ISHN

Counting the many ways safety is going green (1/22)

January 22, 2010

As businesses, schools and communities go green, American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) occupational safety and health professional members are working with their organizations to incorporate safety practices in line with green initiatives, according to an ASSE press release.

A recent ASSE Hospitality Branch report noted, “While greening efforts eliminate or reduce some traditional risks, they may increase existing risks or introduce new ones for workers”. To address this issue, the ASSE Chicago chapter is providing educational work safety programs for the “Chicagoland Green Collar Jobs Initiative” while other ASSE members share their greening experiences with the society.

In the ASSE white paper “Safety Implications of Going Green”, editor Fay Feeney, CSP, ARM, of California, noted, “based on our experience in greening, we see success when executive leadership brings together sound financials along with people considerations, their safety and health impact, and consequences, in greening decisions. Safety, health and environmental professionals have a broad range of capabilities, skills and experience to assist in developing effective and profitable greening programs.”

ASSE Chicago members Allen Borzych and Neil Silins, LEED AP, (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) through the chapter’s Outreach Committee, are assisting in developing effective and profitable greening programs. They are providing safety, health and environmental (SH&E) training to students in the “Chicagoland Green Collar Jobs Initiative”, an organization aimed at “developing a skilled workforce ready to meet employer demands in the new green market and to capture new employment opportunities for Chicagoland low-skilled individuals,” according to the ASSE press release.

“We contribute our time to those in need,” ASSE Chicago Chapter Chair Borzych said. “We’re connecting with a network of people who are working to make their life and that of their families better. Our aim is to adapt their thinking towards the understanding of why safety plays a major role in their daily job training –to prevent injuries and illnesses on the job. Safety professionals work every day to make sure the millions of people who go to work return home injury and illness free. These students now know how valuable being safe at work is for everyone, every day.”

As for additional efforts, the ASSE paper “Safety Implications of Greening” reviews how SH&E professionals in the hospitality industry developed safety programs and procedures to accompany new greening activities. For instance, when one company reduced flammability risk by replacing a flammable chemical with a ‘hazardous’ one for a spray operation, an SH&E official stepped in and established an extensive personal protection equipment (PPE) program to make sure the workers were protected from the new “hazardous” risk.

Following the release of the paper, ASSE asked its members what steps their organizations are taking to address greening in their industry. The majority of ASSE members responding noted that their companies and/or organizations have had ongoing greening and sustainability efforts intertwined with SH&E programs; warned of possible hazards workers need to know about; and, reported on the positive results to date. Those responses include:

ELECTRIC VEHICLES & FIRST RESPONDERS – One member noted that training is being done for first responders who must be aware of how to properly handle hybrid cars following an accident. Sometimes it is assumed a hybrid’s quiet engine is an "off" engine, when the vehicle may still be on. It is reported that hybrid vehicles combine high voltage wires with tanks full of gasoline and that a crashed hybrid can be charged with 300 to 500 volts, an amount that poses a real danger to rescue workers.

REDUCING MILEAGE, SAVING OIL – Some members have scheduled client visits to increase efficiency.”Using fluorescent bulbs, reusing oil, saving diesel usage by re-routing drivers differently, our tractors shut-off after idling for more than five minutes, we have governors on all of our trucks so they do not exceed 62 mph.”

UTILITIES – One energy corporation, the holding entity for an Arizona electric power company, operates the Western Hemisphere's most productive photovoltaic panel array company-located at a Springerville generating station in eastern Arizona which is expanding to four coal-fired generating units (each in excess of 400 MW gross), with emission limits less than those granted for the original two units. The Springerville Generating Station has a history of substitution of less-hazardous chemicals in processes, such as the elimination of gaseous chlorine by replacing it with other, less hazardous products for circulating water biocide. The company’s generating station in Tucson co-fires methane collected from the Los Reales Landfill, transported through a 3.5-mile pipeline. Tucson Electric Power is committed to delivering reliable electric power at affordable cost with care and concern for the environment.

COAL PLANTS - Upgrading and/or replacing old coal fired power plants with scrubbers or natural gas fired power plants. “We recycle most items such as cans, plastics, batteries.”

ECOIMAGINATION – One large manufacturer has been a leader in the green movement. Through its Ecoimagination initiatives, it has led in the product stewardship of environmentally friendly technologies. At the site level, the company requires each site to report greenhouse gas emissions to corporate to ensure reduction goals are met. Sites are also encouraged to perform "Green House Gas Treasure Hunts". Multifunctional teams are assembled at the site level to assess and if viable, implement potential energy saving ideas. Sites that have demonstrated measurable and sustainable green house gas reductions are recognized for their work and the results are shared with other facilities.

CONSERVATION & ENHANCEMENT – One member noted that two basic tenets of sustainability are the conservation of resources and the enhancement of the quality of work life. A major construction company has applied these basic principles to its core business and when it built a new headquarters, the owner strived for a platinum-certified development. “As a result of our experience in achieving one of the greenest office buildings in the world, employees learned valuable lessons in how to maximize the concepts of sustainability without impacting the project's construction budget.” Today, the company has established Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® accreditation as a pre-requisite for project engineers seeking advancement to the position of project manager.

FUEL SAVINGS - “Converting gasoline products to an ethanol blend and offering Bio-diesel to a number of locations. We currently have B-100 Bio at one terminal and are adding tanks to accommodate ethanol. Our transportation fleet is changing over to new, less pollutant tractors to go green and optimize fuel mileage.”

PRODUCT PACKAGING ALTERNATIVES - “Recycling process scrap and finding new ways to reclaim our traditional waste streams. Changing out facility metal halides to energy saving fluorescents and looking for process improvements to reduce our fossil fuel usage and seeking product packaging alternatives to include recycled materials or limit the overall packaging waste.”

CONCRETE RECYCLING - “With a recently purchased impact crusher we will be grinding used concrete and reusing the materials to pave alleys. We are also concentrating on education in the K-12 schools, both teachers and children, to make recycling and being a good steward of the environment a key mindset.”

SCHOOLS CONSERVE - A Virginia city school system’s recycling program that started with milk chugs and expanded with cardboard, plastic and other recyclable materials – saw more than 900 tons of material recycled in just one year; now have a four-day workweek in the summer months; set computers to automatically shut down during unoccupied periods; all of the new buildings are being constructed to LEEDs certification standards; at their municipal complex, bikes are used to go between buildings; the custodial staff uses green products; each school has a sustainable schools liaison who is a conduit for information to and from schools about sustainable practices; and, they recycle phones and rechargeable batteries

FLOWERING SUCCESS - A small company providing hazardous waste management, training, and consulting services has switched to several procedures including: “We have three wastebaskets - paper and other trash, recyclable material (aluminum pop cans, plastic water bottles, etc), and bio-degradable (banana peels, apple cores, etc). The paper is disposed of as municipal waste, recyclable materials are recycled, and bio-degradable materials are taken home and put on a compost pile. The neighborhood bought us coupons for a local restaurant because our flower beds look so good. Ceramic cups are used for coffee and tea and plastic cups for cold drinks and washed at the end of each day. No Styrofoam cups in the classroom.”

REBUILDING GREEN – A commercial property insurance company coverage specifically aimed at certified (LEED or Green Globe) buildings will rebuild with green building components. If the building is a total loss it will cover the cost of rebuilding green up to a LEED-certified level. They are educating policyholders, agents and others about the green value propositions via seminars, a web-based green resource center, and presentations to various industry trade and professional organizations. Their loss control staff began providing sustainable building practice assessments to assist commercial policyholders in greening their businesses.

HIGHER ED CAMPUSES MOVE FORWARD - In higher education, campus presidents are signing onto a climate commitment through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Many campus presidents have committed to "reducing" carbon emission. All new building construction must meet USGBC LEED requirements. Some campuses are having the buildings certified as green by LEED. An ASSE member said they currently have 13 buildings registered. Also, looking at building construction and deferred maintenance issues to identify operational and energy saving from reinvesting in existing buildings and exploring on-site wind energy production, co-generation, and bio-mass use.

RESEARCH LEADS TO SAVINGS - “Our pipeline inspections depend on a huge quantity of A3 paper to print our inspection report features; but through our research center we established a new software program reducing paper consumption up to 99 percent.”

INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE SAVES – A New Mexico Indian health service formed a "green team" to address recycling, waste stream reduction, fleet fuel efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, alternative power sources, building insulation, elimination of mercury and formaldehyde, recycling of dental amalgams, community sharps disposal, etc. “We recycle cardboard and silver from the X-ray processors. We currently have two car pools operating from two towns from which many of our employees commute, one of which is 30 miles away and the other of which is 45 miles”.

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT - “My organization has teamed with the major studios and put together a Green Best Practice Guide for Motion Picture and Television Production. We work with U.S. and international organizations to coordinate efforts and strive to bring consistent information to all productions.”

CONSTRUCTION GREENING - “We have one certified LEED project manager, and four employees preparing to take the test. With regards to ‘green’ in the industry, we have finished one LEED silver project for NASA, finishing up another LEED silver building for NASA, and starting a new project for Honda, which is targeting a LEED Gold classification.”

FLEET FUEL SAVINGS - Increasing fuel savings in fleets through improved driver behavior. “We know that fuel economy plays a crucial role in an efficient fleet operation. As oil prices continue an upward trend it is becoming imperative to gain control of fuel costs. There are proven models available that accurately predict fuel consumption for fleets of varying sizes and forecasts can be made with assurance based on specifications including: vehicle type, engine size and the type of fuel. However, predicting fuel consumption based on driver behavior behind the wheel has always been a guessing game. A new technology has proven that behavior behind the wheel can radically increase or decrease the fuel efficiency of fleet vehicles. High speed and sharp braking are the more obvious and well-known examples, but lesser known ones can also significantly alter MPG. Recent studies show that technological advances can not only change the way people driver, but also increase fuel efficiency, thus significantly lowering operating costs. Customers have been able to reduce their average fuel consumption by over 7 percent; a significant savings for a large volume fleet, one member noted.”

RESTORATION - In the Middle East, there are few laws that address environmental issues; therefore most companies will not spend funds on these efforts. Basic efforts such as restoration of an area to its original state after construction are the main activity done.

FOOD INDUSTRY - A large food company has evolved from a holding company structure of more than 90 independent operating companies into a centralized company focused on branded, value-added food products. There is now an integrated approach or platform for sharing this information to key stakeholders. Initiatives now include sustainable packaging programs to the establishment of environmental management systems in the manufacturing facilities and developing programs to enhance data collection for key environmental performance indicators, to provide basis for tracking progress and measuring success