The Importance of Making Safety a Cornerstone of Sustainable Buildings

The Importance of Making Safety a Cornerstone of Sustainable Buildings

Going green means nothing when safety is not a priority.

The opening of CityCenter in Las Vegas and a soon-to-be released study that will appear in The American Journal of Industrial Medicine highlight the importance of safety in the workplace.

As reported in the Las Vegas Sun, during the construction of CityCenter, which just saw its first three buildings open, six construction workers died. And, according to The American Journal of Industrial Medicine study, women -- especially Hispanic women who work as housekeepers -- were 50 percent more likely to be injured on the job than men and had an injury rate two-thirds higher than their white female counterparts.

Throughout history every massive construction project has had its share of workplace fatalities.

Eleven workers were killed during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. At least 40 were killed building the Brooklyn Bridge. At least 96 workers died during the construction of Hoover Dam. The Panama Canal? Thousands were lost building it.

Today, when we think of those projects, we do not usually think of the workers who paid the ultimate price for their work. I suspect that will eventually be the case as well with MGM MIRAGE’s CityCenter project -- unfortunately.

I have given CityCenter a lot of publicity and for good reason. It is the largest private commercial development in U.S. history and has already earned six LEED Gold certifications.

We should not forget those six workers, however, when thinking about the project. I am not suggesting that MGM MIRAGE is to blame for the six deaths. What I am suggesting is that there is no excuse for losing anyone on the job, no matter whose fault it was. Safety must always come first and it is far more important than any green initiative a property undertakes.

The Las Vegas Sun has done a great job documenting the safety problems during the building of CityCenter and at other projects. I strongly suggest you visit their website. According to that publication, during one recent 18-month stretch, 20 construction workers lost their lives along The Strip -- 20 too many. The Las Vegas Sun earned a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its series of articles on the incidents.

Fifty Unionized Hotels Studied

The American Journal of Industrial Medicine study, “Occupational Injury Disparities in the U.S. Hotel Industry,” examined 2,865 injuries at 50 unionized hotels over a three-year span. The injury rate was higher for female hotel employees because they worked disproportionately as housekeepers, which is the most injury-prone hotel job.

According to the study, housekeepers have a 7.9 percent injury rate each year, 50 percent higher than for all hotel workers and twice the rate for all workers in the United States. Housekeepers, as you know, do repetitive tasks that require lifting and working rapidly. In many properties, toxic cleaning chemicals are still used. As mentioned earlier, Hispanic women were more likely to get injured than their white counterparts. The study also found that Hispanic and Asian men were 1.5 times more likely to be injured than white men. The study found the highest injury rate for housekeepers was at the Hyatt chain, at 10.4 percent, and lowest at the Hilton chain, at 5.47 percent.

Anyone who runs a lodging establishment should be alarmed by The American Journal of Industrial Medicine study. Do what is necessary at your property to educate your housekeepers and others about proper lifting techniques. Provide signage where necessary and training materials in whatever language is needed. Give your employees the tools they need to make their jobs ergonomically easier. Bring in an ergonomics expert if necessary. Purchase cleaning products that are nontoxic and certified as “green.”

Whether building or operating a green lodging establishment, safety must be the highest priority. It must also be of utmost importance to any supplier or contractor with whom you do business. Treat your housekeepers the way you wish to be treated. And the next time you are in Las Vegas, lift a toast to the many workers who have died making it possible for all of us to have a great time there.

Glenn Hasek is the publisher and editor Green Lodging News, where the original version of this post appeared.

Image courtesy of CityCenter.