The number of construction workers on Pittsburgh International Airport’s new terminal will peak at approximately 1,500 by next summer. And James Kearns, the on-site lead paramedic for the Terminal Modernization Program, is there to keep all of them safe and healthy.
Kearns maintains the job site’s medical clinic, conducting substance abuse testing, contributing to daily orientation training and providing injury care and follow-up treatment to workers and site visitors. He is also trained in mental health first-aid and assists with wellness initiatives and non-work-related health concerns.
“Every person working the TMP is a safety representative and can bring concerns of any unsafe act to everyone’s immediate attention,” Kearns said. “With this strong safety culture, I feel everyone is doing their part to limit risk and, therefore, limit workplace injuries. We want everyone to go home the same way they came to work.”
Work on the TMP is in full swing, and with the foundation being poured, horizontal steel has been installed and construction has gone vertical. That adds new dimensions of safety concerns for the workforce.
Kearns’ services are covered by an “owner-controlled insurance program” that is owned by the Allegheny County Airport Authority. This type of insurance is widely used on public sector construction projects and capital improvement programs throughout the U.S. It consolidates insurance coverage for every on-site contractor, meaning they never pay out of pocket for care.
Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, Kearns has been a nationally registered paramedic for six years. Before working on the TMP, he served as a medic in the Ohio Army National Guard for eight years and in the emergency medicine field.
Kearns thinks the airport’s modernization is a natural progression that will strengthen what is offered to travelers while showcasing the city.
“I’m excited to work with a top-quality group of safety professionals that genuinely care about the project and the workforce,” Kearns said. “Their vision continues to enhance the project’s growth and reduces risk. It’s exciting to be a part of Pittsburgh’s history and watch the project evolve daily.”
And because he is from Youngstown, Kearns often gets asked an important question in these parts: Steelers or Browns? He wants to set the record straight.
“I’m actually neither. I’m a huge Seattle Seahawks fan, and I was blessed to be able to see a regular-season game in Pittsburgh.”