Adding Safety to Green: PTD Credit Presents Great Opportunity

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently approved a prevention through design (PTD) pilot credit that aims to support high-performance cost-effective employee safety and health outcomes across the building life cycle through early attention to safety and health hazards. “This is a long-awaited and important step for PTD implementation in the U.S. and for the recognition of the importance that workplace safety and health has in the sustainability movement,” says Michael Behm, Ph.D., CSP, an associate professor in occupational safety at East Carolina University. Behm has written often on the subject and is a long-time advocate of efforts to incorporate PTD as a way to improve safety.

The credit positively impacts NIOSH’s National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Construction Sector r2p goal 13.3.2, which states, “[W]ithin 4 to 6 years, develop methods to utilize the USGBC Leadership in the Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system and the sustainability movement to implement CHPTD (Construction Hazards PTD).” The NORA Construction Sector Council formed a Safe Green Jobs work group in 2011 to help inform NIOSH and help shape the credit, Behm explains. Since then, the NIOSH Office of Construction Safety and Health has been working with USGBC to craft and implement
the credit.

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The credit includes two specific safety and health reviews. One is a safe design review aimed at building operations and maintenance; the second is a safety constructability review. “The crux of the credit is that these reviews are initiated beginning in predesign and continuing throughout the design phases,” Behm says, adding that EHS professionals must be ready to work with design teams and provide assistance in anticipating hazards and risks throughout a building’s life cycle. “This is a shift in thinking,” Behm explains. “The profession is expert at identifying hazards, but now must become adept at anticipating potential hazards and risks. PTD presents a great opportunity to realize the efficacy of the hierarchy of controls and the ability to utilize the higher-order controls of avoid, eliminate, substitute and engineering.”

Behm also notes that a significant amount of practice and research underpins this credit. “ASSE has taken leadership in recognizing the importance of workplace safety within the sustainability movement, and the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability is a major development.”

Behm is the coauthor of two publications that offer readers more information on this topic:

“Green and Safe: Why Not Both?” a presentation by Behm and Neil Silins at ASSE’s Safety 2011 conference; it is available to registered users of ASSE’s BOK.

“Prevention Through Design and Green Buildings: A U.S. Perspective on Collaboration,” by Behm, Thomas Lentz, Donna Heidel and John Gambatese. It was featured in Blueprints, a publication of ASSE’s Construction Practice Specialty, as a reprint from the CIB W099 2009 International Conference in Melbourne.