Oregon State University Targets Construction Safety

CORVALLIS, Ore. — The College of Engineering at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis is developing a facility geared toward improving safety for both construction workers and the general public.

A $1 million grant to the college from Knife River Corporation and MDU Construction Services Group, both headquartered in Bismarck, N.D., will help establish the MDU Resources Group Construction Safety Laboratory. The lab will replicate real-world jobsites and simulate worker activity to examine potential hazards.

Construction is a traditionally dangerous profession, placing workers at risk for falls, electrocution and other injuries. The new laboratory at OSU will be able to simulate some of these jobsite situations, helping to identify safer ways to work while also studying improved productivity and minimizing costs, according to a statement by the university. When complete, it will include an interactive, high-definition projection system through which university researchers will conduct sample work operations without actually putting workers at risk for injury. A connected driving simulator will help evaluate driver and worker actions as vehicles pass through a work zone.

“This lab establishes us as the principal national facility for construction and transportation safety research and education,” said Dean and Kearney Professor of Engineering at the OSU College of Engineering Scott Ashford, in a statement.
“We’re delighted to partner with Knife River and MDU Construction Services Group on this critically important project. These two companies are industry leaders in safety, and their commitment to our program will allow us to further advance processes and technologies that will help to better prevent workplace injuries.”

“This project provides a virtual environment where industry and academia can work together on real-world solutions,” added Jeff Thiede, president and CEO of MDU Construction Services Group, in a statement.

The project expands on an earlier OSU initiative to improve worker safety, emphasizing prevention through design. This approach prioritizes safety from the design stage to make buildings, bridges, roadways and other structures safer both to build and to maintain, according to a statement by the university.

“There’s a long history in the construction industry of architects and design engineers leaving construction safety up to the builder or contractor, saying it wasn’t really the designer’s concern,” said John Gambatese, an OSU professor of civil engineering, in a statement. “Some of this dates historically to the separation between owner, architect, contractor, maintenance and construction worker. There are also legal and liability issues. But there are many ways we can improve construction safety with this approach.”