Integrating project management and safety management



As project managers, we are accustomed to providing metrics on the health of our projects, and not so much with the health of the project team. The aim of this paper is to delve into the nuances of health, safety, and the environment as key performance indicators (KPIs) of project health—understanding how to plan, manage, and report these activities. The critical intersection of project and safety management involves the management and reduction of income erosion, while enhancing quality and creating critical cultural enrichment.

How Did We Get Here?

To better understand the integration, it helps to look at these disciplines from their separate points of view. For project managers, the overall health of the project has been our primary concern—and mostly from an expanded triple constraint model tied to earned value: are we doing what we said we'd accomplish, on the schedule we said, and for the amount of money we stated, all while delivering the quality the customer is expecting. Our safety professionals liken the journey to what are we doing to ensure that every employee has been trained to accomplish their jobs safely, meet or exceed regulatory requirements, and in many cases, have a behavioral or observational safety program to actively ensure that employees are actually doing what the job entails. Couple this with process and procedural safety approaches, and a tireless approach to making sure that every employee goes home safe.

Implementing Integration

Since the project manager has the formal responsibility for the success of the project, this paper will look at this integration from their point of view. This places the safety professional as a key stakeholder of the project, and as a key team member.


Integration is not a difficult endeavor—it is a mind shift of responsibility; it starts with culture. Project managers must ask themselves, do I have a project environment where every team member can escalate a problem immediately—and without repercussions? Do my project team members have the ability to stop work if a major problem is uncovered? These can be difficult questions for the average project manager, but critically, it is the first step the project manager must be prepared to confront to effectively integrate safety management as a key knowledge area within their projects. The ability to understand how the project team views their capability to effectively raise red flags is the key component to this integration. In the safety world, this is called Stop Work Authority. It is a key component to an effective safety program.

Project managers have been discussing Bruce Tuckman's stages of group development for years: storming, forming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Dr. Tuckman's teamwork theories effectively highlight the importance of creating culture in teams. Storming became the critical link in allowing the team to effectively express concern, while being coached by the project manager to create structure and cementing this culture through effective response to concern. If the team feels that they are unable to be open in this stage of group dynamics creation, the culture will be extremely hard to re-introduce to the team. Once the team understands whatever culture is imparted on them, they start the norming process.


Effective stakeholder engagement in the planning process is an important part of all projects. Occupational health, safety, and the environment (HSE) should be key components of the planning process – and these stakeholders should be a major part of the planning process. In the business analysis side of project management, many of these items should be planned into the bid process – so hidden costs of HSE don't creep into projects during the project planning.

Planning HSE into projects can encompass many components based on the complexity and type of project being executed. For example, construction project management may seem much more “oriented” towards an integrated safety and project management approach, then say, an IT project. However, this is quite misleading. While both projects may seem different in their own way, many of the same questions need to be asked:

  • What are the client's expectations towards contractor safety performance?

Companies often put their contractor expectations on their website:

  • IBM

  • “At IBM, we believe safety, health, and environmental awareness are fundamental components of every activity. It is IBM's policy that work performed by contractors does not compromise the well-being of IBM employees, customers, or visitors. As such, all contractor work is required to be in compliance with applicable regulatory and IBM requirements and the contract terms and conditions. IBM has developed guidance documents to familiarize contractors, subcontractors, and their employees working at an IBM facility with important information about our safety and environmental policies. This guidance is not intended to be all inclusive but does include the topics which are important and are most frequently of concern and should be considered as minimum requirements supplementing the contractor's safety program. It is the responsibility of each contracting firm to ensure that its employees comply with the guidance in the applicable document.”

  • Are there specific actions that might involve a team member performing their duties in any of the following:
    • Co-located facility

    • Virtually

    • Physical movement of equipment

    • Inclement weather

Occupational health is an often overlooked component of project planning. Has your project taken into consideration the ergonomics of sitting, talking on the computer/phone, physically installing equipment (like switches or servers)? Has the project considered that co-located offices introduce new hazards to some employees (often overcome by scheduling in building emergency procedure overviews), as well as how office workers might deal with inclement weather (often this is an expectation-setting conversation – around proper footwear, clothing, etc.).

  • Are there ways to reduce the environmental impact of this project?
    • Are there local regulations that need to be considered?

    • More environmentally correct choices in procurement;

    • Recycling of transport materials;

    • Energy Star settings for equipment;

    • Encouragement of carpooling or mass transit for team;

    • Recycling programs in common areas.

The consideration of the environment in project management is a fast emerging trend, but it is also indicative of the culture that the project manager pushes forward. When project managers model and expect behaviors like recycling cans, bottles, or trying to avoid printouts as much as possible, they can create a culture of looking holistically at the project, the client, and the team.

When we look at more of the typical HSE concerns for projects, we can start to see why HSE professionals need to be included in the project planning process:

  • Regulatory requirements;
  • Key process demands;
  • Required equipment and supplies;
  • Training;
  • Medical surveillance (occupational illnesses).

These areas, which by all means are not exhaustive, start to define a more concerted and holistic approach to planning in safety to our projects. Couple on qualitative and quantitative risk assessments and the planning process jointly starts to congeal the safety and project management practices.

Effective Execution Through to Monitoring and Controlling and Closing

While we plan in safety to our projects, the successful execution of our projects depends on adherence to our methodologies around monitoring and controlling. The ability to forecast, report, and audit our projects ultimately determine their effectiveness – and the integration of safety into this process will strengthen this in the following measurable ways:

  • Quality & Audit: When safe work procedures are followed, they have a direct relationship to the overall quality of the project. As with most checklists, when you can audit the steps, or observe the steps, you can create repeatable success – as well as creating feedback loops for employees to be able to improve the process.
    • Observational and behavior-based safety management programs can make a huge impact for project managers trying to understand if team members are following procedures, plans, etc., because it marries the quality aspect (if the job is performed correctly, it is performed safely) with the ability of the project manager to perform spot audits.

  • Reporting: This is one of the hardest and most controversial parts of the integration. We'll discuss this in the next section. The ability to miter in HSE and project management earned value metrics takes more than just compilation of materials, it also entails the commitment to sitting down with key stakeholders and training them on key differences of integrated reporting.
  • Closing: There are several key areas that should be considered in closing:
    • Evaluation of subcontractor performance – Did our subcontractors comply with both our HSE and project requirements?

    • Human resources – Did we effectively on-board and train our employees and contractors working on our project?

    • Lessons learned – Did we have employees get injured on this project? What did we do to ensure that those are non-repeatable events?

    • Updates to enterprise environmental factors & organizational process assets – Have we updated our procedures? Have we implemented any new standard protective equipment to ensure future safety?

    • Creation/updates of organizational enablers – Have we created or updated our safety committees to ensure that hazards are being continually identified – even outside of our project window? Have we pursued safety leadership training to ensure steady management engagement?


Reporting is one of the key activities of both the safety and project management professional. What data we provide our management, client, and team is critical to those stakeholders understanding of the project. While there are many reporting methodologies in both these fields – from required government injury and illness reporting to forecast, status, and progress reporting – we will focus on two key reporting items to pull these two disciplines together:

  1. Earned value management; and
  2. Status reporting.

In the broadest of terms, in earned value management, we give our stakeholders a combined view of scope, schedule, and budget. This is based on our planned value, actual cost of work performed, and our earned value – the budgeted cost of the work performed. When safety is factored in, we start to see the effect on actual costs. Often this is a result of having to not only pay out workers compensation costs, but also the aggrieved impact on schedule (lost time) and budget (hiring temporary resources or paying overtime to existing workers).

Integrated Earned Value Measurements with Safety

Exhibit 1: Integrated Earned Value Measurements with Safety

As Exhibit 1 shows, there is a marked increase in actual costs after two injuries occur in period three. This chart shows that while the work was able to get back on track, the overall profitability of the project is now in jeopardy.

It has been my experience that the workers compensation costs are often not directly shown in the project financials. Many people consider those costs to be a part of general and administrative expense (G&A) of doing work, but what might not be understood, is that those costs directly affect the company's ability to gain future work. By understanding those costs on a project by project basis, companies and project managers are more effective in understanding where the true risks to the current bottom line are coming from, as well as preparing for future business (or understanding the risks of disqualification due to safety performance).

Linking this information inside the earned value management reporting adds to the stakeholder understanding that project leadership includes safety not only as a key performance indicator but also as core measurement of project success or failure. Project managers on projects that have employees getting injured may need additional coaching, training, or a better understanding of the cumulative impact that employee injuries have on the bottom line of the company. A higher rate of injuries could be a harbinger of low employee satisfaction, poor training, lack of quality, or lack of proper project planning.

Including HSE metrics in status reporting also helps all project stakeholders understand the impact that occupational health, safety, and the environment play on our projects. Metrics should always include both proactive and reactive data. Proactive safety management includes keeping track of safety meetings, hazard identifications, near miss data, preventative maintenance checklists, audits, inspections, number of team members participating in training during the last performance period, and other engagement activities that help to cement a safety culture on the project. Lagging indicators of safety include required government data, workers' compensation costs, other costs that impacted the project due to regulatory inspections or audits, fines, or customer penalties.

There is a silver lining to the reporting. Like most troublesome data, project managers feel compelled to explain how they have rectified the situation, created improvements, or ensured that the risks have been mitigated.


The integration of HSE and project management is a necessary one. Successful projects simply don't have team members getting hurt or the environment destroyed. Safety – HSE – as a knowledge area in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)—Fifth Edition (Project Management Institute, 2013) would be a welcomed step forward. Allowing project managers to better interface with safety, health, and environmental professionals sets the groundwork for better roll-up safety reporting, too. Safety leaders begin to see a more granular approach to safety that assists them in understanding how to plan for training, industrial hygiene, and preventative programs. The added cultural safety push from the project managers creates a recognition and added awareness of safety that in concert with safety professionals should reduce income erosion, and lead to gains in quality, morale, and customer satisfaction.

IBM. (2013). U.S. Contractor Safety Guides. Retrieved August 30, 2013, from

Project Management Institute. (2013). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (5th ed.). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

©2013, Robert A. Bulger, PgMP, PMP, PMI-RMP, OPM3 CP
Originally published as part of 2013 Global Congress – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA



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