What does safety mean to you?
To me, safety encompasses all beings and the place we call home, the Earth. I’ve learned that safety, for many, is only meant for people. Well, why is that?
The thing is, when the Earth is harmed, we’re harmed. For example, Many people like to eat fish. Isn’t it physically harmful to eat contaminated fish? I think so…
That’s what the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is for, as well as the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). A few of their values include protecting the public, wildlife, and the environment from harmful human activities.
Why am I rambling about this?
Well, this issue keeps popping up in the construction industry, even in safety culture and climate. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is a vital entity within the industry. Even more, the safety professionals who are in the field to enforce safety regulations are exceptional people fighting for the safety of family members. Working in safety is an incredible responsibility. It’s also tiring, physically and emotionally draining, however, very rewarding. On the other hand, any lack of attention to the littlest detail can result in an enormous fine, jail time, or worse, a fatality.
To safety professionals, I applaud you.
Nonetheless, environmental protection is a predominant issue within the industry. Now, I understand rough conditions within a job site, the time crunch, and the financials. However, job sites are full of chemicals. Interestingly enough, New York City is full of old buildings that contain chemicals such as silica, asbestos, and mercury. During demolitions, these chemicals end up in city streets, the air we breathe, and in the surrounding waters causing harm to wildlife and to the residents of the five boroughs.
So, when another safety professional approaches me with frustration about a ridiculous fine from the DEP, well, I’m sorry but I cannot empathize with that feeling. These fines are meant for protection. They are meant to get people so upset that they never want to wash their concrete truck in a public street, which I see all the time. If you’re not familiar, many concrete trucks are covered in silica after a work day. When the silica is washed into the street, pedestrians are then exposed, as well as wildlife, and the environment. The silica and other chemicals are then washed into the city’s drains and end up in our waters. It’s a very overlooked practice.
It’s not about protecting a silly fish or a single tree that does nothing for you. It’s about protecting that tree or that fish so you can get up and go to work in the morning as a healthy resident of New York City. It’s about protecting all of us from chemical poisoning and unhealthy air such as smog.
It’s about the bigger picture.
Fortunately, green solutions within the construction industry are becoming increasingly popular. Skanska, the fifth largest construction company in the world and one of the companies chosen to work on the new World Trade Center, is a wonderful example of a green construction company. They prove that green construction is cheaper and more advantageous to long-term goals, as well as the planet’s sustainability. Regarding their green practices, Skanska explained that,
When we are good stewards of the environment surrounding our projects, we ensure that construction activities don’t foul the water that our communities depend on. When we develop projects to achieve LEED Gold certification or better, we help make sure our growing cities can accommodate more people and a larger built environment by conserving resources. If we help save the planet in the process, all the better. We’ll continue to push the boundaries to get to the next level of sustainable performance like we always have.
As one large company utilizes green solutions, others are sure to follow. Even better, green construction will be in-demand. Although it is a big leap within the industry, it’s a good sign to see green solutions developing within construction companies. With that change becoming evident in the industry, safety culture and climate are sure to follow.
I’m looking forward to that.