety needs of the job to the employees. They stressed the importance of noticing trends and then adjusting measures as needed to make realistic and meaningful changes towards creating a safe workplace. The team also has weekly leadership meetings where they discuss the lessons learned in safety, and then share with the rest of the company.  

It was mentioned that most injuries happen, not from a lack of safety measures, but from human error. Some strategies to mitigate risks include practicing “Take 5 Measures” where employees take 5 minutes or 5 steps back before starting a job to ensure the can safely complete it. Another safety measure includes partnering new workers with experienced employees so they can be properly trained and learn the safety basics for their job from someone with extensive knowledge on how to perform tasks safely. In the event that there are injuries, the safety technicians work closely with a physician who is on call 24-hours a day to ensure workers receive quality care in a timely manner. 

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Goettle and Ulliman and Schutte Project at Metropolitan Sewer District, Cincinnati, Ohio

Written by: Thomas Gerding

Ulliman and Schutte Construction and Goettle Geotechnical Engineering and Construction were both very gracious hosts to the University of Cincinnati ERC for our field trip to Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati at Gest Street near downtown. During our time touring the construction site, it was emphasized that, although there are different regulations the construction industry must abide by according to OSHA, it is the employers’ responsibility in any industry to ensure the employees return home safe each day. The safety representatives from both companies explained that in many cases, workplace accidents in construction are a result of operator error as opposed to machine error for a variety of reasons. In some cases, newer employees are not as familiar with equipment or job processes and may cause an incident, but on the other hand, more experienced workers may act more lackadaisical and perform with a sense of complacency.

One aspect of the health and safety hazards present in the construction industry, brought up multiple times during the tour, was the fact that, when comparing general industry to construction, the environment in manufacturing facilities remains somewhat stagnant compared to construction sites. Unless there is a change in the process in a manufacturing plant, once a health and safety official becomes familiar with the site-specific hazards, things remain fairly steady. On a construction site, however, things can change as quickly as the weather. The reference to the weather was meant literally, to a certain degree, as the workers are exposed to the elements in a construction site and can experience slick work environments if rain moves into the area. Finally, one aspect of workplace health and safety hazards, which was  discussed by the site hosts and struck me, was that changing worksite locations causes changes in the level of compliance expected. They referred to one job site which, although levels of lead dust were below the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), levels were above the respective American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists’ (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV). The workers were asked by the site to utilize respirators to abide by this level of limitation.

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Demonstrates the Depth of Outdoor Areas of MSD Construction Site

PPE and Safety Culture
Written by: Runcheng Fang & Xinyi Niu

During this trip, we were deeply impressed by the safety culture of the Goettle Geotechnical Engineering and Construction Company and the Ulliman and Schutte Construction Company. They have a unique safety culture of "take five". Including:

  • Stop and think about the potential hazards
  • Look and identify any hazard
  • Consider any possible threats of damage or injury
  • Control hazards and Monitor hazards。

Goettle's and Ulliman and Schutte’s safety management personnel organize meetings almost every morning to prevent accidents and work injuries. Their safety officers said: "We sell safety to employees like products." The safety management principles they promote include:

  • Definition of roles and responsibilities should establish clear authorities to ensure that employees, the public and the environment are protected.
  • Employees have sufficient knowledge of and skills for safety practices
  • Correct use of personal protective equipment integrated into the safety culture to ensure that workers are responsible for their own safety.

The Goettle and Ulliman and Schutte Project Managers report that accidents often occur in the construction industry every year and are usually due to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) or failure to wear the provided personal protective equipment. They indicated that, when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or effective, the purpose of personal protective equipment is to reduce employee exposure hazards and risks to an acceptable level. They said that personal protective equipment is an integral part of business success and safety. In addition, they shared that they always provide training and supervision to employees to encourage safe and responsible work.


End of part 1 - click here to read part 2

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Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences
Education and Research Center (ERC)
Kettering Lab Building
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Cincinnati, OH 45267-0056
Mail Location: 0056
Phone: 513-558-5710
Fax: 513-558-2722
Email: erccoor@uc.edu