How to make a health, safety, and environmental plan
Getting client buy-in for HSE
Among the excuses for not having an HSE plan is that the client contact won’t know what the HSE requirements are and won’t want to spend time defining them. While your specific contact may not have the answers to HSE questions, most mid-size to large companies appreciate and expect that you will have a plan in place.
Still unsure about how to get client buy-in? Start by asking for the HSE requirements for wherever the work will be performed. Optimation broaches the subject in the proposal. We list providing HSE requirements as a part of the client responsibility on the project. Under the NFPA 70e standard, the client has the responsibility to provide this information to the contractor. But that doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also requires that if the client does not provide this information, the contractor then has the responsibility to learn these risks and become familiar with the hazards before beginning the work.
If your client doesn’t give you the information up front, ask for it. If he doesn’t have the information available, ask him if he’s familiar with the NFPA 70e standard. If he isn’t aware of his responsibilities, send the standard and work with him as much as possible to define the hazards. If you get pushback, it doesn’t remove your liability and it may mean you need to adjust and learn about the risks on your own.
In our experience, even companies who aren’t aware of the information and the role they need to play in defining HSE requirements have come around and expressed gratitude for learning about the standard and how to properly mitigate risk.
HSE plan advantage
Our safety track records continue to follow us and affect the bids we win. Clients ask for our OSHA safety rates, safety policies, an HSE plan, or a “site-specific safety plan” in most pre-qualification packages. Some clients may even tell you not to bother with filling out the rest of the paperwork if you don’t have an HSE plan in place.
An HSE plan can also help you stand out from the crowd during the bid process. It can demonstrate preparedness, organization, and professionalism. Details like these are often the deciding factor with multiple bidders on a project.
Take, for example, a recent experience Optimation had with a large client who went out for bid to multiple contractors. When our project managers went to the original bid meeting with a client, they had talked with the client about scope of work. The project managers then used the scope of work to develop an initial HSE plan, which Optimation used in the bid package for the client. During the bid presentations, the client was blown away that our team had prepared an HSE plan ahead of time. While the plan wasn’t perfect, it was a lot closer because our project managers thought through what we would encounter. Since the other contractors hadn’t thought about creating an HSE plan, Optimation presented itself as the only bidder prepared to manage the risks associated with the project. The client awarded the bid to Optimation, because it was the only contractor that was prepared. We’ve continued to get calls from the client on a regular basis for project work.
HSE plans can also help you bid the project accurately, knowing what you would need to do to perform the work and how much time it would take to do it right the first time, without incidents. An HSE plan and a more accurate bid up front may take more effort, but it is certainly preferred to repeated project change notices and additional charges, as far as the client is concerned.
Not having a safety plan in place simply puts you at a higher risk for incidents on the project, whether it’s having to leave the job site because you aren’t wearing the required PPE or because of an injury. But a safety plan can also play a crucial role in client management, by working with your contacts to identify risks and manage them together and performing project work smoothly and within schedule.
Allan Manzer, CSP, is corporate safety engineer at Optimation; Jennifer Palumbo is marketing communications specialist. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer, mhoske(at)cfemedia.com.
Author addendum - answer to the question in the comment section, added April 17
There is a section in the "NFPA 70E 2012 Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace" that describes the safe working distances when working with dc power. The safe work practices are the same for dc Power as they are for ac power. Table 130.4(C)(b) (page 25) entitled "Approach Boundaries to Energized Electrical Conductors or Circuit Parts for Shock Protection, Direct Current Voltage Systems" and this chart indicates the safe approach distances based on voltage. There is a similar chart for ac approach distances. At Optimation, this material is always covered in our NFPA 70E Qualification Training for Skilled trade electricians as well as our systems and control engineering folks. The underlined standard can be purchased from NFPA directly, and I believe the cost is about $55. I hope this information is helpful. -Al
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Also see the Control Engineering Machine Safety blog, with more safety advice about codes, standards, and best practices related to machine safety.