TRANSFORMATIVE. That's what some have suggested could be the long-term impact of NIOSH's Prevention Through Design (PtD) initiative. Some believe it will lead to a fundamental shift in the practice of safety resulting in greater emphasis being given to the higher and more effective decision-making levels in the hierarchy of controls. The goal of this initiative, founded on the need to "create a sustainable national strategy for prevention through design," is to "reduce the risk of occupational injury and illness by integrating decisions affecting safety and health in all stages of the design process." To move toward fulfillment of this mission, John Howard, M.D., 2002–08 director of NIOSH, said, "One important area of emphasis will be to examine ways to create a demand for graduates of business, architecture and engineering schools to have basic knowledge in occupational health and safety principles and concepts." The PtD initiative is based on the premise that "one of the best ways to prevent and control occupational injuries, illnesses and fatalities is to design out or minimize hazards and risks early in the design process" (NIOSH). Notice that this definition limits activity to "early in the design process." At a July 2007 workshop that brought key PtD stakeholders together, many participants called for the concept to be extended to include redesign activities, much as the following definition does: PtD: Addressing occupational safety and health needs in the design and redesign processes to prevent or minimize the work-related hazards and risks associated with the construction, manufacture, use, maintenance and disposal of facilities, materials, equipment and processes. Enthusiasm for additional knowledge of PtD principles and practices was significant. Several workshop attendees said it would be helpful if a regulation or a standard were available that sets forth the principles and the methodologies to address hazards and risks in the design and redesign processes. The probability that OSHA could promulgate a regulation or a standard on PtD is unlikely at this time. It is more probable that an ANSI standard could be developed and approved, but that could take several years. For example, ANSI/AIHA Z10–2005 was published 6 years after the secretariat received ANSI approval to begin its work. Let's assume that the NIOSH initiative, which is a several-year undertaking, is successful. Since hazards analyses and risk assessments are the core of the PtD concept, the impact on the knowledge needs of SH&E practitioners will be significant. As a primer, this article provides guidelines for addressing those needs. At all levels---management, engineers, safety professionals---it must also be understood that safety standards and guidelines now include more provisions for addressing hazards and risks in the design and redesign processes. Examples of such standards and guidelines include the following:

  • ANSI/ASSE Z241.1-2003, Control of Hazardous Energy: Lockout/Tagout and Alternative Methods (ASSE, 2003).

  • ANSI/AIHA Z10-2005, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (ANSI/AIHA, 2005).

  • ANSI/PMMI B155.1-2006, Safety Requirements for Packaging Machinery and Packaging-Related Converting Machinery (ANSI/PMMI, 2006).

  • ANSI/RIA R15.06-1999, American National Standard for Industrial Robots and Robot Systems: Safety Requirements (Robotics Industries Association, 1999).

  • Aviation Ground Operation Safety Handbook (6th ed.) (NSC, 2007). professionals in smaller organizations (i.e., 1,000 or fewer employees).

These guidelines apply to the three major timeframes in the practice of safety.

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