Planning for safety

by David Bonyuet, PMP


Safety planning, which encompasses all health and safety conditions in the workplace and job site, not only decreases the chances for project delays and the possibility of injuries, but also increases the potential for success and the confidence of team members. As part of risk management, safety planning is used to:

Protect the workers

Anticipate possible dangerous situations and bypass hazards

Guide the evaluation of the safety conditions of the project environment

Determine the minimum requirements, equipment or tools needed to perform specific activities

Meet or exceed the legal obligation for safety and health conditions in the work environment.

By focusing on inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs, project managers can develop and implement an efficient safety plan with team feedback as the critical element.

Plan Inputs

To draft a plan that meets specific needs, project managers must gather information that will impact the definition of safety and the scope of required elements. Inputs to a safety plan include everything from an organization's views, project requirements, job environment and governmental regulations.

Organizational Policies. The policies of the performing organization regarding safety and protection should be carefully integrated into the project. Special consideration should be taken when the project is performed in unfamiliar or varied places (such as complex or global projects) or with new customers. In the case of safety norms, the most extensive and restrictive rules must be respected.

Project Plan. Information about the task performance measurement baseline and other topics related to the project are an important input. The work breakdown structure (WBS) identifies the project deliverables and processes that must be performed and, thus, allows evaluation of safety scope. In addition, historical information from other similar projects related to specific security concerns should be carefully reviewed.

Site Plan. This provides information about area classification, equipment distribution and other relevant data about the worksite. For instance, in petrochemical plants, zone classification is of prime importance. Additional area information, such as the immediate surroundings or trouble spots, will help to improve the safety plan.

Standards, Regulations and Norms. In addition to project standards and government regulations, expectations of normal procedures and working conditions should play a role in safety planning. In addition, ergonomic considerations are a factor for activities performed in inappropriate environmental conditions and practices, such as poor lighting; inadequate heating, ventilating, air conditioning methods; low air quality; high noise level; difficult or repetitive tasks; and dangerous areas involving zone classification, radioactive sources or site design.

Example of fault tree analysis displays possible risks by cause/association

Exhibit 2: Example of fault tree analysis displays possible risks by cause/association.

Risk Management Plan. In addition to the considerations that could affect the project, the project manager must be aware of how this plan will impact the people involved.

The project team must carefully review the entire risk management plan to determine acceptable safety factors and how risks could alter team performance or affect the community.

Tools and Techniques

Once project managers have reviewed all information needed to draft a sensible approach to safety planning, they can look at various means for addressing concerns that arise. Each of these tools may be effective when used alone or in combination with others. Essentially, all of these tools and techniques involve keeping the lines of communication open and being receptive to feedback.

Training. The project team must be alerted to the safety concerns related to the project and the working area as well as the considerations in the risk management plan that focus on injury/illness prevention training. Every time new members are appointed to the project, they must be trained in the safety and security issues related to their specific tasks. Substantial literature exists that describes different good practices in security and safety—this easily distributable information is one option for calling attention to risks involved.

Observation, Inspection, Interview and Analysis. Before executing specific tasks, the team must be aware of certain circumstances or combinations of events that may lead to dangerous situations. In some cases, interviewing other people in the area could present historic information related to the area or task.

Job Hazard Analysis (JHA). Based on the WBS, the project team can identify the dangerous activities and determine the safest way to perform them, defining the needs for special tools or equipment and the number of people required for such tasks.

Hazardous Material Program (HAZMAT). This option consists of four basic steps: identifying hazards that are present, knowing how to respond to an incident, setting up necessary safeguards, and training employees.

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA). This method explores the causes for major equipment failure and what effects each type of failure would have on process reliability. The FMEA is based on the following components:

Failure mode


Mode indication

Mode criticality

Failure rates

Rates per mission phase

Failure compensation.

Hazard and Operability Method (HAZOP). This method is a team-based activity used to identify hazards. The team leader encourages the team to discuss dangers, causes, consequences and recommendations.

Fault Tree Analysis. The fault tree analysis (Exhibit 1) is a logic diagram that shows those combinations of events that have to take place before an accident can occur. It can be used to calculate the probability of system failure.

Safety Committees. Periodically, the project team must discuss relevant topics related to its safety and security in order to update the safety plan. A committee dedicated to those concerns ensures that the necessary communications take place. In addition, a technical expert in safety can enhance the safe execution of the project.

Mutual Aid Association. This cooperative organization of industrial firms or similar businesses united by voluntary agreement assists member groups by providing support, personnel, equipment and material in disaster control functions. The American Society for Industrial Security recommends a mutual aid association in order to cope with major problems.

Legally Safe

Wherever project managers oversee people and property, they also must enforce “due care” for people immediately involved in the project and for outsiders who will come in contact with the project during execution.

Safety is enforced by national and regional regulations that cover materials handled (such as mercury or lead), the immediate location (sites impacted by toxicity) or the nature of the project (such as nuclear or chemical plants). Depending on those parameters, different professional organizations can provide information about good safety practices. Sources include:

U.S. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

U.S. Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES):

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety:

International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre: public/english/protection/safework/cis/ index.htm

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work:

International Safety Council:


A number of benefits stem from successful implementation of a safety procedure. The outputs to proper planning include a hazard control program tailored to your specific project. As a direct result, the overall project safety will be improved and accidents reduced. In addition, when the risk of unsafe working conditions is minimized, stress related to the project is considerably lower for both you and your team.

David Bonyuet, PMP, is a senior electronic engineer with Delta Search Lab Inc., an advanced research center based in Cambridge, Mass., USA.

PM Network October 2001



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