Special Topics in Safety Management

Going Green—What Is Safety’s Role?

The ever-increasing attention given to environmental concerns coupled with high energy costs have made the subject of “green buildings” and “green workplaces” one of the hottest topics around. Here is how safety fits in.

As a safety professional, you not only can take an active role in the workplace greening process, you also can—and undoubtedly should—take the lead on initiatives that will increase the health of your workforce as well as the health of your organization’s bottom line.

“Greening”—sometimes called “environmental stewardship”—means taking responsibility for reducing the environmental impacts of the services you provide and the businesses you operate, according to a white paper produced by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), “Safety Implications of Greening: Hospitality Executive Leadership Opportunities.”

Corporate Sustainability and the Bottom Line: Why Being More Green Can Lead to Seeing More Green; Tips for Success—a very special BLR audio conference. Find out more.

Some examples of greening, according to the paper’s authors, include:

  • Reducing the use of hazardous products and materials
    • This reduces safety and health risks to employees, and it also reduces the amount of hazardous wastes to be disposed.
  • Using more energy-efficient equipment in heating, cooling, and lighting, and in construction materials for remodeling or expansions
  • Recycling
    • Including:
      • Electronic goods
      • Reusable product packaging around single-use items
      • Life cycle product analysis
  • Using energy-efficient or alternative fuel vehicles
    • Energy and environmental conservation
    • Rideshare programs
    • “Work-at-home” programs to minimize travel and traffic
  • Water and natural resource conservation
    • In housekeeping and maintenance
    • Environmentally friendly land use

With so many areas to address, it would be easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. Fay Feeney, author of the ASSE white paper, says the greening process is definitely not a one-person job—you should appoint a project coordinator and then assemble a team with representatives from management, engineering, marketing, public relations, and human resources.  Once the team is in place, Feeney suggests you ask yourself:

1. Where do we start?
2. Where are our greatest opportunities?
3. What about planning and budgeting?

“The first step is to evaluate your current greening status by looking at key performance indicators: energy and water use, safety metrics, energy equipment efficiency, construction practices, hazardous chemical use, waste disposal practices, environmental and safety training, and legal and regulatory compliance,” Feeney wrote. “After you assemble this information, you can educate your team and employees, communicate your objectives and actions, set priorities and goals, and establish timelines.”

Among the areas you will want to address, according to Feeney’s paper, are:

Housekeeping and Maintenance
Greening your housekeeping and maintenance programs is a good place to start and can be implemented with very little cost. Meet with your cleaning and maintenance crews as well as your product procurement team to discuss the possibility of replacing hazardous products currently used with more environmentally friendly ones.

HVAC and Operating Systems
Over time, thermostats, vents, and heating and cooling systems no longer operate within their design specifications. Have your building inspected to ensure proper system alignment and calibration so that all systems operate at their designed efficiency, i.e., ducts are connected and insulated, sensors are operational, lighting control systems function properly, and drainage is provided when needed.

Water Usage
As the cost of water continues to escalate, conservation not only saves an invaluable resource, it also saves money. One of the biggest challenges is locating water leaks behind wall panels and under floors. Leak detection can be approached through a preventive maintenance program.

Safety professionals have a leading role to play in workplace greening and sustainability. Find out more about our special BLR audio conference.

Next to temperature, no other building system has as great an effect on worker comfort and productivity as lighting. Lighting energy costs can exceed 20 percent of your electric bill. Reduce your electric use by lowering lighting. People prefer it. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent energy-efficient bulbs that use a fraction of the electricity and last almost 10,000 hours longer, thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions and saving you money. Buildings can also save on power costs by using LED exit signs and T8 linear fluorescent lamps. Install occupancy sensor controls that turn lights off in unoccupied areas (guest/meeting rooms, hallways, stairwells, garages, and restrooms).

Do not overlook your wastestream. If you can separate white paper, cans, bottles, glass, plastic, and mixed paper from wet garbage, you can reduce the wastestream and save money.

Just in case you think that helping the environment and the health of your workforce might not be enough to convince upper management, tomorrow we’ll look at some examples of the big dollar savings that can be realized through greening programs.