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Study explores safety of green building projects

From technology and manufacturing to agriculture and finance, we are often at the forefront of major industry shifts in California. One industry in particular that has undergone a significant shift here in the Golden State over the past few years is construction. Specifically, more and more builders are now converting to "green" or environmentally friendly projects. However, did you know that these projects present an elevated risk of decreased productivity, and the incurrence of both workers' compensation defense costs and large fines?

According to a recently published study in the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, construction workers on green building projects have an elevated risk of suffering serious work injuries, including lacerations, sprains/strains and falls from heights.

The researchers arrived at this conclusion by undertaking eight case studies of construction projects that earned the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. They also conducted interviews with multiple contractors with significant experience, including taking part in the construction of at least four LEED projects.

What did they determine?

Researchers made the following rather eye-opening discoveries about construction workers on LEED projects:

  • They are at an elevated risk of suffering serious work injuries because of non-traditional tasks
  • They work at greater heights for longer periods of time (perhaps installing atria, solar panels, etc.)
  • They are 36 percent more likely to suffer lacerations, sprains and strains because of construction materials
  • They are 19 percent more likely to suffer eyestrain when installing reflective materials on roofs

Interestingly, researchers indicated that the problem could likely be rectified by incorporating certain policies and procedures, including better construction site layout, the use of safer products and introduction of prefabrication.

"With proper layout of the worksite, recyclables can be sorted safely and efficiently. With properly scheduled breaks for hydration, a reflective roof doesn't have to mean trips to the hospital. And with proper fall protection solar panels can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels without risking workers' lives and limbs," said Peter Stafford, executive director of CPWR - the Center for Construction Research and Training, which was not affiliated with the study but which supported its findings.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

Source:

EHS Today, Laura Walter, "Green construction workers may face additional safety risks" Nov. 30, 2011

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