Building LEED Homes Can Be Dangerous to Your Staff?

Study cites 50 percent more injuries among construction workers on LEED structures vs. traditional buildings, noting increased risk of electrical shock and ladder falls for lighting controls specifically.

By Jason Knott
February 23, 2012
Will working on a LEED home put your technicians in danger? Yes, says a new study on construction safety that shows there are 50 percent more injuries among construction workers on LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) projects than conventional structures.

The study, called “Identification of Safety Risks for High-Performance Sustainable Construction Projects,” from a researcher at the University of Colorado, uses anecdotal evidence to make its conclusion, according to an article from freelance journalist Katie Fraser that appear in the Architectural Record.

The most dangerous LEED-related tasks are installing sustainable roofing, PV panels and skylights. While "dumpster diving" on jobsite trash bins to retrieve renewable items that shouldn't have been tossed also adds to cuts, abrasions and lacerations.

In a letter to CE Pro, USGBC general counsel Susan Dorn calls the study "admittedly questionable" because all the results were only gathered in Colorado.

Specifically related to integrators, the synopsis of the data from the article suggests there is increased risk of injury from:
  • LEED Credit: Optimize Energy Performance
    Identified Risk:
    An increased risk of falling comes from more ladder time installing added wires and controls, and double caulking.
  • LEED Credit: On-Site Renewable Energy
    Identified Risk:
    Falls and overexertion are more likely from installing heavy PV panels, usually on the roof.
  • LEED Credit: Controllability of Systems—Lighting
    Identified Risk:
    Complex wiring associated with occupancy sensors and timing controls increase risk of electrical shock to workers. Additional time spent wiring these systems at heights increases the risk of falls.
  • LEED Credit: Daylight and Views: Daylight 75% of Spaces
    Identified Risk:
    Large skylights, windows or atriums increase time spent working near large, exposed openings at great heights.
The full study can be purchased here.

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