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On a cool spring day - perfect baseball weather in downtown St. Louis - Chris Walters '84, '86, makes his rounds as Hunt Construction Group's safety manager at the new Busch Stadium. Trekking through massive hallways and rows of concession stands, he pauses on a lower-level deck to admire what is truly one of the best views in all of professional baseball.
"A lot of people are amazed at how much has been accomplished over the past two and one-half years," he said, gazing just beyond the centerfield wall. What holds his eye is a magnificent skyline, where the ballpark and city converge like a fine painting to expose the Old Courthouse and Gateway Arch glistening in the April sun.
Walters had the same view that nearly 41,000 Cardinals fans experienced for the first time when they watched their favorite team make its debut in the new stadium April 10.
Amid the considerable hoopla surrounding this season home opener, a handful of University of Central Missouri graduates had reasons of their own to celebrate. Their dedication to safety helped the $344 million-plus project stay on schedule and on budget with barely any loss of time due to accidents.
Hunt Construction Group is known across the United States for its work on stadium projects, including the new retractable-roof Arizona Cardinals Stadium, which opens in August. The company recently broke ground on new stadiums also for the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Nationals.
Walters, who has worked on numerous large-scale construction projects, was hired by the company as safety manager in 2003. In that capacity, he has overseen all the environmental safety, health and security issues for the new Busch Stadium. This includes working with safety professionals from numerous subcontracting firms that handle everything from steel and concrete work to pipefitting, mechanical processes and demolition.
|Hunt Construction credits UCM graduates Chris Walters and his assistant Joe Enright for helping to establish one of the best safety programs in the industry. The company’s lost-time injury rate building Busch Stadium was 82 percent below the national average.|
"I kind of act as coach and go-between to make sure that all the safety issues are taken care of. If there are accidents, I am responsible for claims administration," Walters said.
He estimates that about 2.5 million hours of labor will have been spent on the stadium by the time it is completed in mid-summer. Considering this statistic, the potential for accidents is high. Walters emphasizes that outstanding cooperation from all of the crafts and trades personnel helped provide the safest working environment possible.
"One of the things we have been able to accomplish is keeping our lost-time accidents down to five. That is all we have had during the past two and one-half years," Walters said. "That puts us at approximately 82 percent below the national average for OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)."
He pointed out that Hunt voluntarily entered a partnership with OSHA, which does periodic site visits to monitor safety procedures. In doing so, he crossed paths with another UCM graduate, Bill McDonald, who earned a bachelor's degree in industrial hygiene in 1989. As OSHA's area director, McDonald oversees 16 compliance officers working in the state.
"We're mostly an enforcement agency, and this is a pro-active effort. We just make sure that they do what we ask in the partnership," McDonald said. He indicated that typical on-the-job injuries in the heavy construction field often relate to falls, electrical mishaps and workers being struck by moving equipment and materials. Sometimes, they happen due to cave-ins during excavation.
"We really only had three serious injuries during the building of this stadium, and we feel like that was a tremendous accomplishment. One of these injuries occurred prior to the signing of the partnership," McDonald added.
Looking at a series of construction photos, Walters noted some of the challenges workers encountered. One of the largest obstacles followed the 2005 playoffs and World Series when crews demolished the original Busch Stadium, the Cardinals' home for the past 40 years. They had to tear down and clear the old facility, then finish building the rest of the new stadium with only six months to opening day.
"From October 2005 until April 10 (2006), we worked seven days a week, 24 hours a day," Walters said.
To help oversee this massive project, he called on a longtime friend and former colleague, Joe Enright of St. Louis, to serve as assistant safety manager. Enright, who earned a master's degree in industrial safety from UCM in 1979, oversaw the evening work.
A 39-year safety field veteran, Enright noted that when the old Busch Stadium was being demolished, some fans tried to take home souvenirs — seats, bricks, pieces of concrete — anything they could carry away. Walters and Enright had to step up the security force to 27 people to help curtail theft and to keep individuals from getting hurt on the construction site.
"One of the challenges was keeping Redbird fans out while we were building. A lot of people wanted to come in and look at it… Toward the end, some were even trying to break in," Enright said.
Joining in different safety aspects of the stadium project have been St. Louis area residents and UCM graduates: John Malone, senior safety manager at AT&T; Enrico Garavaglia, general foreman for Stovey Company; and Marshall Baluk, Laclede Gas. The number of UCM alumni who helped to build Busch Stadium does not surprise Malone, who has overseen the installation of low-voltage electronic and telecommunications equipment.
As he pointed out, "There are a lot of good safety programs around the United States, but UCM kind of has a monopoly in Missouri. It's interesting when you are looking for jobs, half the people you'll wind up working for went to Central Missouri State."
The Department of Safety Sciences currently offers bachelor's degrees in crisis and disaster management, safety management, occupational safety and health; graduate degrees in occupational safety management and industrial hygiene; and minors in safety, fire science and security.
A lifelong Cardinals fan, Garavaglia said building the stadium was a special thrill. He credits his UCM degree in industrial safety for his career — plus something he didn't expect — lifelong friendships.
"There were six of us who went to Warrensburg from St. Louis. We still get together every year the night before Thanksgiving. One guy comes from Alaska and another from Kansas City," he said. "We've done that religiously for the last 30 years."
— Jeff Murphy '76 hs, '80, '95