Matt Coyne,

As construction industry-wide Safety Week kicks off, the new bridge project has an incident rate of less than one percent

TARRYTOWN – The new Tappan Zee Bridge project is earning high marks for its low injury rate.

Tappan Zee Constructors officials said Monday the total recordable incident rate for the nearly $4 billion project is 0.63 percent per 100 employees, more than five times lower than the 3.5 percent national average for a construction project of its size.

“Our industry is one of the most dangerous in America,” said Tappan Zee Constructors President Terry Towle, whose father and brother were seriously hurt on construction projects. “One-fifth of workplace fatalities happen in the construction industry.”

Towle and other officials said the group’s “strong safety culture” has kept injuries down.

He said the Constructors — a consortium of contractors tasked with designing and building the new bridge — has held over 1,000 safety training seminars and involved upper management in safety initiatives, along with on-site medical care and drug and alcohol screenings.

Monday’s event kicked off Safety Week, a program of the Construction Industry Safety Initiative, a group of 12 major contractors that meets twice annually to discuss safety in their industry. Initiative executive committee member and Skanska USA Civil CEO Michael Cobelli was on hand to commend the project’s safety record. He said it was “not the norm” for the industry.

“We need to remain vigilant and we need to remain focused,” Cobelli said. “It’s a never-ending quest for zero. And by zero, I mean zero incidences, not zero people getting hurt. Zero near misses. Zero reportables. Zero lost times.”

Workers on the deck of the Left Coast Lifter during construction for the new Tappan Zee Bridge May 2, 2016. The Tappan Zee Constructors project was one of three sites honored during Safety Week by the Construction Industry Safety Initiative. (Photo: Peter Carr/The Journal News)

Ed Doyle, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Westchester and Putnam Counties, an organization made up of several union locals working on the bridge, said safety has been one of the Tappan Zee Constructors’ main focuses.

“All their managers, their foremen, everybody, they’re all watching what’s going out there,” he said. “It’s great for us. It’s so easy to get hurt, especially on a big (project) like that.”

Project officials said they and the Thruway Authority will work to further raise awareness about safety throughout the week.

Cobelli said the topic should be the top priority for construction firms.

“All of us has someone we care about waiting and counting on us when we get home,” he said. “Everyone deserves the right to go home in the same condition they that they came to work in.”