The Story of How UPenn’s Risk Manager Ben Evans Kept Hundreds of Construction Workers Safe and Brought Health Care to Thousands

Risk manager Ben Evans' prioritization of safety during UPenn's Pavilion project earned him a 2022 Risk All Star award.
By: | July 25, 2022

The University of Pennsylvania has preserved its status of delivering top-notch medical services for more than 200 years, and its development of its Pavilion project is no exception.

The Pavilion, designed to expand Penn Medicine’s delivery of care capabilities, is the largest construction project the university’s ever undertaken. Coupled with its scope, the Pavilion was constructed in the heart of Philadelphia, with operating hospitals and other facilities surrounding the site.

Adding to the risk exposures, the project employed hundreds of construction workers, and it was imperative to ensure their safety was maintained from the project’s beginning to completion. It was an undertaking fraught with risk, but when the Pavilion opened in October 2021, UPenn’s associate vice president of risk management & insurance, Ben Evans, demonstrated he was the right man for the job.

The extensiveness and intensity of the project meant that Evans and his team had to consistently check boxes throughout the Pavilion’s five-year construction period. To provide cohesive leadership, UPenn decided to utilize an integrated project delivery, or IPD, approach, which allowed the entire project to be insured under one policy.

“[This project] was the first time that Penn had gone down that road,” Evans said. “There was one policy, one set of liability limits available to all insureds … From the start there was an understanding that there would be no finger pointing, we would all be rowing in the same direction.”

The Pavilion project also introduced something new to Evans personally and professionally, which was the incorporation of an owner-controlled insurance program (OCIP), “under which Penn Medicine purchased liability and workers’ compensation insurance for all enrolled contractors,” per Evans’ Risk All Star application.

Of course, both the IPD and OCIP could not have thrived without protecting the safety of all involved with the project, specifically those working day in and day out at the site itself. Evans took this initiative on personally.

In fact, Evans coined the initiative “March to Zero,” which was a goal for the project to have zero incidents or accidents for the duration of construction. Safety was an element Evans both prioritized and respected.

“There was never a moment during this project where I was not in communication with the construction management leadership team, the foremens, etc.,” Evans said. In fact, Evans would take weekly visits to the site itself to ensure that all safety protocols were being upheld, and if needed, improved.

“We’ve been doing OCIPs for 30 years, and we’ve never had an owner who walked [through the site] each week with us, let alone for six years,” said Tom Morrin, senior vice president of Graham Company, who partnered with Penn Medicine to complete the Pavilion.

“There was no better message for the contractors of how important safety was.” &

Every year, Risk & Insurance selects deserving candidates to become Risk All Stars. These are risk managers who, through their perseverance, passion and creativity, make a big difference to the stability of their organizations.

See all the 2022 Risk All Star Winners here.

Emma Brenner is a staff writer with Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected].

More from Risk & Insurance