Stevens Solar Decathlon 2013 Team, ASSE Join Forces on Construction Safety

1/14/2013

A group of Stevens students representing a range of disciplines are working together this year to design and build a sustainable, zero-energy, solar-powered house for the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, a prestigious collegiate engineering program.

During the construction phase, the Stevens team, named Ecohabit, may be involved in a range of potentially high-risk activities, such as working with electrical wiring, operating at elevated heights, hoisting and rigging, and using power tools.

The team will be well prepared. This month, the students participated in 30 hours of safety training provided by the American Society of Safety Engineering (ASSE ), a global association of occupational safety professionals who work to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. The ASSE safety professionals donated their time to train Stevens students to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), teaching them identify, abate, avoid and prevent job-related hazards on a construction site – skills they can not only apply to the Solar Decathlon project, but in their future careers as engineers.

“The professionals from the ASSE were excited about the opportunity to teach construction safety to future engineers and instill in them the importance of safety in the workplace,” said Stevens Director of Environmental Health and Safety David Fernandez.

The ASSE training covered a variety of construction safety and health hazards which students may encounter on the construction site, such as proper use of personal protective equipment, fall protection, hazard communication and ladder safety. There was also a special presentation which reviewed safety hazards associated with green technologies like solar power and green roofs.

“It was exciting to hear how many measures there are to protect everyone on a construction site, and how the atmosphere in the industry has shifted from an emphasis on profit and doing things as fast as possible to creating a safer work zone,” said Dmitri Koshkin, a senior Electrical Engineering major at Stevens.

The students also took part in a tour of the World Trade Center construction site to see safety measures and procedures in action and learn how safety is critical to the overall success of any construction project.

“This was a unique opportunity for the team to see a complex construction project of tremendous size and scope, and to see how the safety procedures they learned in the classroom are applied on the site,” said Fernandez.

The students were impressed to see the sheer size and scope of the project to construct the massive structure.

“The visit to the World Trade Center construction site gave us an appreciation for how much planning and logistical effort it takes every single day to run a safe and productive construction site of this magnitude,” said Koshkin.

The students will put their knowledge to the test as the Solar Decathlon project progresses.

“Building the Solar Decathlon house will be much safer, not just for those who received their certification but for everyone around them,” said Koskin.

According to Industry Assistant Professor Mark Pollock, safety training is not part of the regular curriculum at Stevens, but it is a very important part of many students’ future careers, especially in fields like engineering, architecture or construction. 

“Being trained and certified is a definite plus on their resumes,” Pollock said.

“This training makes the students more attractive to potential future employers who view safety as a core value,” added Fernandez.