A closer look at increased construction injury risk in LEED projects

February 28, 2012 |
Lynne Simnick

A recent study titled, “Identification of Safety Risks for High Performance Sustainable Construction Projects,” by the University of Colorado, Boulder, found that LEED construction locations had a 50% higher injury rate than non-LEED sites. This study, and subsequent reporting and analysis, stirred up controversy on green design and construction blogs.

The study’s methodology—based on empirical evidence gathered at job sites—seems sound. Its perceived risk values were determined by experienced designers and contractors. The study team made observations at various LEED and non-LEED construction sites, pored over injury reports, and conducted interviews. Researchers identified more than a dozen LEED criteria that they say heighten injury risks to construction workers. For example, the study found a 37% increase in injury risk with installing heavy solar panels and 36% more risk related to waste management when workers go “dumpster diving” to look for potentially recyclable materials.

Key takeaways from the study were its suggestions to reduce risks. These include the use of traction pads on TPO roofing and the use of cellophane covering on ducts. “Anyone can dispute the accuracy of risk magnitude, but how can you say no to specific safety features that objectively are more safe and affordable?” asks Douglas Reiser, LEED AP, a construction and business attorney.


NOTE: This information is the opinion of the author/blogger and not the official position of IAPMO.

Lynne Simnick | Codes and Standards

Lynne Simnick is the Director of Code Development for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and is responsible for the supervision and oversight of the creation and maintenance of all IAPMO codes and code supporting documents. Ms. Simnick has more than twenty-eight years experience in the plumbing industry including code development, education and training, plan review and evaluation services. Prior to joining IAPMO, Simnick worked as technical staff in engineering services, educator, inspector and plumber. She has a Bachelors of Science Degree in Education and Mechanical Engineering Technology. Simnick has authored many technical articles, participated in numerous standards committees with an expertise in code and standards development.

Ms. Simnick may be contacted at IAPMO, 909-472-4110 or email lynne.simnick@IAPMO.org

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