By Christine Branche, Ph.D., FACE, Heather Langford, LEED AP BD+C, O+M, and Matthew E. Gillen, FAIHA

Ten years ago the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) launched the concept of Prevention through Design (PtD), which champions preventing and controlling occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities by “designing out” or minimizing hazards and risks. Since then, many safety and health professionals have become familiar with the concept and implemented it in their projects, but there still are those who have not yet had a chance to implement PtD principles.

One important opportunity to apply PtD to construction projects is the PtD Pilot Credit available in the US Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED© (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system. LEED is a certification system for green buildings, and environmental rating systems play an important role in helping to promote and implement green and sustainable practices.

One way the USGBC tests new and innovative concepts is through the development of “pilot credits,” which can be found in the LEED Pilot Credit Library. Pilot credits include a pathway for the credit to evolve based on feedback from project teams that implement the criteria laid out in the pilot credit. These project teams must not only meet the credit requirements, but must also submit an evaluation of the credit itself—assessing credit requirements, documentation requirements, and difficulty of achievement. USGBC collects and integrates project team feedback to refine pilot credits during testing. Pilot credits that are found to be effective and have high usage rates may be added to the LEED Innovation Catalog, a permanent listing of credits that can be pursued for Innovation in Design points.

The PtD Pilot Credit, which lays out criteria for addressing worker safety issues early on in a building’s lifecycle, is available through the USGBC site and is applicable to multiple rating systems (see LEED v2009 and LEED v4), or through NIOSH’s Construction Resources Directory: Safe, Green, Sustainable Construction.

Brief Description of the PtD Pilot Credit

The aim of the pilot credit is to reduce illnesses and injuries by supporting high-performance, cost-effective employee safety and health outcomes across the building life cycle by designing structures that reduce or eliminate potential safety and health hazards. The credit addresses two building lifecycle phases important for safety and health: (1) Operations and Maintenance (O&M), and (2) Construction. Based on advice from USGBC, the credit is structured to parallel and complement the existing LEED Integrative Process credit.  A discovery step evaluates opportunities before moving forward, followed by an implementation step to provide appropriate solutions. The safety design and safety constructability reviews should take place before completion of the schematic design.

For O&M, the focus is on permanent building features—both conventional and LEED-rated. The pilot credit describes and promotes a cross-disciplinary “safety design review” for discovery and implementation. The credit provides a list of systems to consider, such as roofs and equipment rooms. Examples of safety design review outcomes include decisions to reduce fall hazards by installing a parapet wall or a guard rail on a roof; or by specifying non-fragile glass for skylights.

For construction, the focus is on...Click here to read the rest of the blog post.