Building for LEED Credits May Increase Risk of Worker Safety, Says Study

February 11, 2012

A new study says that some LEED credits might carry an additional risk of worker injury of up to 41 percent, writes Douglas Reiser on Sustainable Cities Collective. The study he cites published by the Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering Department at the University of Colorado Boulder, which finds that a number of LEED credit tasks carry potential risks.

The UCB professor behind the study and his team of researchers identified 14 LEED credentials that may create heightened risks to construction workers. Most notable risks include a perceived 41 percent higher risk associated with installing sustainable roofing, a perceived 37 percent increase in risk from installing PV panels for on-site renewable energy, a perceived 36 percent additional risk of cuts, abrasions and lacerations from construction waste management and perceived 32 percent heightened risk of falls from installing skylights and atriums to meet the daylight and views credit.

Reisner writes:

“The first thing that I must note is that the methodology behind this study appears to be a strong one. A well-crafted, well-sampled empirical study is about as good as you can get. Apparently, the USGBC agrees. Its spokesman, whose statement is provided in the article, agreed that the findings were troubling and that they were being taken under advisement by the USGBC.

“The really great part about this study was that the researchers didn’t just track down a problem – they made suggested solutions. Read through the article for suggestions on how to reduce chemical burns, reduce falls through prefabrication, and increase accountability through monitoring. In short, it’s a commendable list of reasonable recommendations that both owners and builders might want to consider requiring in specifications.”

These risks can possibly mean heightened liability risk for builders. Reisner adds:

“This information is out there now, and that means increased accountability for injury. Contractors should do their very best to consider implementing improvements in their building process. It might also be time to update your safety manual to ensure that your workers know that you intend to enforce these changes. Finally, train your project managers to actually enforce them.”