The construction sector has one of the highest fatal work injury rates, with 1,008 fatal work injuries in 2020. The hazard potential presented by some construction activities is high and should be planned for and considered even in the early stages of front-end planning. Especially in the execution phase of the project, safe work plans are essential to reducing potential risks of accidents.
It is industry standard for construction companies in the energy, chemical, and manufacturing industries to have behavior-based safety programs in place. These programs are extremely valuable in identifying the behaviors construction crews should follow for safety. A majority of them also have Job Safety Analysis (JSA) programs in place for employees to evaluate extra hazardous jobs and the associated safety implications.
These standard devices can miss critical safety items for some of the most dangerous components of construction. In most cases, construction happens at a site remote to the contractor’s management function, and the JSA is heavily dependent upon the experience and knowledge of the construction crew about hazardous work activities. It is of vital importance that the entire team is aligned and aware of the safety implications of the preparation and execution of hazardous work.
To create an effective safety plan, let’s take a closer look at some strategies for extra hazardous work construction risk management.
Extra Hazardous Work (EHW) Risk Categories and Mitigation Strategies
The extra hazardous potential of any capital project needs to be evaluated and communicated across all levels for the appropriate management and oversight of high-risk activities.
Below, we detail some of the most common extra hazardous work categories and risks that are identified in construction, along with mitigation methods to follow.
Safe work plans should be developed for hazardous activities, such as pigging or dewatering using pigs, cleaning through impulse blowing, flushing, or operations of client valves or equipment. A barricaded perimeter and safety guidelines for the construction crew can help avoid accidents at the construction sites.
The risks of construction work in confined spaces need to be properly addressed with an onsite presence of a rescue team apart from the construction crew and through a comprehensive rescue plan and training credentials provided by a subcontractor.
Activities such as lifting lugs on structures or the demolition of any equipment, structure, or system require a proper inspection to ensure the integrity of the structures that might pose potential safety hazards.
A work scope that involves working on live electrical equipment, such as panels, junction boxes, and transformers, or working with overhead electrical lines pose electrical hazards to workers. Insulated protective devices should be placed on electrical lines to protect workers and equipment from such hazards.
Risk mitigation strategies for activities such as primary blinding/blanking, work involving equipment or systems that are not clean, gas-free, or in a zero-energy state, hot taps, stopples, or welding on live lines should be planned through piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&ID), sketches of the isolation plan, and an energy isolation verification list.
Lead or asbestos as contaminants can pose serious health hazards. Any work involving grinding, welding, burning on any lead-based surfaces, the possibility of asbestos exposure, and lower oxygen levels should be addressed by abating contaminated materials before starting construction work.
Excavations greater than eight feet deep or involving shoring methods including pneumatic, hydraulic, timber, aluminum, or boxes should have fall protection and prevention measures in place to minimize the possibility of accidents on-site.
Construction work performed over water or on suspended scaffolds should have proper fall protection measures implemented, along with safety guidelines communicated to the crew.
A work scope that includes cold work above a 10% Lower Explosive Limit (LEL), hot work above a 1% LEL, or working with piping/equipment with residual product/hydrocarbon pose potential fire hazards that should be mitigated through specific safe work plans.
For work involving multiple cranes, lifting loads over live electrical lines, or utilizing 75% of the crane capacity, an approved critical lift plan must be in place to be communicated to the workers.
Extra Hazardous Work (EHW) Project Life Cycle
The EHW project life cycle below is a visualization of one way an organization can identify any of the EHW categories mentioned previously as early as in the bid stage. Once the scope of extra hazardous work has been determined by a contractor, the risk mitigation measures and their impact on the bid need to be considered and reviewed by the project owner. The EHW checklist should be reviewed through each stage of the life cycle to identify the hazards, and specific job plans should be written to specify the risks and mitigate them.
EHW Evaluation During Bid Phase
During the job estimation phase, project teams should use an extra hazardous checklist containing the 10 items previously identified to help look for the presence of those hazards. If any EHW hazards exist, they should be identified and communicated to the entire project team during the bid process. Planning should include efforts to eliminate or reduce the risk. For any EHW hazards that still exist, safe work plans will need to be created.
EHW Evaluation during Execution Phase
After the project is awarded and active, any EHW activities identified during the bid phase should be planned for. This planning should include team communication and the creation of safe work plans. Safe work plans include the specific activities associated with the work of the EHW, including any necessary documentation such as P&IDs or drawings that communicate the job plan. A subject matter expert should approve the safe work plan, and upon implementation of the plan, the workers involved should become active participants in the created safe work plan.
If extra hazardous work has not been identified through the bid phase or project planning phase, or if a scope change presents an EHW activity that was not previously addressed, the JSA works as the second line of defense on a day-to-day basis. JSAs are in place to provide on-site workers with a way to examine and document the tasks in a project to help identify the associated risks. They are there to guide the construction personnel with the safest way to perform the job. An additional layer of control that should be included to address extra hazardous work is integrating an EHW checklist into the daily JSAs that are already being conducted. If safety hazards are then identified at the construction site, the work needs to stop immediately to develop an EHW safe work plan for approval by corporate management.
EHW and safety checks are a necessity to make sure that everyone at the worksite is safe. Partnering with the right EPC contractor can help project owners adhere to safe industrial practices and quality control standards for capital projects.
Work With H+M for Extra Hazardous Work Construction Risk Management
At H+M Industrial EPC, the EHW program has been developed with the objective of early detection and communication of potential hazards and is used on every single job. Through the EHW checklist, we start determining safety risks right from the estimating or proposal phase to create and communicate safe work plans. Our employees are regularly trained to accurately identify and mitigate safety hazards, ensuring your capital projects are executed safely and efficiently.