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ASSE Sets Standard for Safer Design

Thursday, September 22, 2011

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Prevention through Design—the long-held safety philosophy that many occupational hazards can be headed off by more careful design—has finally left the “nice idea” phase and become a standard.

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has announced the approval of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/ASSE Z590.3 standard, “Prevention through Design: Guidelines for Addressing Occupational Risks in Design and Redesign Processes.”



The development of warm-mix asphalt (produced at 215-275 degrees F and applied even cooler), rather than hot-mix asphalt (produced at 280-320 degrees F), is one example of Prevention through Design.

The new standard “provides guidance on including prevention-through-design concepts within an occupational safety and health management system and can be applied in any occupational setting,” according to ASSE.

Design and Redesign

The standard focuses on avoiding, eliminating, reducing and controlling occupational safety and health hazards and risks in the design and redesign process.

By applying the standard’s concepts, “decisions about occupational hazards and risks can be incorporated into the process of design and redesign of work areas, tools, equipment, machinery, substances and work processes,” according to ASSE.

Design and redesign also includes construction, manufacture, use, maintenance and disposal of equipment used on the job.

PTD Goals

ASSE says Z590.3 complements performance objectives delineated in other standards and procedures. The goals of PTD in an occupational setting are to:

• Achieve an acceptable risk level;

• Prevent or reduce occupationally related injuries, illnesses and fatalities; and

• Reduce the cost of retrofitting needed to mitigate hazards and risks that were not sufficiently addressed in the design or redesign processes.

Lifecycle Assessments

The standard includes guidance on “lifecycle” assessments and provides a design model that balances environmental and occupational safety and health goals over the lifespan of a facility, process or product.

The standard focuses on the four key stages of occupational risk management: pre-operational, operational, post-incident and post-operational.

Also included are tools for determining and achieving acceptable levels of risk to hazards that cannot be eliminated during design.

National Initiative

Development and publication of the standard achieves a major goal of the NIOSH Prevention through Design Plan for the National Initiative.

“This standard supports and gives guidance for the well-established premise that occupational hazards and risks are most effectively and economically avoided, eliminated, or controlled in the design and redesign process,” said Fred Manuele, CSP, P.E., chair of the Z590.3 committee that developed the standard.

The standard will soon be available in print and electronically through


Tagged categories: ANSI; ASSE; Certifications and standards; Design; Health and safety

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