Have you ever stepped on to a fresh work site and wondered “when was the last time anyone made sure this place was actually safe?”
Beyond following OHS and WorkSafe compliances, many sites across Australia are leaving their employees in the dark about their exposure risk to contaminants in their water, in the ground, even in the building materials they work with.
Fortunately, there exists a solution to these growing concerns – the environmental consultant.
Not to be confused with the environmental activist, the environmental consultant is there to make sure you can complete your work safely, quickly, and without additional risks to contamination, toxic spills, excessive noise and vibration, or even hazardous construction materials like asbestos.
In this article we examine the role of the environmental consultant in keeping your work site safe, secure and un-sued by discussing the problems we deal with regularly, the qualifications we hold, and the solutions we offer.
The Common Work Site Contaminants
Work site contamination is undoubtedly common across Australia, making unsafe work areas and building site efficacy the most common issues for environmental consultants.
There are various types of contamination that can make a property or site unsafe. These can be the result of a natural disaster, such as by a flood introducing contaminated water to a site, or can be caused by things that have been introduced by people, such as asbestos.
Other types of contaminant that can make an area unsafe to work at, visit or live in can include mold, sewage, chemical runoff, and other biohazards.
Other common problems environmental consultants uncover include:
- Geological problems, such as building on fault lines, are often uncovered during condition monitoring campaigns. These issues are often unnoticeable.
- Local governments may have specified land unusable for commercial purposes, which a thorough site remediation plan will unveil. When project owners buy land, their intention is usually profiteering with concern for compatibility.
- Construction companies could be fined without licensed site monitoring solutions in place. Even worse, permits could be yanked without having someone professionally involved in worksite safety.
- Numerous noise or nuisance complaints may shut down work sites, which is the reason noise monitoring plans are created. Countermeasures to prevent excess noise could save money in fines.
If a building of any sort becomes contaminated with any chemically or biologically unsafe materials, there can be a huge risk to public safety. While some things like mold will only pose serious problems to people who are allergic to them, they can cause breathing problems and eye irritations in most people. Other environmental contaminants can create a more serious threat.
For example, asbestos has been shown to cause lung cancer, as tiny fragments of the material are inhaled and lodge in the lungs. Flood waters can contain agricultural or industrial runoff, which can include pesticides and corrosive or otherwise toxic chemicals. Sewage can introduce all kinds of dangerous bacteria, such as E Coli. And, of course, digging where there are hidden gas lines could cause explosions.
In short, is very dangerous for anyone who isn’t properly trained and protected to enter an environmentally contaminated area, which is why our environmental consultants are well qualified for their roles.
Training and Qualifications
After completing years of education and passing required examinations, an environmental consultant will be adequately trained to perform functions that keep work sites safe, secure and un-sued.
Environmental Consultant Tasks:
- Perform data collection regarding potential pollution and contamination risks, while taking field surveys of proposed worksites
- Interpretation of data collected utilizing high-tech software. Basic research is conducted as well.
- Prepare, write and distribute reports with local governing bodies, site owners, subcontractors, laboratories, and unilaterally with other clients
- Consult with professionals as to what course of action would be most cost-effective, and environmentally friendly
- Analyze contamination hazards and prepare evasive maneuvers to remedy, or avoid, these areas
- Offer data collected from past projects to potential buyers of land and buildings
- Partake in an extensive field study to determine further risks once work has commenced
- Study green products, house developments, solar and wind farms and similarly large sites to determine compatibility issues
- Help spread awareness to governing bodies on behalf of clients – a ‘go-between’
- Devise new ways to recycle waste on current job sites to promote an emission-free atmosphere
- Compile data into written reports. Write the entire plan from scratch, and review every six months
Producing new forms of energy, erecting new buildings or simply improving the grounds in which people dwell takes condition monitoring and site remediation skills not suitable for commoners. Because many site monitoring projects must be well-documented, professionals are hired to handle what others simply cannot.
Many years of education go into an environmental consultant’s training. Prior to being released onto job sites alone, on-site training is usually mandatory. That’s because knowledge and foresight are two components of problem prevention – one can be obtained through training, the other through intuition.
The result of this education is a fully qualified consultant who can assess any site, spot possible sources of contamination, and offer ready solutions in the form of an environmental management plan.
Environmental Management Plans
Consider this: to ensure that an area can pull potable water, has no radiation or poison hazards and is safe for the public, or, in the case of a building site, for work to commence, a full assessment of the nature and extent of potential contamination has to be performed by a qualified environmental consultant.
Once the assessment has been done, recommendations for removing the problem(s) are made. These recommendations form the base of the Environmental Management Plan, and the environmental consultant then helps perform or oversees the necessary work.
Every good environmental management plan includes several forms of testing and analysis to ensure the safety of all activities performed on site.
When work is complete, checks are made to ensure the hazards have been completely removed and no new problems have been introduced. Providing these checks return no issues, the site can be verified as safe and reopened. Further site remediation may be necessary based on findings, or closer site monitoring may also be required.
Safety Beyond the Site
Safety, regardless how workers view it, is always the number one priority of environmental consultants — not just worksite safety, but employee and public safety as well.
Construction companies may overlook safety to get work done quickly; but by overlooking safety to get work done quicker, many man-hours of labor could be lost to illness, equipment damage, or even worksite closure.
Environmental monitoring prevents such conditions from arising in worksites as construction progresses. But what happens when sites are unusable or have unforeseen issues along the way?
Site remediation, for one, allows professionals to pinpoint problems when discovered. But, more importantly, quickly finding water, electric, sewer, gas or geological problems helps construction crews make up for lost time – thanks to environmental consultants.
Site monitoring may seem arbitrary to those spearheading new developments, but it’s arguably more important to expound the resources to hire one as opposed to completing projects without one. And, coupled with noise monitoring solutions, one’s environmental management plan can appease local governments and citizens residing around the site, too.
Another role environmental consultants can play is advising their clients, such as construction companies, about how best to prevent environmental contamination from occurring.
While in the case of natural disasters there is sometimes nothing that can be done to foresee or prevent many problems, a specialist in environmental safety can advise on how to prevent issues with mould and other avoidable health hazards from occurring in the first place.
They can also advise developers on approaches that will have the least negative impact on the environment around a site, which can also be beneficial to public health. Offering an unbiased yet thorough review of all areas of construction and the ecological composition they rest on, these highly trained workers offer insight into things unseen.
Environmental consultants specializing in environmental safety inevitably provide an irreplaceable service in ensuring public safety standards are upheld, and hazardous situations are remedied effectively. If you are therefore concerned about a site you are working on and its environmental impact or suspect an area has been contaminated, these are the first people you should call.
Emission reduction, moving toward greener energy and preparing worksites sitting on hazardous grounds aren’t jobs fit for everyone. In fact, many projects fail before launch because improper planning led to an unmanageable environmental crisis.
Construction companies must have contingency plans that include proper condition monitoring, thorough site remediation, close site monitoring, skilled noise monitoring, and have one or several environmental management plans ready to execute at any given moment.
If you need further clarification of how environmental consultants work, reach out by email today.