Contractors Continue Safety Transition from Hard Hats to Helmets

Contractors Continue Safety Transition from Hard Hats to Helmets

By KERRY SMITH, St. Louis Construction News and Review Magazine

Although OSHA regulations do not yet mandate it, a growing number of commercial contractors are making the transition from hard hats to helmets as an investment in heightened jobsite safety.

McCarthyHoldings,Inc. is preparing to complete the transition from standard hard hats to helmets for all trade partners on the firm’s construction sites. This comes as an extension to McCarthy’s 2022 transition to helmets for its more than 6,000 salaried and craft employees. The contractor’s proactive decision is expected to significantly reduce the impact and lessen the frequency of future injuries and accidents. On July 1, McCarthy will begin requiring all trade partners to wear helmets.

Clayco’s subsidiary, Concrete Strategies, is continuing a pilot effort it began in the spring of 2021 is doing a pilot to replace hard hats with helmets in the field. 

Trade associations are also following suit. The American Society of Concrete Contractors – the nation’s nonprofit association for cast-in-place concrete contractors – says momentum is gaining nationally to replace traditional hard hats with helmets.

From a cost standpoint, the expenditure is approximately 10 times more. Contractor helmets range from $100 to $125 apiece, compared with hard hats which cost $10 to $15 each. But the long-term safety benefits are clear, according to OSHA’s Scott Ketcham, who oversees the agency’s Directorate of Construction.

“Helmets attach more closely to the head with built-in chin straps and have little to no brim around the edge,” Ketcham said. “There is protective padding inside the helmet as well. Hard hats protect against injury from falling objects, but helmets also protect against blows from the side. They are more likely to remain in place during falls, trips and slips.”

Over time, the hard hat’s polyethylene shells are subject to weakening from substances such as paints, paint thinners and some cleaning agents, he added. While hard hats are tested to withstand a force of 1,000 pounds – equivalent to an eight-pound ball dropped from a height of five feet onto the top of the hard hat – construction safety helmets protect against greater impact from above and from the side, according to OSHA.

Helmets also offer workers increased protection from electrocution and noise.

In 2017, Clark Construction became one of the first contractors to require employees to wear helmets instead of hard hats. An increase in falls and traumatic brain injuries prompted the company to make the switch.

Commerce Bank Tower Clayton Completed


Commerce Bank is celebrating the completion of Commerce Bank Tower, a 250,000-plus-square-foot, Class A+ office building at the corner of Forsyth Boulevard and North Meramec Avenue in Clayton.

The bank and project partners hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 4. In attendance were Commerce Bancshares President and CEO John Kemper, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and Clayton Mayor Michelle Harris.

McCarthy is the builder, with Christner Architects as the designer. Equipped with a green roof and electric vehicle charging stations in parking garage of more than 1,200 spaces, the structure is built to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

The tower is 15 stories of glass with 10 floors of office and 7,200 square feet of first floor retail space. Amenities include a one-acre garden terrace on the sixth floor, ground floor retail space and tenant access to a 7,500-square-foot fitness facility.

“The opening of the Commerce Bank Tower is an exciting opportunity to support the growth of the region and our investment in the future of the St. Louis community,” said Commerce Bank St. Louis Chairman and CEO Bob Holmes. “With more than 50 years’ experience serving businesses, individuals and families across the region, we committed to building more than just a modern workspace for our team. Commerce Bank Tower is a space for like-minded companies to bring innovative ideas to life for the benefit of the region.”

McCarthy Tops Off Forsythe Pointe with Green Roof

June 20, 2022, ST. LOUIS – McCarthy Building Companies has secured in place one of the last steel beams to complete the framing of Forsyth Pointe, a nearly one-million-square-foot mixed use development occupying an entire square city block in the prestigious central business district of Clayton, Mo., the county seat of St. Louis County.

The development by US Capital Development features two steel-framed, all glass Class A office towers with street-level retail space offering spectacular views of the adjacent 30-acre Shaw Park.

Highlights include Commerce Bank Tower, a 10-story, 265,000-sq.-ft. high-rise at the intersection of Forsyth Blvd. and Meramec Ave., as well as an 8-story, 210,000-sq.-ft. west tower at the intersection of Forsyth Blvd. and Brentwood Blvd.  In addition, the development includes more than 20,000 sq. ft. of street-level retail space and a 7-level (1,250 car) parking structure connecting both towers and extending 2.5 levels underground.

Designed to achieve LEED Silver certification, a signature amenity will be the 45,000-sq.-ft. (over one-acre)  “green roof” open-air garden terrace built over the parking structure that will be available for tenants to enjoy. Additional amenities include plans for a 10,000-sq.-ft. fitness center and ground-floor arts and entertainment venue.

St. Louis Construction Women Increasing in Numbers, Responsibilities



As the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) prepares to celebrate Women in Construction Week March 6-12, local NAWIC chapters and their members are also championing the women who work in their offices and on their jobsites every day.

This year’s Women in Construction Week theme is Envision Equity.

“WIC Week gives chapters nationwide the opportunity to shine a bright light on the construction industry and women’s very important place in it,” said National NAWIC Executive Director Crissy Ingram. “There has long been a culture of construction that is only for men. If we can get the women who have worked past that barrier out of the shadows and into the spotlight, they can show other women – no matter their age or background – that there are countless opportunities for them in the industry.”

National NAWIC President Doreen Bartoldus agrees. “WIC Week brings awareness to the great success women are achieving in every aspect of the industry,” she said. “It will also hopefully influence the next generation to join our ranks after seeing construction can be a great career for women.”

McCarthy Building Companies is an active NAWIC St. Louis Chapter #38 member. The local chapter formed in 1960, seven years after 16 women working in construction founded the national NAWIC.

Perhaps McCarthy’s best example of its advocacy for women in construction is its all-woman project team of five that is working on the design-build of Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s 16-story tower on South Kingshighway Boulevard. The new inpatient tower is a major component of BJC’s Campus Renewal, a long-term vision to transform the Washington University Medical Campus.

What stands out most about this team of women, say McCarthy executives, is the diversity of their roles and responsibilities: project administrator, project engineer, virtual design and construction manager, carpenter foreman and office manager. The team has formed its own project-specific group known as Women Building BJC.

Although S. M. Wilson & Co. doesn’t currently have an all-woman project team, the firm is a strong advocate for employing women in all facets of construction. President Amy Berg says the contractor was recognized by the Women’s Foundation of Greater St. Louis (in 2021) as one of 21 St. Louis employers demonstrating excellence in four areas of workplace gender equity: leadership, compensation, flexible work policies, and recruitment and retention.

S. M. Wilson initiated Wilson Women three years ago as a way to support women working in the field, in the office and remotely.

“Being a woman in an industry predominantly and historically pursued by men does not have to be the incredible struggle it was decades ago,” Berg said. “Fortunately, women have pioneered their way into most construction-related careers. I’m proud to serve as president of a company committed to an inclusive work environment and a place where females can thrive.” Twenty-seven percent of the firm’s employees and 18 percent of its leadership are female.

In 2019, S. M. Wilson launched Wilson Women as a means of bringing together female employees for relationship building, community service, mentorship, networking and learning opportunities.

McCarthy, Castle Say 97-acre Next NGA West Project Graded, on Schedule



St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Companies and Castle Contracting provided an update Wednesday on the progress that has occurred on the North St. Louis site of the future western headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Next NGA West.

McCarthy VP of Operations Jeff Boyer said the construction schedule has not been impacted by COVID-19 so far because the project itself has involved a limited number of on-site workers. He added that the type of work performed – which requires using heavy equipment – naturally supports social distancing.

Design work, typically involving collaboration, is also proceeding on schedule thanks to remote collaboration via a number of technological applications. The facility’s design itself, Boyer said, has not been altered. Protocols currently inspired and augmented by COVID-19 may well be different five years hence once the NGA’s St. Louis staff of 3,150 workers moves into the new headquarters in 2025. According to Boyer, McCarthy HITT is committed to keeping construction of Next NGA West on track for completion in 2023. The span of time between substantial completion and the move-in of personnel will be spent on NGA instrumentation and commissioning of the facility for operation.

Castle Contracting LLC VP of Operations Mike Pranger said the site, located at the intersection of Jefferson and Cass Avenues in the historic St. Louis Place neighborhood, has provided a healthy challenge in terms of subsurface exploration and geotechnical work because records of what existed – utility locations and more – are incomplete. Castle mass graded and moved more than 775,000 cubic yards of dirt to clear and level the site for construction. Subsurface utility mapping technology, he added, has played a major role in locating underground utility lines, piping and other digging hazards. The technology includes sophisticated geophysical, geomatics and design software tools to accurately locate underground infrastructure before it can potentially delay a construction project.

The $1.7 billion construction project is being managed by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and being built by McCarthy HITT Joint Venture, with oversight by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Air Force.

For more information on the project, see

First Visuals of Future St. Louis NGA Campus Revealed by Corps of Engineers, McCarthy



The first renderings of what the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s future St. Louis headquarters will look like were made public April 9 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the NGA.

Renderings from the newly selected joint venture construction team of McCarthy HITT show the look of the Next NGA West campus, to be located on a 97-acre site in the St. Louis Place neighborhood at Jefferson and Cass avenues in north St. Louis.

Estimates by the Corps indicate that as many as 1,300 workers per day will be on site daily at the massive construction project’s peak in 2022. The Corps also estimates that approximately 5,000 construction jobs will be created during the 5-year overall project, which is scheduled to begin in early 2020. Main campus construction is expected to reach completion in 2023, with the entire project anticipated to wrap up in 2025.

McCarthy HITT was announced March 19 as the winning joint venture selected to build the agency’s new headquarters. McCarthy HITT’s contract of $711.7 million – part of approximately $1.7 billion in total – includes construction of the NGA’s main campus in St. Louis.

“McCarthy is pleased to have been selected, along with our partners (HITT, Black & Veatch Gensler JV and Akima, LLC) to build the NGA’s new state-of-the-art campus,” said Jeffery Boyer, vice president of operations for McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. and project executive for the McCarthy Hitt team. “As the largest federal investment project in St. Louis history, it is expected to have a tremendous regional impact in terms of expanding jobs, promoting economic development and strengthening our local community. Throughout the project we’ll be working closely with NGA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as many teams of trade partners, community organizations and others.”

Next NGA West is the largest federal investment in St. Louis history.

McCarthy Rebuilds Busy Danforth Campus Intersections to Enhance Safety


By Kerry Smith, Editor, St. Louis Construction News & Review Magazine

St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Companies is doing work to improve the busy Danforth Campus intersections of Forsyth & Skinker Boulevards and Forsyth Boulevard & Hoyt Drive to enhance safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

The two intersections are major access points on the southeastern end of campus.

The multi-phase infrastructural projects, set to wrap up this fall, are part of the university’s overall $240 million Campus Next initiative, specifically the East End Transformation Project, the school’s largest capital project ever undertaken on the Danforth Campus. No detailed cost information was available for the intersection work.

At Forsyth & Skinker, a right-turn lane and new traffic signaling is being added for vehicles traveling east on Forsyth, McCarthy Project Director Ryan Moss said, along with safety upgrades to bicycle and pedestrian crosswalks.

At Forsyth & Hoyt, a traffic signal will be installed.

“At busy intersections like these, there are a number of stakeholders impacted by the sidewalk closures and lane drops,” said Moss, project director with McCarthy, construction manager on the intersection projects as well as for the overall East End Transformation effort. “Coordination between many entities was required to keep pedestrian and vehicular traffic moving while also completing the necessary work.”

Philadelphia-based KieranTimberlake, Alexandria-based Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd. and St. Louis-based civil engineering firm Cole are additional project partners.

Jane Kojima, director of communications for Facilities Planning & Management at Washington University in St. Louis, said construction work on both projects is on schedule for completion this fall.

“Enhanced visibility of these crosswalks, the marking of bikeways, decreased pedestrian crosswalk distances and the coordination of vehicular traffic flow and pedestrian movements are all part of what we’re doing at these Forsyth Boulevard intersections near the entrance to campus,” Kojima said. “We’re working closely with the cities of St. Louis and Clayton, as well as in consultation with the city of St. Louis’ Department of Parks, Recreation, and Forestry and Forest Park Forever.”

Mercy Hospital Joplin, Constructed by St. Louis-Based McCarthy,is Honored with National Healthcare Award


The 890,000-sq.-ft. replacement hospital set the standard in tornado readiness and continues
to influence building resiliency strategies.

Mercy Hospital Joplin earned the 2018 Vista Award from the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) of the American Hospital Association.

This national honor recognizes exceptional team collaboration and efficiency in designing and constructing the new $465 million, 205-room hospital after an EF-5 tornado demolished the original hospital in 2011. In addition to setting the standard in tornado readiness at the hospital level, the project was completed under budget and in less than half the time it would have taken for a comparable facility.

As construction manager, McCarthy Building Companies collaborated with architectural firms HKS, Inc. and Archimages, and MEP Engineer Heideman & Associates to design and construct the 890,000-sq.-ft. facility in an unprecedented 46 months.

“To meet the fast-track project schedule, McCarthy began construction just three months after starting design,” said McCarthy Project Director Ryan Felton. “We worked as a seamless team with our client located in Joplin and their corporate offices in St. Louis as well as our many consultants.”

The hospital includes a nine-story patient tower and five-story clinic tower. It houses units including medical surgical, critical care, women’s/children’s (labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum rooms), neonatal intensive care, behavioral health and rehab.

Prefabrication enabled McCarthy to accelerate the construction process. Headwalls and restroom walls for all patient rooms were constructed in a warehouse and installed later in the construction process. 

The hospital also incorporates numerous resiliency elements to help withstand another natural disaster and provide a safe environment for patients, staff and visitors.

“The team used lessons learned from the disaster and experience working in coastal regions to design and build a safer, more secure facility,” said Norman Morgan, AIA, Principal-in-Charge, HKS. “For example, we designed protected evacuation routes, incorporated high impact glass and protected critical systems throughout the hospital.”

Critical areas of the hospital, such as the emergency department and intensive-care unit, have windows rated to withstand 250 mph winds. High-impact, laminated glass was incorporated throughout the facility along with protected evacuation routes.

Connected to the hospital by a 450-foot underground tunnel is a 30,000-sq.-ft. central utility plant housing all mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. To protect critical hospital systems, the utility plant was built halfway below ground to limit exposure to the elements. The generator system enables the hospital to operate for 96 hours if power is lost. To create ease of access to the new hospital, McCarthy also built new entrance ramps, exit ramps and interchanges for the Missouri Department of Transportation, as well as a new road leading up to the facility.

“This world-class facility really paved the way for healthcare facilities to incorporate resiliency,” Ryan Felton said. “Our team developed best practices that continue be emulated by others going forward.”

The Vista awards were presented at the 2018 International Summit & Technical Exhibition on Health Care Planning, Design & Construction (PDC Summit) in Nashville, March 25-28, 2018.

McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. is the oldest privately held national construction company in the country – with more than 150 years spent collaborating with partners to solve complex building challenges on behalf of its clients. More information about the company is available online at or by following the company on  FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram and Google+.

McCarthy Breaks Ground on $25 Million Renovation of Macelwane Hall at Saint Louis University


Fast-track project will renovate science building previously damaged by fire and water.

McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. has broken ground on a $25 million renovation of Macelwane Hall, a four-story science building on the campus of Saint Louis University.

The 82,770-sq.-ft. project includes the complete renovation of all four floors of the facility after a May 2017 fire and subsequent water damage resulted in the temporary closure of the original building.

As construction manager, McCarthy will lead a team overseeing the comprehensive renovation of the structure into a state-of-the-art teaching and research environment that includes laboratories, classrooms and office space. The project will follow a fast-track, 13-month schedule to be completed in time for the spring 2019 semester that begins in January 2019.

Previously, McCarthy oversaw the fast-track conversion of a former charter elementary school into an interim science building to accommodate students, faculty and staff while Macelwane Hall remained closed. McCarthy completed that project in seven weeks to ensure the building would be available for the start of fall 2017 classes.

“We’re proud to continue our long-term partnership with Saint Louis University as we restore and enhance Macelwane Hall for the next generation of students and future scientists,” says Ryan Freeman, vice president at McCarthy Building Companies.

Designed for sustainability, the renovated building will exceed the city of St. Louis’ minimum energy code requirements through an energy upgrade that includes the replacement of windows and other green design and construction strategies.

The construction team will also employ advanced 3D technology, including building information modeling (BIM) and virtual design and construction (VDC).

“McCarthy is a reliable construction partner we can always count on to deliver maximum quality and efficiency,” said Dustin Montgomery, Assistant Director of Construction Services at Saint Louis University.

McCarthy’s previous experience working on the SLU campus includes the construction of the Center for Global Citiizenship, Morrissey Hall, Shannon Hall, Spring Hall residential tower, and exterior improvements to St. Francis Xavier College Church and DuBourg Hall.

Hastings + Chivetta is serving as architect on the Macelwane Hall renovation. Other project team members include 8760 Engineering (MEP engineer), CR2 Engineering (systems engineer), Alper Audi (structural engineer), Rock Hill Mechanical Corporation (mechanical design-build contractor), Guarantee Electric (electrical design-build contractor) and Gateway Fire Protection Systems (fire protection design-build contractor).

The project is anticipated to be completed in December 2018.

McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. is the oldest privately held national construction company in the country – with more than 150 years spent collaborating with partners to solve complex building challenges on behalf of its clients.

McCarthy Breaks Ground on $150 Million Expansion at Oklahoma Heart Hospital


Building team will leverage advanced technology to construct six-story Mercy hospital tower on OHH’s south campus.
McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. has broken ground on a $150 million expansion of Oklahoma Heart Hospital’s south campus in Oklahoma City. The project includes the addition of a six-story, 228,338-sq.-ft. Mercy hospital tower on the campus’ west side.

As construction manager, McCarthy will oversee construction of the new building, which encompasses 44 patient beds; eight cardiac care unit beds; a catheterization lab; two inpatient pharmacies; imaging, prep and surgery areas; a post-anesthesia care unit; a chapel; a lobby and registration area; and administration and shell space. The project also includes construction of surface parking, a helipad and a two-level, 180-space parking garage.

Both Oklahoma Heart Hospital and Mercy will share the facility, advancing a 15-year partnership between the two healthcare organizations.

“Since the Oklahoma Heart Hospital South opened in 2010, the demand for health care has grown substantially,” said Dr. John R. Harvey, president and chief executive officer of Oklahoma Heart Hospital.

“We will now be able to offer patients a wider range of services as our partnership with Mercy continues.”

“We are always looking for ways to meet the growing health care needs of our community,” said David Whitaker, chief administrative officer of Mercy in Oklahoma. “As more people move south, we can better accommodate them by providing the same level of care they already know and trust.”