We have seen the Safety First signs in various businesses, but which comes first, health & safety or profit? Some say, without profit, a business would be out of business, and safety would no longer be a concern. However, SCS Engineers thinks safety is first in this chicken and egg paradox. After all, we are discussing peoples’ well-being, but let’s address the business aspects too.
To increase your profit and reduce your operating costs, you need to focus on your employees’ health and safety, not only trip hazards and other short-term problems. The long-term health of employees is a vital component of health & safety – protecting your people from toxic chemical vapors, having a hearing conservation program in a noisy environment, and don’t forget ergonomics in industrial and office settings.
Safety and health are both essential; they only appear to slow down productivity. In the event of an illness or incident, production could slow or stop while resolving an issue and carrying out investigations. Minimize costly production interruptions by changing your health & safety focus to a proactive preventative approach. Instead of reducing accident impacts, prevent them in the first place.
You can implement a better health & safety program and stave off the inevitable risks to personnel and business assets across factories, construction sites, and other work environments by better managing and preventing an incident from occurring in the first place. Being proactive becomes an integral part of the safety equation by achieving efficiency and value, leaving behind the ever-present focus on cost.
Taking a preventative approach instead of a reactive one, every business, employee, visitor, and stakeholder benefits. There will no longer be a question of balancing safety and efficiency. Instead, safety is a catalyst for quicker production, superior logistics, easier movement of goods and people, and an overall better working environment.
In January of 2022, two business owners were sentenced to prison for violating Worker Safety Laws, resulting in two workers’ deaths when a rail tanker car exploded. Imagine the blow to employee morale when this incident occurred. Morale is also affected by issues not nearly as dramatic, such as when an employee develops cancer from inhaling chemical vapors over the course of their career or if a co-worker needs back surgery due to incorrect lifting techniques. When OSHA or the lawyers come knocking and asking for training records and personal exposure data, what will you have to show them?
A thoughtful, proactive written health & safety program, regular training, thorough written documentation, and meticulous collection of personal exposure data show agencies and your staff that your employees are knowledgeable about health & safety. They are not exposed to stressors at levels that exceed harmful or regulatory limits. Implementing engineering or administrative controls can also reduce excessive exposure below the legal limits and recommended guidelines. Something very important to potential new hires.
About the Author:
Jed Douglas, CIH, CSP, PG is SCS Engineers’ National Expert on Industrial Hygiene, and a senior technical advisor specializing in Occupational Health and Safety issues. He has 30 years of experience as a health and safety specialist and project manager, and has managed numerous environmental projects involving: safety; soil and groundwater investigations and remediation of hazardous constituents; and, indoor air quality (IAQ) assessments for physical, chemical, and biological contaminants. Read more from this IH&S expert who shares his knowledge abd insights here:
According to a recent article in APNews, U.S. Oil loaded its first shipment of 100,000 barrels of ethanol in April to ship out of the Port of Milwaukee. The distributor is a subsidiary of U.S. Venture, which distributes oil, ethanol, lubricants, tires and auto parts. The company has been shipping ethanol from the port of Green Bay for six years without incident.
The company filed an environmental response plan with the U.S. Coast Guard to help allay feels of pollution. The plan is comprehensive including controlling a potential spill, guarding water intake pipes and protecting wildlife in near-shore areas. “They have a very robust response plan,” said Lieutenant Commander Bryan Swintek of the U.S. Coast Guard in Milwaukee. “Clearly, they want to make sure they are operating in a safe manner.”
The safe transportation of ethanol helps support Wisconsin’s agricultural community, supports renewable fuels which play a major role in the new energy economy, and is done in a socially responsible, environmentally friendly way.
SCS Engineers provided the response plan mentioned in the article, which is not regulatory driven, but rather a proactive action driven by U.S. Oil. This type of response plan is called a Tactical Response Plan and provides an extra layer of spill preparedness. It’s a site-specific, emergency response and cleanup strategy that allows facilities to take action faster and quickly minimize the spread of a spill – and can help protect a facility’s reputation.
by Ali Khatami, Ph.D., P.E., SCS Engineers
In south Florida, rising prices of vacant land and unavailability of large parcels of virgin land for development have forced land developers to look into developing old and newly filled lakes. The land price for these lakes is significantly lower than the virgin land and deals are arranged to incorporate the cost of improving the lakefill land into a developable land in the purchase price. Aside from environmental issues that are handled by environmental engineers in relation to obtaining development permits, the ground itself must be improved to sustain the stability needed to bear the proposed development load. Deep Dynamic Compaction (DDC) is proven to be the most economical option for low rise and lightweight developments, such as commercial or industrial warehouses.
The model developed for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) report entitled “Dynamic Compaction, Geotechnical Engineering Circular No. 1”, by Robert G. Lukas, dated March 1995, is the primary basis of most DDC programs. Experience of the engineer with the type of the material below the surface is important because the type of material plays an important role in selecting the DDC design parameters used in the model. The design methodology considers four categories of materials in pervious grained soil, semi-pervious soil, partially saturated impermeable deposits, and landfills. The fourth category, landfills, covers waste materials in old landfills but also the material used to fill lakes to create land for new development at a later date.
The material going into a lake may vary depending on the age of the fill placed in the lake. Older lakes filled with debris may include materials that today would never be allowed; while newer lakes are in accordance with state or local regulatory agency environmental permits, which follow a monitoring protocol during filling. The debris in newer lakes may consist of concrete debris, soils, tiles, and any other types of materials classified as clean debris in accordance with the material definitions in the rules.
There are three primary parties involved in this type of brownfields work including the developer, the banker, and the future buyer. Each party has a learning curve to understand and protect their interests.
Developers are cautious because they, very rightfully, have reservations regarding the effectiveness of DDC on the planned investment. Engineers will need several one-on-one and one-on-group teaching sessions with the developer’s primary engineer in charge of the project, and gradually meeting with the engineer’s boss, project director, and eventually the executives of the developing firm. Past successful experience with similar projects play a very important role in justifying the DDC methodology; engineers need to have accurate data and unit costs in tabulated form as part of their arsenal for convincing those in the learning curve.
The process becomes even more complicated when the engineer has designed the DDC program, prepared plans and specification for implementation of the program and the project goes to bid by DDC contractors. To win the work, it is typical for each DDC contractor in the bidding process to return to the client with their version of a DDC program and sometimes less expensive one to put themselves ahead of others. The alternative plans will propose using different equipment, usually the specific equipment that the bidding party already owns, or modeled under a different set of design parameters than the ones prepared by the engineer. Expect communications to become intense, and even with a now more educated developer, they will question every detail of the original planned design. It can be a frustrating and confusing period for all parties.
The engineer must plan to routinely justify his/her design based on design methodologies in literature, justify the design parameters used in the development of the DDC program, and rely heavily on the past performed projects going back a couple of decades. The engineer should even be prepared to obtain permission from past project owners to show the integrity of the building slabs after being in service for many years.
The DDC designer may also need to obtain design parameters from the DDC contractor who has come up with an alternative design to analyze their design and determine any shortcomings in it. If found, further discussions ensue to reexamine the design at hand as the most reliable and the most effective for the developer. Innovation is wonderful, but an expert engineer will not risk the developer’s investment and reputation using unproven technologies; proven technologies are already part of a reputable engineer’s DDC design.
The best way for inexperienced developers to go through the design and implementation phases of such projects is to find an experienced firm with a significant number of similar projects in its experience and trust the outcome of the work by that design firm. Otherwise, the developer will have a very difficult time sorting out the complexities and questions that alternative designs bring forward. The claims of less expensive scenarios without long-term performance justification as to how the foundation will behave over the long term are too risky. The combination of dealing with a new concept for which the developer has no experience and justifying the financial aspects of a properly designed DDC program can make a project even more difficult for an inexperienced developer.
A developer’s project manager should plan to spend significant time with the DDC designer to become familiar with the DDC concept, construction nuances, and the financial aspects of the project. The project manager will need to visit past projects performed by the designer’s firm to confirm claims by the design engineer. Only at that point, the developer’s project manager should proceed with convincing his/her superiors of the validity of the DDC program while asking for assistance from the DDC designer.
Ali Khatami, Ph.D., P.E., is a Vice President with SCS Engineers. He may be reached at
Additional resources are available on these pages: Brownfields and Voluntary Remediation and Environmental Due Diligence and All Appropriate Inquiries.