Our industry's risks
Risks, both small and large, abound in any large enterprise such as building performance and weatherization. You can't eliminate risk but you can prioritize risks and manage them. Health and safety risks interconnect with with the endeavours of our industry. Death, injuries, and resulting lawsuits could seriously damage our industry's reputation. Saturn's unofficial risk priority list includes the following risks that aren't mitigated or are aggrevated by building performance work.
- Moisture damage.
- Fire hazards
- Falling hazards
- Combustion byproducts
- Indoor air pollution in general
- Chemical hazards.
- Consturction nuisance.
Let's be more holistic and targeted
Some of these risks don't relate directly to building performance, but the industry has instituted a lot of risk-management procedures to reduce the risk of combustion byproducts and other indoor air pollution. If we consider health and safety part of our mission, why not take a more holistic approach, especially to risks like moisture and fire, which are the most statistically significant risks?
Saturn's problem with existing building performance risk-reduction is emphasis on combustion testing and ventilation to the exclusion of other more severe risks. "First do no harm" is the rallying cry and a very good motto. However, you can't reduce risk to zero and it's very expensive to write standards that try. For example, the scientific risk-reduction evidence supporting complex combustion safety testing and installing ventilation systems in existing buildings is very weak.
To protect our industry and our customers, we need a more comprehensive risk-reduction strategy. The healthy buildings initiative is a good approach. A plan for reducing all the hazards listed above provides more safety against death, injury, and punitive damages than the current chaotic approach. Judges look for patterns of behavior. We can remove a great many building hazards for no more than we're now spending now, if we begin prioritizing risk reduction according to actuarial standards.