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New Research Reveals the Safety Hazards of Green Building

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“Right now we’re trying to understand where the leverage points are within the rating system for opportunities that will allow us to make it better,” says Owens. “If we can become better informed about risks involved, we can improve the requirements of the rating systems and enhance safety. This study is an initial step in that direction.”

Whether the findings of this study have surprised or validated opinions of individuals around the industry, Owens asserts that the information is useful for everyone to consider. “I really hope that people will be looking at this study and learning from it. That’s certainly what we’ll be doing.”

Katie Frasier is a freelance construction writer and social media specialist in charge of promoting jobsite safety. She has a background in magazine journalism and has previously written for a number of national publications.
Reach her at  Workboots.com <workboots.com> or e-mail: Katie@cat5.com.

Sidebar: Examples of Identifying and Reducing Risks


In addition to identifying the increased risks in building for LEED certification, Hallowell and his team followed up with a study (due to publish in February) that found suggested mitigations for the added risks. It’s important to note that though these are listed under the LEED credential the construction methods meet, many of these risks are not unique to green building. Prevention efforts can also be applied to construction of traditional buildings that might incorporate one or more of these elements.

LEED Credit: Brownfield Redevelopment

Identified Risk: Extensive earthwork operations create a higher risk of falling or collapsing and hazards from the disposal of contaminants.

Suggested Mitigation: Workers could use impermeable plastic liners in the beds of heavy equipment and thoroughly wash all equipment at the end of each workday to reduce contamination.

LEED Credit: Stormwater Quality Control

Identified Risk: Workers have an increased risk of falling from increased excavation and trenching.

Suggested Mitigation: Designing detention ponds with gradual slopes to avoid steep embankments may help reduce risk of falling. Contractors could plan concurrent tasks away from the excavation.

LEED Credit: Heat Island Effect—Roof

Identified Risk: White roofing options can be heavier and slipperier than traditional black roofing material, which increases the risk for overexertion and falls. The bright material can interrupt line of sight and increase the risk of slips and falls during installation.

Suggested Mitigation: Tan or light gray membranes could be used to decrease reflectivity, or contractors could require tinted eyewear. Rubber walkpads could be provided for added traction, and contractors could purchase a greater number of smaller rolls to avoid overexertion from weight.

LEED Credit: Innovative Wastewater Technologies

Identified Risk: Risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals comes from construction a dual waste water system from installing additional piping.

Suggested Mitigation: Contractors might require non-polyester gloves and respiratory protection and employ extensive quality-control measures.

LEED Credit: Optimize Energy Performance

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