Church Crawl: Completing a DSS in a Confined Space

We’re looking back on some memorable stories from the past 20 years. Today, our Project Manager, Gerren, is recounting a time where the team had to complete an unexpected confined space entry.

The Client Request

In 2015, a client inquired if Premier could complete a Designated Substance Survey (DSS) at an operating church. This was no ordinary DSS however— the survey area included a below grade utility tunnel underneath the sanctuary portion of the church which required confined space entry to access.

The Ministry of Labour (MOL) defines a confined space as a fully or partially enclosed space that is not designed and constructed for continuous human occupancy and in which atmospheric hazards may occur because of its construction, location or contents or because of the work that is done in it.

The utility tunnel was accessible by a ladder, was approximately 1 m high, approximately 100 m in linear length, and contained various utilities for the church. Accessing this area required us to hire contractors who specialize in confined space entries to provide the necessary equipment, and roles as rescuer and observer.

The Premier Solution

Having the required confined space training, I was lucky enough to perform the inspection as the entrant! The entry consisted of the contractors setting up a tripod and winch over one of the entries and equipping me with a harness, 4-gas meter and radio.  After being connected to the winch, I was able to enter the tunnel and complete the ‘church crawl’ making observations and taking photos along the way. The atmospheric conditions were monitored continuously by the 4-gas metre I was wearing and monitored above grade by the contractors. Additionally, every 3-minutes they would radio me and I was required to give a verbal response that I was okay.

At the end of the day the DSS was completed successfully in a safe and interesting way! You never know what a typically routine inspection will consist of and Premier is always willing to go above and beyond to get the job done!

The Benefits of Mentorship for Career Building

In this post, Premier Environmental’s President, Dave Wade, recounts how mentorship in the early years of his career was crucial to building his professional future.

Do you know that January has been designated as Mentoring Month? While this was news to me, the concept of mentoring is not. 

I think back to the early days of my career in the environmental science and engineering field, back to the late 1980’s and recall some of the senior and intermediate professionals who mentored me.  While some are no longer alive, and most are retired, all who mentored me left lasting impressions that in many ways silently guide me through my working day. 

I recall one senior geoscientist who instilled the value of knowing as much about soil and groundwater qualities/properties through the “doing it all approach”.  Before I was allowed to supervise a drill rig in the field, I had to spend a full year and a half working in the soils lab so that I understood what the various types of soil looked like, how to properly classify them, and how to identify their physical properties through tactile and visual senses.   

When I was allowed to collect soil samples from a drill rig, he showed me what those samples looked like insitu and why it was important to differentiate based on my lab training.  There is no doubt that that experience made me a better technical professional over the years that followed, and it also taught me that hard work and attention to detail are the hallmarks of success. 

Whether you are the mentee or the mentor, the benefits are, of course in the technical aspects of work, but can also be found in the relationships that are built. Both individuals are exposed to perspectives different from their own which allows growth and new ways of looking at challenges.  

So if you get the chance to reach out to one of your mentors, thank them for what they have taught you.  If you are lucky enough to be a mentor to another, go for it, you may be surprised at the subtle rewards that follow. 

What Makes a Project Manager Successful?

Through this complex and challenging last year and a half, project managers have had to learn to work differently. Organizations were put to the test, having to continue usual duties while adhering to physical distance guidelines. The pandemic has magnified the notion that projects are ever-changing and for these to be successful, an organization’s project management must stand out above the rest.

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Utility Vehicles for Inaccessible Sites

Generally, a site is considered inaccessible not because of the lack of street access but because the terrain is unmanageable for the average vehicle. Oftentimes there are debris left over from previous structures or industrial uses that can become covered with vegetation as time passes. Not only are these types of sites dangerous to road vehicles but they are also dangerous for field technicians conducting any kind of environmental sampling.

Utility vehicles (UTVs) are specially designed for rough and uneven terrain with standard four-wheel drive and low centre of gravity. They have a durable cargo box with capacities starting at 450kg (1000lb), as well as the option to tow a trailer. The operator and passenger are kept safe with seatbelts and a roll cage, but it is strongly recommended that both wear head protection.

Groundwater sampling equipment typically includes a pump, a large battery, a geochemistry detector, sample bottles, a cooler, miscellaneous tools and consumables like tubing. Carrying this equipment between sampling locations, over uneven ground, can be a time consuming and dangerous process. Use of a UTV nearly eliminates a site’s tripping hazards as technicians can load the bed of the vehicle and drive the equipment to the next location. The UTV can also save hours or days of fieldwork, depending on the scale of the project, by providing fast transport over long distances where multiple trips would instead be needed.

UTVs are useful in many niche situations as well, like when training a technician at an inaccessible site. The trainee maybe working independently at one sample location while the trainer is working at another. If the trainee runs into an impediment while sampling the trainer can use the UTV to reach them for assistance in a fraction of the time.

Technicians are excellent problem solvers in the field; using a UTV provides them with another tool in their toolbelt to keep the project running safely and smoothly.

How Sustainability Encourages Long-Term Growth

The past year has shown that change is all around us. Decisions and practices that are made by businesses can have wide-ranging impacts, felt across the world.

With these unprecedented events, we’re encouraged to examine what we can do to prevent similar occurrences from happening again. It’s become clear that the traditional, wealth-focused way of doing things is not sustainable. Many organizations now know that success is not reflected as simple profits and losses, but rather represented through positive impacts to its stakeholders and the wider community.

The Triple Bottom Line

First coined by author John Elkington in 1994, the “triple bottom line” provides a regenerative and holistic business model that accounts for the Three P’s: people, planet, and profit. Acting as a roadmap for businesses over the long-term, the triple bottom line shifts from the idea that operating sustainably requires a trade-off from maintaining profitability.

As we can see from current trends, the triple bottom line is a business concept that is here to stay. Certified B-Corporations are a group of companies that balance social purpose with profit, disclosing their impacts on workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. Currently, big names such as Ben & Jerry’s, bdc, and Danone North America are certified as B-Corporations. ESG (environmental, social, and governance) indices, like GRI and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, are widely-used as a way to provide basic transparency to shareholders. Standards previously on the fringes of the industry are now mainstream and expected by stakeholders.

The Economic Value of Sustainability

While operating sustainably may require an initial investment, the strategies that are developed prioritizing the triple bottom line can generate long-term profits and a unique competitive advantage. According to McKinsey, companies with high ESG ratings are shown to consistently outperform the market both medium and long-term. Increasingly, customers are also demanding that companies prioritize sustainability and social causes.

As a starting point, the triple bottom line encourages us to rethink capitalism and prioritize innovation. Prioritizing people, planet, and profit challenges companies to differentiate their services from their competitors and others in the industry. As with all forward-thinking companies, unique business models can ensure longevity of the company and success for years to come.

Is Having a WELL Health-Safety Consultant Necessary?

Create a Successful Return to Work Strategy with the Health-Safety Rating

As Ontario progresses in its reopening strategy and opens a variety of outdoor amenities, many of us may be wondering when we can return to the indoor spaces we love. It’s no secret that many employees are starting to miss the office environment, from JP Morgan and Barclays planning to eventually bring back most of their workforce, to Ivanhoé Cambridge launching their “Do You Miss the Office?” podcast.

A successful return to work strategy centres around more than just physical distancing and mask mandates. From our Sustainability Group’s experience, tenants are unique and have different priorities when it comes to staying safe at the office. Opportunely, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI)’s WELL Health-Safety Rating provides evidence-based best practices that communicate dedication to maintaining a safe indoor experience.

What is the WELL Health-Safety Rating?

Similar to the WELL Building Standard, the WELL Health-Safety Rating advances healthier and safer spaces through a set of rigorous criteria informed by years of research from IWBI. If your organization is looking to achieve the seal, it may be confusing to dive into the more than 20 features that comprise the Health-Safety Rating. Further, for organizations that are unfamiliar with the WELL Building Standard, there can be a substantial learning curve in starting out. As with all projects, the addition of a project manager in the form of a WELL consultant can be an invaluable asset.

WELL consultants are professionals that possess significant knowledge of human health and wellness in the built environment. For the Health-Safety Rating, WELL consultants wear many hats and may support clients by providing cost estimates, connecting with testing agents, planning timelines, producing verification documents, and launching creative marketing campaigns to promote achievement of the seal.

What are the Benefits of Having a WELL Consultant?

Gain Verified Expertise. A WELL consultant is often a WELL AP, an accredited professional with the IWBI who has the knowledge and expertise to transform human health and wellness in buildings and communities. WELL APs know the requirements of the rating inside-out, so that the client doesn’t have to. At the start of the project, the WELL consultant can help to establish a project budget with suggested stakeholders and vendors that will makeup the broader project team. They may also undertake a gap analysis that takes into consideration the project as a whole to identify what is needed to move forward and which criteria the building may be falling short on.

Save Time and Money. WELL consultants manage timelines and guide clients towards features they are most likely to achieve–minimizing time wasted and ensuring that property managers can focus on their most urgent tasks. Day-to-day, WELL consultants are available to answer questions, offer technical support, liaise with IWBI, and provide regular project updates–creating a seamless client experience. As the project manager, the consultant works independently and behind the scenes to ensure that all heavy lifting associated with the project is taken care of.

Find Synergies. If your organization chooses to pursue the Health-Safety Rating at multiple properties, a WELL consultant can manage and relay information between different project team members and third-party vendors to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page.

Develop Innovative Solutions. The WELL consultant applies their industry experience and background to help solve issues that arise and develop creative solutions to meet the criteria of the Health-Safety Rating. During the project, the consultant reviews policies and existing materials, creates new documentation for submission, and verifies information from third-party vendors and consultants in pursuit of ultimately achieving the building seal.

Attract and Retain Tenants. Following confirmation from GBCI that a property has achieved the Health-Safety Rating, the WELL consultant may be responsible for developing creative communications and initiatives that showcase the client’s commitment to health and wellness. The consultant helps the client show off their hard work and simultaneously supports them in attracting and retaining tenants.

Create Healthier Environments with Us

100% of our Sustainability team possesses the WELL AP credential. As full-time sustainability professionals, our team has extensive experience in guiding clients through WELL Certification. Over the past year, our team has worked with multiple properties in supporting their pursuit of the WELL Health-Safety Rating. Connect with us today to learn how we can support you in building a healthier environment at

Attract Pollinators with a Spring-Ready Garden

attract pollinators

As we enjoy the warmer spring weather, it is time to start thinking about getting your garden ready for the upcoming growing season. Making sure your garden is pollinator-friendly is a simple way to help maintain a healthy ecosystem and promote biodiversity. We rely on pollinators such as bees, butterflies and beetles to pollinate agricultural crops and native plants. Without these pollinators, we would not be able to enjoy the plentiful fresh produce and fruit that is harvested each year.

When creating a pollinator-friendly garden at home, consider these tips:

1. Try planting native perennial varieties. If you are looking for plants that require less maintenance, then perennials are the way to go. A bonus to planting perennials is that they will return the next season, so there is no need to recreate the garden every year. Native perennial plants will often work best in your landscape as they a suited to your local growing conditions and are great at attracting local pollinators.

2. Consider adding a variety of perennial plants with overlapping blooming periods. Having plants that bloom in the spring, summer and fall will allow pollinators to have access to food throughout the growing seasons.

3. Anthropogenic pesticides are a major threat to pollinators so try no to use them in your yard. Here is a good resource to pollinator friendly pesticides and fungicides that can encourage your plants to grow but also allow pollinators to thrive.

4. Group plant species together instead of dispersing them throughout the garden. Large clusters of individual species make it easier for pollinators to locate.

5. Other items to consider adding to your garden are nesting boxes for bees and a fresh water source, such as a bird bath.

6. Consider adding plant varieties that pollinators can use to lay eggs An example of this would be planting milkweed for monarch butterflies to lay their eggs. When the caterpillar’s hatch they will eat the milkweed and then once they transform to butterflies, they can feed on all the nectar and pollen your garden has to offer.