Boosting Construction Worker Safety by Design

LEED's Prevention through Design (PtD) pilot credit rewards protective measures that optimize safety during construction.

“Green” buildings are designed to be better for the planet. But some are also designed to be safer for the workers who build them.

Enter the LEED Prevention Through Design (PtD) pilot credit. Developed through a collaboration between the U.S. Green Building Council and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, it encourages architects and engineers designing projects per LEED certification guidelines to look for ways to boost safety for the construction workers who build them.

The LEED certification program gives owners and developers who want to make their projects as energy efficient and sustainable as possible a set of guidelines to follow. By meeting guidelines in areas such as material reuse, energy source, water use and even site location, the project can earn credits toward LEED certification. The PtD pilot credit is the first attempt to reward designs that help prevent construction worker injury and illness.

For example, the engineer might specify steel columns with predrilled holes so workers can run safety lines through them for temporary fall protection. Choosing offsite prefabrication where construction is performed in a factory setting at ground-floor level can help prevent falls by limiting work that must be performed at height. For highway work, the design might call for building a special roadway for truckers hauling material in and out of the work zone to minimize the chance of accidents.

While much of the responsibility for achieving the PtD credit lies with the design team, contractors can participate in the required safety review, or discovery phase. As part of this review, general contractors and key trade subcontractors have a chance to suggest design features and construction methods that will increase safety when the job gets underway.

Of course, designers and contractors can incorporate PtD credit program guidelines into any construction project by performing a safety design review and by:

  • Making sure workers aren't exposed to hazardous conditions or toxic substances during the demolition or renovation of an existing building.
  • Specifying dust-control and pollution prevention measures.
  • Avoiding the use of toxic materials.
  • Requiring the use of mechanical systems in the handling of construction waste.
  • Including fall protection, excavation and trench shoring and other safety system details on the project drawings.

The development of the PtD credit adds weight to an idea many safety advocates have believed all along: Reducing injuries and keeping construction workers safe is everyone's responsibility.