Where Industrial Architecture and Safety Intersect

January 8, 2021

Industrial accidents have been claiming lives for centuries, from the Pemberton Mill Factory collapse in January, 1860 when 144 workers perished to the October, 2020 Warehouse collapse at an Ahmedabad, India chemical factory that killed 12 people.

Closer to home, an industrial accident in Suffolk led to the death of two crew members in September, 2020. The company was under contract to build a robotics fulfillment center for Amazon, and had been given an OSHA violation citation in Georgia a few months before. So, why wasn't management more vigilant about safety?

According to the CDC, industrial architecture sites are among the most dangerous workplaces in the country. Injuries can often occur as a result of any of the following:

  • Slips and falls
  • Tripping
  • Electrocution and fires
  • Falling objects from overhead
  • Stress from heat or cold
  • Structural collapse

The Role of Infrastructure Resilience

Infrastructure resilience has been described a number of ways, but basically is a structure's ability to reduce the magnitude or duration of disruptive events. A resilient infrastructure is therefore thought to be able to absorb, adapt to, anticipate, and recover from a disruptive event more readily.

Of course, no facility is completely immune to challenges whether they are natural catastrophes or man-made, but architecture can be made to be more resilient and better able to withstand stress.

The Four Rs of Resilience

  1. Robustness: the sturdy design of buildings, bridges, dams, plants and warehouses.
  2. Redundancies: in the system or substitutions, such as in the case of power grids or communications networks.
  3. Resourcefulness: This includes the ability of management to respond to, manage and prepare ahead of time to manage a disruption if it unfolds.
  4. Rapid recovery: Plans set in place to return to normal activity as efficiently and quickly as possible.

The resilience of industrial architecture continues to be a concern for architects, premise owners, engineers and stakeholders. Risk assessment should be performed to determine where potential problems could originate from including hurricanes, earthquakes, or other hazards.

Proactive Safety Steps

A proactive approach is needed when designing buildings for safety and security. A hazard protection plan will include certain elements:

  • A fire protection plan
    • The best plan for protecting against fire will take into account the whole building's fire safety package and a total system approach to mitigate risk.
  • Preparedness for protecting the health and safety of occupants
    • Core design or faulty operation of buildings and structures can lead to unwanted injuries and illnesses. Prevention measures can include testing electrical systems and structures for integrity, monitoring indoor air quality, regular elevator safety testing, ergonomics and providing accident prevention guidelines to visitors and staff.
  • Mitigating natural hazards
    • Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and blizzards are all natural disasters that can wreak havoc and cost lives. Anticipating the risk in your area and building accordingly can prevent loss.
  • Asset and occupant security
    • A secure design will deter criminals, while following best practices, codes and standards will create designs immune to natural hazards. Risk assessment of the vicinity and integrating safe design protocols will act as a barrier against mishaps and physical injury.

Workers can be sent to OSHA meetings to talk about safety measures, but all the discussion in the world will not make a difference if the architectural structure is not sound to begin with. When industrial architecture and safety have a disconnect, catastrophic accidents can lead to unnecessary suffering and costly litigation. If you have been seriously hurt or named in a lawsuit, Pathfinder injury law is here to help you put the pieces back together.

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