How to make a health, safety, and environmental plan

Making an HSE plan is more than a creating set of rules for manufacturing health, safety, and environmental activities. Here’s what you need to know about HSE. See table: Effects of current on the body.


Electrocution-response table: at 200 milliamps, a victim will experience severe burns, severe muscular contractions, and possible heart failure. A 100 W light bulb uses 833 mA. A health, safety, and environmental (HSE) plan addresses risks beyond just eleWe encounter risks on every job we do; it comes with the territory. How we manage those risks is what sets us apart from the competition. And managing risks means you need to think about the hazards you encounter before arriving on-site to start work. You need a plan. The difference between having a plan and not having a plan can be lost time, lost revenue, or worse—injury or even death.

A health, safety, and environmental (HSE) plan is a crucial step towards mitigating project risks, yet many companies don’t use them on every project. They may require more time and planning up front, but the payoff can be huge.

Setting up an HSE plan

An HSE plan is a living document, developed before the project work begins using the scope of work as a starting point. As the project evolves, the plan is revised as the scope changes.

Project managers:

  • Get a detailed scope of work from the client
  • Get appropriate HSE information from the client contact
  • Distribute the plan with any drawing packages to the project team
  • Review the plan during the initial kick-off meeting
  • Post and maintain the signed plan on the job site
  • Enforce all elements of the plan while on the project
  • Inspect the job site, document and report all safety conditions
  • Revise the plan if the scope of work changes
  • Verify appropriate training for special job tasks for employees and contract labor. 

Within each plan is a check list of information you need to consider—eye bath locations, whether asbestos or lead is present on-site, chemicals in the work area, and so on. It considers various hazards depending on the type of work performed, such as electrical and confined space hazards. The goal in initiating the plan this way is to allow the project manager or person in charge the opportunity to think about all of the different aspects of the job throughout the life of the whole project. 

Get it done right, the first time, without incident.

Safety, a regular subject of coverage for Control Engineering, is a hot topic for readers. In a safety survey last year, most respondents indicated that they regularly violate NFPA 70e rules when working on control panels “always” or “most of the time”—72%, to be exact. So why promote using an HSE plan? In some cases, using an HSE plan can actually prevent the need for the same personal protective equipment (PPE) that many choose not to put on before working.

The HSE plan helps the engineer think about the voltage coming into the panel he’s working with on-site. Under NFPA 70e, any energized panels operating at 50 V or above require PPE. As a result of using the plan before the project begins, engineers are designing panels differently. They’re designing a 480 V circuit outside of the control engineer’s panel. The control engineer gets the power where he needs it; and it’s at a lower voltage that doesn’t require PPE. This is one example of how the front end loading of the HSE plan for this kind of activity eliminates all kinds of extra work. When you don’t think about the plan before designing the panel, you don’t have the right people who are qualified under NFPA 70e to perform the install using proper PPE. This usually means having to leave the job site and delaying the project work until you can find a qualified person with PPE. When you use the plan to assess the risks before they begin design, you eliminate these risks and any controls engineer can do the work.

This leads to the mantra “Get it done right, the first time, without incident.” Using an HSE plan allows you to assess the work hazards so that you can complete the work properly, without having project delays due to unqualified persons or missing required PPE, and without incidents or accidents, because you already understand the risks you will encounter and have a plan for how to mitigate them. 

Some respondents in the earlier Control Engineering article also indicated that with a system operating on 480 V, the risk for electrocution really isn’t there. Consider this: at 200 milliamps, a victim will experience severe burns, severe muscular contractions, and possible heart failure. A 100 W light bulb uses 833 mA.

The HSE plan also provides an opportunity to consider hazards other than electrocution. A controls engineer visiting a paper mill, for example, discovered during his walk-through that the mill floor had not been cleaned in some time. Opening a charged panel with paper dust floating in the environment is welcoming a fire or even an arc-blast hazard. Many system installs involve working in tight spaces, around hazardous substances such as chemicals and/or hazardous environments such as pressurized systems.

On next page, learn how to get buy-in for an HSE plan; see author's answer to the comment below.

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Bill , TX, United States, 04/16/13 02:48 PM:

For electrical environments such as Solar where Direct Current power may be encountered, guidelines would be helpful.
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