"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."

(Benjamin Franklin)

This paper is written to assist safety professionals, designers, owners and construction company managers improve the pre-project construction safety planning process and reduce injuries and illnesses during construction. The author's experiences in planning and overseeing project safety during 12 years as Corporate Safety Director in a large industrial construction company are the source of the information herein, in addition to the information sources in the bibliography. The objective of this document is to highlight the management elements and a comprehensive range of subjects that should be included in the project safety planning process.

Of great importance to the safety of construction craft workers and the owner's property is the timing of the safety planning effort and the commitment of owners, as well as design and construction firms. A key responsibility of all managers is to assign knowledgeable personnel to the safety review process, including safety professionals who will be assigned during the life of a project. Conducting thorough safety planning early during the design process and while selecting subcontractors has proven to be more effective than redirecting the work after starting a project. (Exhibit 1)

Pre-project safety planning has been recognized as a mainstay of the construction safety process for more than a decade. The research effort to validate the effectiveness of planning was first undertaken by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) in 1990. Ten years later, a second study once again identified the planning process as a vital element of construction safety process. The CII study, entitled "Making Zero Accidents A Reality Project Team," identified the following nine key topic areas that contribute to improved safety performance:

  • Demonstrated management commitment

  • Staffing for safety

  • Planning: pre-project and pre-task

  • Safety education: orientation and specialized training

  • Worker involvement

  • Evaluation and recognition/reward

  • Subcontract management

  • Accident/incident investigations

  • Drug and alcohol testing

After mobilization on a site, worker protection is significantly influenced by decisions that were made during the planning and design process. Some engineering or construction plans that are formulated without comprehensive safety planning may be difficult and dangerous to implement.

For example, the early recognition that structural steel must be ordered with holes punched in the beams for fall protection cable installation at the various levels will prevent unnecessary exposures to falls during decking operations. Also, the properly sequenced delivery of metal grating and stairs will help ensure that as the steel structure is erected, and craft workers can access the various levels without using ladders and complex and expensive fall protection systems.

Commitment to the Planning Process

"Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes… but no plans."

(Peter F. Drucker)

Safety professionals know that a successful safety process requires a high degree of commitment from managers; in construction, such commitment is necessary at all levels in the owner organization and by the construction managers and subcontractor company owners and their supervisors.

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