HSE Risk Management in Capital Projects

July 27, 2021
Fabrication & Construction
Safety & Quality

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There is one focus for capital project management that can reduce cost overruns, improve employee morale, and limit liability for both capital project owners and contractors. While projects have many risks including financial and quality, one of the most potentially damaging risks is health, safety, and environment (HSE). It’s a requirement for every capital project to integrate proper HSE risk management.

All industrial construction companies will have HSE risk management programs in place to protect employees and reduce accidents to meet state and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and licensure requirements. However, some contractors will stand out and may offer even more benefits by integrating safety programs at various project delivery stages.

Below we describe a few of these safety programs and how they maximize HSE risk management in capital projects. 

HSE Risk Management and Behavior-Based Safety Programs

Behavior-based safety (BBS) assessments are the gold standard for periodic reviews of employee performance and meeting HSE risk management goals during capital projects. Instituted in the 1990s, BBS inspectors have a checklist of behaviors and activities to avoid that can lead to accidents for themselves or others. They then review any issues with the employee. Each company calls its program something different while following the objectives of a BBS program.

HSE risk management must have buy-in at all levels, from on-site employees to management. A good example might be a worker who is not wearing gloves or has excessive sparks flying from a welding project in the case of a BBS program review. For the former, a conversation between the inspector and worker might turn up the fact that the gloves no longer fit. In the latter case, a shield may no longer function properly.

No matter the initial issue, the goal is to ensure that workers can be safe, not for them to receive punishment. By seeing the results of the inspections and collaborating with employees, it is easier to make lasting changes that will improve compliance with HSE risk management guidelines.

Evaluation of Extra Hazardous Work 

Beyond behavior-based observations, contractors should be aware of the job-specific hazards that have the potential to significantly affect life and the environment. Extra hazardous work identification pertains to specific activities that are flagged as being important to evaluate and control through safe work plans and management involvement. 

From the bid stage, estimators should be trained and have a checklist available that notes when contractors will be exposed to hazardous work conditions during any portion of a project. Engineers should also be aware of what design features may lead to an EHW activity and offer ways to limit those unless necessary. This protects workers and can also reduce project costs due to foreseeable accidents. At the job level, as part of a Job Safety Analysis, workers should confirm that the specific job is not an EHW activity. If it is, then the prepared safety work plan should be followed. 

There are 10 separate areas of concern for contractors that should be taken into account at every stage of the project. When it comes to project HSE risk management, extra focus should be on the following risk factors:

  • Commissioning: Before work is started, verify whether the site requires cleaning, flushing, or operation of client valves and equipment.
  • Confined Spaces: A qualified rescue team must be on-site for certain types of confined space work.
  • Demolition: This addresses any explosive or cutting work done to dismantle existing structures.
  • Electrical: Overhead electrical lines with voltage above 50 kV and live electrical equipment are key risk factors.
  • Energy Isolation: Maintaining pipeline and other conduit integrity is critical to prevent catastrophic events.
  • Environment: Plans must be made to limit exposure to asbestos and other toxic material.
  • Excavation: Excavations deeper than four feet must include proper shoring methods to prevent structural collapse.
  • Falls: Guidelines exist for any work performed directly over water.
  • Flammables: Take caution when the work scope involves temperatures that are near ignition points for combustible elements.
  • Lifting: Special policies are in place for cranes using more than 75% of their capacity as well as for the usage of multiple cranes and operations over live electrical lines.

By creating safety guidelines prior to any fabrication or construction, it reinforces proper protocols for employees and supervisors. This means no last-minute judgment calls on-site and fewer opportunities for accidents.

How EPC Contractors Maximize Risk Management

EPC delivery methods offer several key benefits compared to design and engineering firms that outsource construction to outside contractors. The first is being able to incorporate health and safety requirements from the beginning of the project. In-house engineers are aware of the capabilities of a construction team and can assess project features based on future worker risk. EHW requirements are incorporated from the earliest stages.

Because consistent and smooth communication is key in EPC project delivery methods, it also ensures both the project owner and the contractor are always aware of any HSE risks that might occur. Evaluating and mitigating potential risks is more efficient when everyone involved in the project is working together.

Utilize Integrated HSE Risk Management for Your Capital Project

Ensuring employees can safely complete complex work is a critical component in the success of any capital project. H+M Industrial has more than 30 years of experience incorporating HSE requirements to ensure that procurement, fabrication, and construction concerns are alleviated early in the process. We work from the start to keep project owners aware of potential costs involving certain elements of a build or retrofit project and how to keep within budget throughout project stages.

About the Author

Want to Learn More About Project Management?

To find out more about HSE risk management and how H+M Industrial EPC can help mitigate risk, contact us through our website today.

To find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of turnkey projects and how H+M Industrial EPC can meet your capital project needs, contact us through our website today.

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For over three decades, we have provided best-in-class capital project management services to Energy and Chemical industries through our proven EPC approach. We are dedicated to providing trust, experience, and efficiency through all stages of engineering, procurement, and construction--on budget and on time.

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