Safety is one of the most important aspects of a construction project, as construction workers are often exposed to activities with potentially serious hazards. OSHA guidelines recommend a proactive approach to managing workplace safety and health and recommend developing a plan to identify and select options for eliminating, preventing, or controlling workplace hazards. Additionally, several states require employers to develop a comprehensive written safety plan that protects workers from injuries and illnesses in the workplace. With the construction sector having one of the highest risks of fatal injuries, a project safety plan for construction activities is a must-have.
In this article, we answer some of the most common questions that project owners usually have regarding a project safety plan.
What is a project safety plan?
A project safety plan in construction is a written document that outlines safety procedures, rules, and regulations to help identify potential hazards and mitigation steps. The intent of the document is to protect workers from injuries and accidents during the course of the project. The document should be drafted before the construction project is underway; however, it should be flexible enough to accommodate any changes to the project or new hazards discovered at the construction site. Some of the common elements included in a project safety plan consist of the following:
- Safety policy or goal statements
- Company safety standards
- A description of the project scope, the scope of work, and specific hazards
- A list of responsible persons
- Safety and emergency contact information
- A description of site conditions, location, site-specific standards, and the general rules of job site
- Hazard identification, controls, and safe practices
- Crisis and emergency preparedness plan (evacuation, rescue, and medical emergency plans)
- Supplemental hazard control plans (hazards in various work environments including commissioning, confined spaces, demolition, electrical, energy isolation, environment, excavation, falls, flammables, and lifting)
- Materials/chemicals in use and their specific hazards
- Required certifications and training related to safety before starting construction work
What is the value of a project safety plan for construction?
The key elements of a project safety plan for construction help create a complete blueprint for keeping the construction crew and the community around the project site safe. The value of a project safety plan includes but is not limited to:
- Ensuring everyone is well-informed: When everyone understands the safety protocols in construction, there is less room for confusion or error. A project safety plan helps understand and determine the potential hazards in various construction activities and makes safety guidelines explicitly clear before the work begins. As an integral part of workers’ contracts, a project safety plan can ensure the construction work moves as swiftly, smoothly, and safely as possible.
- Being able to make decisions quickly: A project safety plan lets project owners and contractors make quick and early decisions on mitigating safety hazards and scope changes that are discovered during the ongoing work. The adoption and strict enforcement of safety practices protects the health and safety of workers and avoids unnecessary project delays arising from accidents or injuries. This translates to timely project completion with improved productivity and competitiveness.
- Ensuring personnel safety: Accidents at construction sites occur due to several reasons, including a lack of safety management practices, failure in identifying potential hazards, usage of improper equipment or tools, limited or no training, complacency, and a general disregard for construction job safety. A project safety plan starts with upper management and flows to the construction crew, educating them on safety training, emergency procedures, and the usage of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce injuries.
How should a project safety plan be used?
The best way to implement a project safety plan for construction and ensure safe capital project execution is through:
- Inspecting and analyzing a project worksite: The inspection of a project worksite starts during the design and engineering phase to analyze design risks and the associated hazards and ensure the site meets standards and codes. Design finalization takes into account the safety processes to be implemented on the site to decrease the risks of potentially hazardous work. Hazard identification and correction continue further with an on-site inspection and job safety analysis (JSA) to develop safe work plans.
- Ensuring good communication across all levels: Information on safety risks at the construction site should be communicated across all levels of a project team. The early involvement of key project stakeholders helps allocate resources to protect the construction crew and promote better communication regarding safety plans.
- Training employees: The advantages of a project safety plan can be best realized through regular employee training to ensure ongoing safety risk evaluations, identify workplace hazards, and develop mitigation strategies.
How do I gather information for the project safety plan?
A well-designed project safety plan for construction requires gathering all the site-specific details to address potential hazards with appropriate safety measures. Early involvement and better communication between key project stakeholders can help collect the critical information to develop a foolproof safety plan. Some of the primary elements that are instrumental in putting together a project safety plan include:
- A description of site condition and location: A project safety plan needs to consider the site-specific conditions and geographical location of the project, along with information on any usual site conditions, the location of scaffolding, equipment, and other activities, and neighboring structures.
- Site access requirements: This involves information such as security clearance measures, badging requirements, vehicle travel and delivery routes to the construction site, dedicated building entry points and stairwells, and worker movements off-site, including in break areas and parking locations.
- A description of the project scope: The project scope helps assess the risks of the associated construction work across all stages of the project, from concept and designing through construction. Once risks are identified, scope items that carry highly hazardous risks need to be further reviewed.
- Hazard Identification: For construction, it is imperative to fully understand the project scope to identify where potentially hazardous activities may arise throughout all project phases. With proper identification of high-risk activities, mitigation methods can be developed, communicated, and implemented.
- Hazard controls and safe practices: Hazard controls are aimed at eliminating or minimizing the impact of potential hazards through safe practices. The hierarchy of controlling hazards includes elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment.
- Communication methods: Effective ongoing communication between corporate management, the engineering and construction teams, and the on-site construction crew is the key to gathering information on developing a robust project safety plan Communication methods can include but are not limited to kick-off meetings, morning tailgate meetings, behavior-based safety programs, management of change, etc.
How does H+M Industrial EPC’s safety program help create an effective project safety plan?
At H+M Industrial EPC, safety is not just a value or a priority but rather a way of life adopted for all planning and execution of construction work. We promote and maintain a robust safety culture through:
- Behavior-based safety assessments: To ensure that our safety culture is mirrored by employees across all levels of the organization, behavior-based safety assessments are done to routinely review employee performance. The work behaviors of employees are watched by coworkers, inspectors, or observers to check whether activities are performed safely without risks. The behavior-based safety assessments are critical in identifying risks and developing mitigation strategies through feedback and positive reinforcement.
- Job Safety Analysis: A job safety analysis (JSA) is the second line of defense that is used by on-site workers to examine various construction tasks and identify the associated potential health and safety hazards. By breaking down a construction job into a series of steps, construction workers are better equipped to identify potential hazards and determine preventive measures to overcome them.
- Extra Hazardous Work (EHW) program: H+M has categorized ten construction activities, including commissioning, confined spaces, electrical, demolition, environment, energy isolation, flammables and hot work, falls, and critical lifting, as Extra Hazardous Work (EHW) that pose a higher risk for injuries. These categories are assessed during the estimating phase prior to the job being awarded. The EHW program is a new approach to evaluating and controlling job-specific hazards through safe work plans approved by corporate management and communicated to the construction crew before work begins. In the event EHW is identified on-site, work shall not proceed until a developed safe work plan is created and approved.
With such detailed levels of project safety management and construction risk management, along with regular employee training on the identification and mitigation of safety hazards, we ensure your capital project is supported by an effective project safety plan.