Project Safety Management in Construction: Key Elements and Best Practices

February 10, 2022
Fabrication & Construction
Safety & Quality
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Safety management is one of the most common capital project challenges—in 2018 and 2019, construction was the highest industry sector for worker fatalities. In the construction industry, safety is non-negotiable. Without proper precautions, procedures, and attention to safety, construction sites can be extremely dangerous to the workers, environment, and surrounding community.

Project safety management is an essential part of capital project management, as effective project safety management can eliminate or mitigate potential safety risks. Below, we provide an overview of key elements of project safety management, including behavior-based safety programs, job safety analysis (JSA) tools and procedures, extra hazardous work identification and mitigation, and important questions to ask a contractor to ensure safe capital project execution.

Key Elements of Capital Project Safety Management

Promoting and maintaining a robust safety culture can help maintain frequent and continuous attention to safety across all levels of a company and improve safety hazard identification and planning. When it comes to safety, there is always room for improvement—contractors can take positive, proactive steps to further improve worker safety and enhance safety culture.

Behavior-Based Safety Programs

Behavior-based safety programs are designed to influence employee actions towards safer outcomes by preventing accidents and injuries before they occur. The names of these programs will likely vary from contractor to contractor, but all have the same overarching purposes. It is important to have buy-in at all levels of an organization, from on-site employees to management. These programs allow this by communicating the importance of safety and the ability for each employee to improve through positive reinforcement and feedback without placing blame.

Behavior-based safety assessments are the gold standard for periodic reviews of employee performance. The general procedure is for coworkers, inspectors, or observers to watch work behaviors. It is very important that workers and managers are all involved in behavior-based safety programs and that the culture is one of “keeping my colleagues” safe rather than “tattletale” or punitive. The observers are provided with a list that enables them to check if the employees are performing activities safely or if they are at risk. If risks are found, the observer will have a constructive discussion with the worker about why the risk occurred and work towards a resolution. The data from this review process can be analyzed to provide additional insight into how the identified risk can be prevented in the future.

Job Safety Analysis Tools and Procedures

A job safety analysis is a construction safety tool, often a physical form, that can be used on-site to define and control hazards associated with a particular process or job. It provides workers with a highly systematic way to examine and document every task within a given job to identify health and safety hazards and the steps to control each task. Those doing the actual work on-site are the ones who perform the JSA. This is an important aspect of the process, as it helps construction personnel identify the safest possible way to perform a job.

Job safety analyses are generally standard across the construction industry. The basic steps required in a typical job safety analysis procedure are as follows:

  1. Select the job to be analyzed.
  2. Break down the job into a sequence of steps.
  3. Identify any potential hazards.
  4. Determine preventive measures needed to overcome identified hazards.

Extra Hazardous Work Identification and Mitigation

Beyond behavior-based observations and on-site safety analysis tools, as a best practice, contractors should be aware of potential catastrophic safety events, or job-specific hazards that have the potential to cause major and life-critical injuries.

Extra hazardous work identification relates to specific activities that have been identified as being critical to evaluate and control through safe work plans and management involvement. During the bid walkthrough, estimators should have a checklist available that notes when workers will be exposed to hazardous work conditions during a part of a project. Examples of risk factors that may result in exposure to hazardous work conditions include the following:

  • Commissioning
  • Confined spaces
  • Demolition
  • Electrical
  • Energy isolation
  • Environment
  • Excavation
  • Falls
  • Flammables
  • Lifting

Important Questions to Ask Contractors

To understand a contractor’s safety culture and commitment to safe project execution, there are a few important questions to ask about how they handle project safety management, such as the following:

  • What safety training and programs are utilized? What measures do you take beyond the gold standards for project safety management?
  • How would you describe your company’s safety culture?
  • How do you ensure an environment of continuous improvement surrounding safety?
  • What is your Experience Modification Rating (EMR)?
  • What is your Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR)?
  • Can you provide your OSHA reportables and incidents for the past three years?

The H+M Approach to Project Safety Management

At H+M Industrial EPC, we are committed to inspiring a lifestyle of safety at all levels of our organization. 

“We believe that all incidents can be prevented through risk mitigation planning as well as forming safety partnerships with our clients to get ahead of the game when it comes to planning and scheduling.”

- Jay Bice, SMS, CHST

In addition to our behavior-based safety program, Take It Personal (TIP), and our use of job safety analysis tools and procedures, we have implemented an Extra Hazardous Work program. The goal of this program is to help us identify, communicate, and eliminate risks associated with extra hazardous work before starting any job.

About the Author

Want to Learn More About Project Management?

To find out more about how H+M Industrial EPC approaches project safety management, 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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The H+M Industrial Team

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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