Green Jobs: Safety & Health Outlook for Workers - A view from under the Hard Hat

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CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training

Summary Statement

This presentation provides information on green construction and the potential impact on worker health and safety.
April 1, 2010

building construction trades dept. logoApril 1, 2010
Frances Perkins Building Auditorium
U.S. Department of Labor
Washington, D.C.

  • Insulators & Asbestos Workers
  • Boilermakers
  • Bricklayers
  • Carpenters
  • Plasterers & Cement Masons
  • Electrical Workers
  • Ironworkers
  • Painters & Allied Trades
  • Plumbers & Pipe Fitters
  • Roofers
  • Sheet Metal Workers
  • Elevator Constructors
  • Laborers
  • Teamsters
  • Operating Engineers

Number and percentage of construction establishments and employees, by establishment size, 2007 (Payroll establishments)

Establishment size
(number of employees
Number of establishments % of all establishments Total number of employees % of all employees
1 to 9 660,454 81.4% 1,711,260 23.5%
10 to 19 78,957 9.7% 1,057,733 14.6%
20 to 99 63,309 7.8% 2,457,313 33.8%
100 to 499 8,176 1.0% 1,481,955 20.4%
500 or more 556 0.1% 559,622 7.7%
Total 811,452 100.00% 7,267,833 100.00%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau: County Business Patterns, 2007

What is Green (in construction?)

  • Building upgrades for older homes / apartments

    • Windows / doors / insulation

window installer

  • Wind turbine erection

wind turbine blade

Are Green Jobs Safer?

  • No statistical difference between green and non-green projects in terms of construction worker safety and health.
    Source: Rajendran / Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, October 2009

USGBC says occupants are healthier and more productive in LEED buildings

leadership in energy and environmental design award ot U.S. Green Building Council

But what about the builders . . . ?

energy star logo

The LEED Building

  • Designed to:

    • Reduce energy consumption
    • Reduce water consumption
    • Reduce CO2 output
    • Improve indoor air quality
    • Improve resources stewardship

high rise building construciton

Harold Billingsley, Ironworker

Fatal construction accidents on the strip

“How many construction site deaths should there be to make a building ‘not green’ regardless of the environmental benefits?”

How can safety be designed into Green Jobs?

  • There currently is a blind spot in sustainable design practice when it comes to worker safety and health.
  • Tremendous focus is placed on materials, energy and the environment, but designers typically give little, if any, consideration to the safety and health of the people who install the green features or build the projects.

Source: Gambatese /

NIOSH’s Top Compelling Activities

  • #3 – Include OSH into green and sustainable standards as they are being updated
  • #4 – Include OSH in procurement and construction
  • #6 – Integrate safety and health into green elements of contractor specificaitons
  • #9 – Develop, validate and disseminate a LEED-like OSHA rating system

We can quantify

LEED rates jobs on:

  • Sustainable sites
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental air quality
  • Innovation and design

So let US rate jobs on:

  • Owner commitment to safety
  • Safety and health professionals/contracts
  • Safety and health planning
  • Training and education
  • Employee involvement

There is a tool in development to do this

LEED-like OSH rating system

LEED-like OSH rating system

LEED-like OSH rating system

Project Team Selection

  • Owner uses past safety performance when selecting a contractor
  • General uses past safety performance when selecting subs
  • Owner chooses designer with experience / knowledge of worker safety & health

S & H in Contracts

  • Safety & Health requirements in contracts
  • Hazards identified in drawings
  • Specify less hazardous materials

S & H Professionals

  • Competent personnel for all high hazard tasks
  • Owner safety representative
  • General contractor safety representative
  • Sub-contractor safety representative

S & H Planning

  • Included during conceptual stage of project
  • Constructability review
  • Designing for worker safety and health
  • Life cycle safety design review
  • Safety checklist for designers
  • General and Subs site specific safety plan
  • Job hazard analysis
  • Pre-task planning
  • Look-ahead schedule
  • Traffic plans
  • Good housekeeping plan
  • PPE plan

Training and Education

  • Safety training for designers
  • Safety orientation for all workers
  • OSHA 10 for all workers
  • Safety training for field supervisors*

A Foreman’s Choice

  • Commercial building HVAC / energy upgrades

commercial hvac

construction installation


The effect of supervisory training on lost-time injury rates in construction

Construction Safety Association of Ontario - Study

Construction Safety Association of Ontario - Study

My recommendation for small employers with construction workers:

  • Plan for safety
  • Train your foremen
  • Train workers, especially new and inexperienced workers
  • Score yourself on how well you design your project from inception

Our recommendations to DOL / BLS & OSHA

As DOL/BLS proceeds in establishing a d fi iti f j b ” i ti l th t definition of “ green jobs,” it is essential that conserving our human resources receive the same consideration as conserving our natural resources.