Monday, December 12, 2011 5:50 PM

Occupational safety team saves $2.5M on Clovis Community expansion

Two women in pink hardhats with eagle eyes, strict safety regulations in hand and a willingness to scale tall scaffolding are saving Community Medical Centers millions. Registered Nurse Peggy McGinnis and Cathie Kirk make surprise inspections, sometimes at night, administer drug tests and scold seasoned construction workers into wearing hard hats and safety glasses at all times on the Clovis Community Medical Center’s expansion job site.

McGinnis, Community’s construction occupation safety nurse, and Kirk, a medical/office assistant for construction, got a hearty thanks and an award from Community’s Chief Financial Officer on Nov. 18. “Because of their efforts and how diligent they are with safety regulations we’ve saved $2.5 million; we’re on track to save $5 million all together,” said Senior Vice President and Corporate CFO Steve Walter. “That’s money we can turn around and invest back into technology and equipment for this expansion.”

Walter explained that Community has an Owner Controlled Insurance Program that picks up all the workmen’s compensation insurance for contractors working on the $300 million hospital expansion. Community provides the general liability, excess liability, builder’s risk and pollution and workers’ compensation insurance for all of the contractors and sub contractors who work on projects for the hospital while using only one insurance company to handle all claims. When claims are minimal, Community saves and costs for insurance go down and having a larger group of people in the insurance pool lowers costs too.

“For every $1 of construction costs, it usually costs our contractors 13 cents for insurance,” said Walter. “We’re providing that insurance for 3 to 4 cents instead. You can imagine what we’re saving on a $300 million project.”

McGinnis and Kirk work in the far northeast corner of the Clovis hospital construction site in a single-wide trailer set up to triage injuries, do drug and alcohol testing and treat general illnesses. Outside their door flies a faded flag with a pink Band-Aid on it and the word NURSE. Many times workers visit them for cold medicine or general health concerns. “We’re saving the workers health care costs and time away from work,” McGinnis said.

Most days the occupational safety team starts early with drug testing of any new worker on the site. Then they head out to make their rounds. Sometimes, they work into the night. “During the midnight concrete pours on the parking garage, we were out wiping off glasses that were staring to fog up on the guys,” Kirk described.

Kirk and McGinnis said they love being able to wear jeans, climb ladders and steel cross beams and keep people safe.

“I’d rather do a good job on safety and prevention, than deal with injuries afterwards,” said McGinnis, adding that Community goes beyond the regulations of Cal/OSHA, California’s program to protect workers and the public from safety hazards. “It’s great for the contractors because we keep down incidents that would get put on their record for three years and cost them in higher insurance costs later.”

Walter says putting the occupational safety team on the job is about more than saving money: “Not only do we take care of patients in the community; we’re taking care of the people who are building our hospital. It’s part of our health care mission.”

Erin Kennedy reported this story. She can be reached at