Cleveland, OH,
11:23 AM

Bob Gates has safety on his mind, all the time

It doesn’t matter if they’ll be digging dirt, pouring concrete or welding steel, Bob Gates wants the workers building our new hospital to start off doing the same job.

Unrolling some Scotch tape.

Gates wants them to find a photo of someone or something they love and to tape that picture inside the front of their hard hat.

“It could be a spouse, child, grandchild, pet, motorcycle, boat, vacation spot or winning lottery ticket – whatever’s important to you,” says Gates. “Every day, when you put on your hard hat, that picture goes in front of your eyes.

“It’s a constant reminder of why you want to work safe.”

Gates is Project Safety Manager for our Campus Transformation. The job description? “I’m responsible for the safety of everyone who comes on this jobsite,” he says, reciting it like an oath.

It’s a serious responsibility, and Gates lives it. On a recent Tuesday morning, he was the easiest person to spot inside the Center for Campus Transformation, wearing a high-visibility yellow coat, hard hat, construction boots and, yes, safety glasses.

Inside the pockets of the coat and the vest underneath (also bright yellow), Gates has no fewer than five pairs of safety glasses, two sets of earplugs and three extra pairs of work gloves.

“When I see someone with their safety glasses around their neck, I’ll hand them a pair of glasses and say, ‘Now that your throat is protected, use these for your eyes.’”

He wants to get a glass eye and keep it a small box, so he can pull it out of his pocket anytime to show workers who aren’t wearing safety glasses what they can expect in their future.

Gates works for Donley’s, one of our construction partners. He just wrapped up an assignment leading site safety for the construction of the new Cleveland Clinic/CWRU Health Education Campus. MetroHealth’s new hospital will be his full-time job for the next few years.

He has more than 40 years of experience in the field. He’s worked in greenhouses, on boilers, in factories, steel mills, chemical plants, NASA facilities – he’s even helped install a safety system for workers on the roof of one of the U.S. Senate office buildings in Washington.

He will lead safety orientations and ongoing training for every one of the 2,000-or-so workers who will cycle on and off our Campus Transformation project over the next three years. Everyone who goes through the orientation will earn a special hard-hat sticker. No one without one will be allowed on the site unaccompanied.

Gates is no-nonsense, but he wants to avoid a top-down safety culture. Instead, he is deputizing workers.

“Once they go through orientation, they are our newest front-line safety representatives,” he says. “They’re out there all day long. It’s their right and responsibility to speak up and stop an unsafe act.

“I tell everybody that they are their best safety person. If it doesn’t look right, feel right, smell right, if the hair on the back of their neck is standing up because you’re leaning out over something a bit too far, take a step back and refocus on what you’re doing.”

Along with promoting safety and preventing accidents, he is also creating plans and procedures if a serious situation does occur during construction. Fire crews have already done at least one practice run to see how and where they’d stage equipment if called on the scene. Gates plans to repeat those simulations often.

He’s also looking forward to working and communicating closely with MetroHealth Police Chief Frank Bova and EMS Coordinator David Yarmesch, especially once excavation of the site begins.

Still, the goal is prevention.

“We want to keep our people here, not over there,” he says, gesturing in the direction of the emergency department.

“I want to put the human aspect on this,” he adds. “Everyone wants to go home at the end of the day to who or what they love.”

When asked who that is for him, Gates points to a photo of his wife of 12 years, Marianne, in his arms.

It’s taped inside his hard hat.

About the MetroHealth System

Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through five hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers. Each day, our nearly 9,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable healthcare — through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services — that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers. For more information, visit