Program Director for the Estates Development Division within the Infrastructure and Operations Group of La Trobe University
Can you please describe the importance you as a client placed on safety throughout the life of the project and how you made this importance known to the head contractor?
Safety is a critical part of delivering projects at La Trobe University. We have detailed WHS requirements that we strictly enforce with our consultants and builders. Safety is not just words, it is actions. We conducted “Safety-in-Design” workshops with our consultants and users during the design phase, we included detailed WHS requirements into our contracts and tendering assessment criteria and we mandated that independent quarterly OHS audits be conducted on our building sites. The builder always knew we were serious about safety because we required they follow-up on any issues that were identified in the quarterly WHS audits and any incident reports. We also pestered the builder to make sure they always reported on the status of OHS at their fortnightly site meetings.
How did you involve yourself with the ongoing project delivery?
I attended design/user group meetings, I was part of the consultant and contractor tender panels and I attended builder’s site meetings. I also presented the monthly Project Control Group (PCG) Report to our La Trobe Rural Health School (LRHS) PCG.
What was the biggest safety challenge for the project and how did you and the accredited contractor overcome it?
The biggest safety challenge was scheduling construction works around normal University operations on Campus. The safety of our staff and students were paramount. We required that builder submit Request to interfere with services or safety conditions (RISC) forms to us well in advance of when particularly disruptive works were to occur. The form would outline the extent of works, safety procedures, contacts and timeframes that were likely to disrupt University business. We then made sure that the affected Faculties and Administration groups were given due notice about the works. The builder was also required to be inducted into our WHS system before starting works on-site, including submission of a detailed WHS Plan. This meant that we had a systematic way of knowing what was going on, that it was being done safely and that staff and students were protected from the works.
What additional challenges exist for regional construction projects and how did you overcome them?
I work in Melbourne and the works were built in six different regional locations. While it was never perfect, the project team maintained very strong and detailed reporting and communication protocols. We travelled to the building sites regularly and we were never afraid to learn a lesson or two along the way.
Danielle has worked in the construction industry for over 20 years. She has delivered a range of capital projects over the years in Victoria, mostly in the public sector. She has spent most of her career as a consultant Project Manager and in recent years worked as a ‘client-side’ Project Manager. Notable past projects include the Planetarium at Scienceworks and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. She currently works for La Trobe University as a Project Director in the Infrastructure and Operations Group, delivering major projects for the University.
The La Trobe Rural Health School Project
The LRHS project’s vision was to enable significant growth in the rural health workforce and increase the applied health research capacity in Northern Victoria. The LRHS project was a program of works and delivered a 3,200m2 Clinical Teaching facility at the Bendigo Hospital Campus, a 2,300m2 Health Sciences teaching facility at the University’s Bendigo Campus, fit-out of anatomy and physiology laboratories at the Bendigo Campus, ten dental chairs at the Bendigo Health Campus and 286 student residential accommodation beds across six regional locations in Victoria. Significant project partners were Bendigo Health and Monash University’s Rural Health School. The project was funded by the Australian Government, La Trobe University and the Victorian Government.