The authors have a combined experience of more than 50 years practicing safety, primarily in the construction industry. Over the course of this half century we have, in varied capacities, managed EHS programs for billions of dollars in construction and renovation projects. These statements are made not with intent of establishing bona fides or bragging - quite the opposite - they are self-deprecating. It has taken us decades of practice to understand and confirm what many of our colleagues in other industries have already figured out - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
It is widely agreed in the safety profession that the hierarchy of controls represents a theory that translates effectively into sound practice - a theory that's been tried, tested and documented for centuries. In construction, we do not abide by the hierarchy of controls theory. In fact, we do not even come close - that's part two of the bad news. Working backwards on the cause and effect chain, part one of the bad news tells us that the vast majority of a structure's end users, facility maintainers and construction professionals are utterly powerless to impact EHS considerations in a truly meaningful way. Phrasing the latter statement another way, the groups that share in the greatest risks have the least influence over their safety and health.
Don't believe us? Walk into just about any building or structure and ask the facility manager to list the challenges he or she is pitted against on a regular basis. The list will surprise you – a filter bank situated atop an air handler with no access; a series of wall-washing light fixtures mounted in the building's lobby that is 28' above floor level, whose only means for changing the lamp is an extension ladder; a roof-top chiller unit located 4' from the roof's edge with no guardrails or parapets. You will find no shortage of examples when speaking to facilities professionals.