If the jobsite for a green building isn't any safer than the jobsite for a conventional building, is something missing from our definition of "green"? That is the question raised by a new study, "Impact of Green Building Design and Construction on Worker Safety and Health," published in October in the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management. The authors--two university professors and a safety supervisor with the Hoffman Construction Company in Portland, Oregon, went hunting for any statistical difference in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable and lost time injury and illness data for green and nongreen projects. The number of projects surveyed, 86 (38 green and 48 nongreen) is modest but impressive, considering the difficulty in extracting data from firms. Nine of 15 firms surveyed supplied data. For statistics geeks, the study reveals some suggestive tidbits, but bottom line? "There appears to be little or no difference between green and nongreen projects in terms of construction worker safety and health." Greener projects, as measured by LEED credits achieved (see graph) did not see a statistically significant reduction in safety incidents. The authors conclude:
Because no difference in safety performance is experienced, LEED projects are perhaps sustainable environmentally but not sustainable in terms of worker safety and health. The writers believe that, similar to end-user safety and health, construction workers safety and health must be considered if a project is to be labeled as sustainable.Should LEED and other green building efforts pay more attention to worker safety? Some argue that social justice as a wider cause is under-represented in our definitions of green building, as explored in this provocative Environmental Building News feature article (requires BuildingGreen.com membership). What do you think? Please leave your comments below. Thanks to a note on the Society of Building Science Educators listserv for mentioning this study.
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