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.
The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.
The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.
As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.
Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.
The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.