Nine Elements of a Sound and Successful Project Site Specific Plan

By John Knight, ASP, CHST, Lead Safety Advisor
Safety Management Group

A Project Site Specific Plan (PSSP) is a critical and practical part of ensuring safety on a worksite. An effective plan gives contractors the opportunity to list the hazards their workers will encounter on the site so that they can identify and implement corrective actions before work begins. Ideally, it will allow them to eliminate those hazards before any of their workers set foot on the site.

While some contractors may believe that an informal plan will be adequate for their needs, our experience has taught us that it’s more effective if a formalized pre-planning process is used. Over time, we have developed a framework for safety pre-planning that gives contractors the flexibility to develop their own plans and approaches while ensuring that they cover all of the aspects we expect them to address. Having the pre-planning process documented helps to ensure that contractors do not skip over any critical areas. In addition, it ensures that key information from the contract documents–which contractors in the field generally don’t see–is clearly communicated to everyone.

Generally speaking, safety pre-planning begins at the top. You start by identifying the scope of work for the task that will be completed, and the hazards and corrective actions that will be put into place to protect workers on the site. Next, you break down the division of safety responsibilities among those involved with the project. There are many ways to formalize this process, but one of the most effective is to break it into the nine points we’ll discuss here.

  1. The responsible party

The plan should identify the individual who is responsible for implementing the plan, his or her qualifications and training, contact information, and the specific role(s) he or she will play during the course of the project.

  1. Safety training

When will jobsite safety meetings with workers, supervisors and subcontractors take place? What will the format of those meetings be? What training requirements will workers need to safely complete the scope of the work? Everything from hazard communication to fall protection and safety equipment should be addressed as needed. When a meeting occurs, be sure to document that it happened, who participated, and what topics were covered.

  1. Safety inspections

What steps will the site supervisors take to ensure that safety procedures are being followed and expectations are being met? How often will inspections take place? To whom will the inspectors report? How will deficiencies be handled? Again, it’s important to document inspections and observations. In particular, observations are key metrics because they allow safety professionals to identify trends that suggest areas where an additional focus may be needed.

  1. Hazard identification

By examining each phase of work, related hazards can be identified and countermeasures prescribed. Those countermeasures should include everything from thorough descriptions of safe operating procedures to the types of personal protective equipment that workers will need. The PSSP should spell out how hazard identification will be performed on the site. One approach is to use Job Safety Analysis (JSA) forms that craftspeople complete every day. Those forms can then become the basis for identifying and defining proper safety methods, as well as communicating that information.

  1. Common areas

Regulatory agencies have standards about how safety documents will be posted in the job trailer, gang box, and staging areas. The plan should spell out what is expected at each to ensure compliance.

  1. Emergency evacuation

The contractors should be aware of what they and their workers will do in the event of severe weather, major accidents, fires, chemical releases, and other potential emergency situations. The PSSP should detail who is responsible for developing those plans and how they will ensure that employees are aware of the proper procedures, such as through practice drills. How will work-related accidents and injuries be managed on the site? In addition, how will they be reported to safety personnel and the owner?

  1. Incentives and recognitions

If the contractor or owner has some type of recognition or incentive policy for safe work practices, include the details and describe how it will apply to the project. Programs such as these provide positive reinforcement of contractor safety behaviors, giving contractors the opportunity to feel that they are completing something positive.

  1. Communications

How will details of all required training and the owner’s own safety requirements be communicated to craftspeople on the site? In addition, this section should address the types of training those responsible for supervising safety will or have received. What procedures will be used to ensure that all of the information in the safety plan will be implemented and enforced among workers, supervisory staff, and subcontractors?

An on-site location for the contractor’s Material Safety Data Sheets should be identified, as well as the location for the owner’s copies of the MSDS. The contractor’s policy on substance abuse should be detailed, along with details of the owner’s substance abuse policy. It’s important to explain how those policies will be implemented on the site, and what actions will be taken in the event of violations.

If the contractor has any non-English-speaking personnel on the site, the plan should explain how all of these materials will be communicated to those workers. That explanation should identify a backup strategy if the primary method falls through, and how jobsite emergencies such as evacuations will be communicated.

  1. Incident investigation

Incidents do happen on job sites, so the PSSP should explain how they will be investigated and who will perform the investigation. It should also detail how lessons learned through incidents will be explained and communicated to everyone on the site, and how soon that will happen.

A framework such as this PSSP is comprehensive, but just as important, it’s straightforward and simple for most contractors to follow. All of those aspects improve the likelihood that it will provide a safer worksite. And, should an incident occur on the site, this information will help you make a convincing case that safety measures were covered and understood.

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