Why Building Safety Professionals Are Needed Now, More than Ever

The role of a building safety professional is often overshadowed. From code officials and building inspectors to permit technicians and fire marshals, these individuals play a major role in ensuring that all commercial, residential, public assembly and other buildings are constructed safely and in accordance with the most up-to-date building codes. 

Building codes address structural stability, fire safety, sanitation, safe wiring and more. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of building safety professionals to protect the public health, safety and welfare through effective code enforcement. Building safety professionals are engaged in the building process from the initial building plan to the finished product, and their work impacts every building in every community across our country. Because of their commitment to building safety, our buildings stand, our communities prosper and our homes are safe. 

When situations such as the current COVID-19 pandemic arise, building safety professionals must consider updates to building standards to reflect new societal norms. Understanding this need to take into account new safety threats, the International Code Council – a nonprofit association that provides a wide range of building safety solutions – revises its International Codes on a three-year cycle through its highly-respected consensus code development process. This process draws upon the expertise of hundreds of building, plumbing and safety experts from across the United States and the world.

From there, it is the work of code officials to ensure the safety and compliance of these codes and standards. Now, more than ever, these code officials are needed to keep our communities safe – and the job opportunities in this field are abundant. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor has projected employment opportunities within the building industry to be above average with a 7 percent growth rate between 2018 and 2028. Capitalizing on this growth, there is ripe opportunity to nurture incoming talent to continue pushing building safety forward through widespread awareness and educational programs.

Raising Awareness

The first step to ensure the success of future recruitment efforts is to raise awareness around the building safety industry. Due to the work being more on the back-end, the contributions of code officials are oftentimes overshadowed by the more upfront and glamorous aspects of the project such as the architectural design or the end-product. This has led to a general unawareness of the important role code officials play in keeping our communities safe.

Considered an essential industry by many federal and state governments in the United States during COVID-19, the responsibilities of code officials range from ensuring that healthcare infrastructure (including temporary structures and occupancies) is adequate for safe handwashing and has sanitary plumbing systems to issuing building permits in a fast and efficient manner so that construction timetables are met.

Understanding this priority, Building Safety Month, an international campaign to raise awareness about building safety, has devoted the fourth week of its campaign to focusing on recruiting and training the next generation of building safety professionals. This goal of this awareness campaign is to increase interest in the building safety profession.

Increasing Education

A primary objective of achieving this goal is to create and institute a network of easily accessible education and training programs for those interested in building safety. Looking towards the future, the Code Council created its Safety 2.0 initiative to prepare a new generation of building safety professionals by partnering with high schools, colleges and the military to spread awareness and recruitment for building code training. 

To date, more than 100 schools in 28 states have participated in its Technical Training Program. The Code Council has also partnered with organizations like Vets2PM to connect veterans reentering society with opportunities in the building industry. As May marks Building Safety Month, now is the time to act and bring the often-unrecognized work of the building safety industry to the forefront.

Greg Wheeler is president on the board of directors for the International Code Council.

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