ASSE Launches 'Prevention Through Design' Standard Initiative

Addressing the fact that workplace incidents can be prevented through design, such as during the designing and construction of a new manufacturing plant, the American Society of Safety Engineers recently launched the Z790 Standards Initiative to develop the "Prevention Through Design (PTD): Guidelines for Addressing Occupational Risks in Design and Redesign Processes" standard.

"This is a major move for ASSE as our members have been discussing and acting on this issue for many years and it will be the first ASSE stand-alone standard the society will publish," ASSE Vice President-Council on Practices and Standards George Pearson said, following the approval of the ASSE board of directors to move forward. "This is a key issue for the SH&E profession. Our members have produced key papers on this topic, held symposiums, participated in meetings with government agencies, developed the ASSE Prevention Through Design: an ASSE Technical Report, TR-Z790.001-2009, and will be host to a webinar on this topic in February."

Basically, PTD or safety through design is defined as the integration of hazard analysis and risk assessment methods early in the design and engineering stages and taking the actions necessary so that risks of injury or damage are prevented. ASSE members note that recent studies indicate that approximately 40 percent of work-related fatalities are design related. PTD is described as an approach that can eliminate or reduce work-related hazards by designing them out of the project. ASSE said the new PTD standard will assist SH&E professionals and others to increase their knowledge on the occupational safety, health, and environmental issues in the design/redesign process and address how to prevent or minimize work-related hazards associated with facilities, materials, and equipment during: construction, manufacture, use, maintenance, and disposal/demolition.

The society said that its PTD technical report, available now, provides guidance on PTD concepts and processes as a specifically identified element in a safety and health management system so that decisions pertaining to occupational risks are incorporated into the design and redesign processes, including consideration of the life cycle of facilities, materials, and equipment.

"PTD is a major issue. Our ASSE Standards Development Committee, made up of standards and SH&E experts from around the world, recommended that a motion go before the ASSE board to develop the Z790 initiative," Pearson said. "We believe this will have a positive impact on preventing work injuries and illnesses."

ASSE said it is currently reviewing the draft Z790 document and setting up stakeholder meetings for those wishing to comment on the draft. Following this, ASSE will process the standard through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) canvass process.

On Feb. 17, ASSE will host a webinar titled "Prevention Through Design - Guidelines for Addressing Occupational Risks in Design and Redesign Processes," which will discuss ASSE's PTD technical report, share insights on how PTD is being implemented in a variety of industries, and discuss international standards activities.

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