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The partnership between the Y-12 National Security Complex and UT is solving problems, increasing safety, and saving money.

Case in point: The number of people and vehicles on Bear Creek Road in Oak Ridge will increase by 20 percent during construction of Y-12’s Uranium Processing Facility (UPF), a 300,000-square-foot facility to replace existing outdated facilities. A project of this scope and magnitude, thought to be the largest in Tennessee history, has significant safety challenges as an additional 1,100 construction workers and their vehicles are expected to join 4,500 Y-12 employees on-site daily.

UPF Project Site Map
UPF Project Site Map. Photo Credit: B&W Y-12 Communication Services's UpFront Newsletter; Marla Vinson, editor.

Y-12 joined forces with UT’s Construction Industry Research and Policy Center (CIRPC) within the College of Business Administration to evaluate ways to maintain safety, allow workers to do their jobs, and not affect the welfare of the current workforce. CIRPC promotes the welfare of construction workers.

Y-12 and CIRPC performed a Prevention through Design (PtD) study on the ways to mitigate these increased risks. The study estimated traffic to the UPF site to include 172,000 trips by heavy construction vehicles combined with 4,600 light vehicles already on-site. This could result in work delays, vehicle-related injuries, and property damage.

The study confirmed that building a new overpass and utilizing a haul road would increase safety and reduce vehicle-related injury and property damage costs by as much as 300 percent during UPF construction.

The goal of PtD is to prevent or reduce occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities by including prevention considerations into designs that impact workers.

“Separating heavy trucks from light vehicles was a safety no-brainer,” said Senior Nuclear Safety Specialist Gary Hagan, UPF Environmental, Safety, and Health (ES&H) manager.

The overpass and haul road will prevent an estimated 123 vehicle-related injury and property damage incidents each year, while also allowing workers to move dirt and concrete more efficiently.

UT Liaison Debbie Reed helped get UT involved to expand the analysis and quantify the safety benefits to create a more comprehensive picture.

“This collaboration gives both Y-12 and UT the opportunity to observe the Prevention through Design theory in practice. It also gives the analysis more depth since it comes from an unbiased source,” Reed said.

As a doctoral candidate in the UT Department of Public Health and a member of the UPF ES&H Team, Jeffrey Miller was one of the main contributors to this study. “The customer requires that we integrate safety throughout the whole UPF project,” Miller said. “With PtD, safety is embedded from the beginning and will help us safely construct and operate the facility.”

“PtD is an emerging issue in construction safety,” Ed Taylor, CIRPC research director, said. “This project illustrates how it can be utilized in a manner to improve productivity and not increase costs.”

Researchers estimated that the overpass and haul road could save as much $19 million through improved productivity and reduced safety costs.

“With this collaboration with UT, we got a more accurate representation of the value of the construction project,” Miller said. “This is good for the customer and for US taxpayers.”

The PtD study proves that the construction of a haul road and overpass will save money by preventing injuries and improving efficiency.