The Campbell Institute

The Campbell Institute: Innovating our management practices: Taking a new look at Prevention through Design

The Campbell Institute

The Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council is the EHS center of excellence. Built on the belief that EHS is at the core of business vitality, the Institute seeks to help organizations, of all sizes and sectors, achieve and sustain excellence. Learn more at

Prevention through Design is most definitely not a new topic: The 1955 edition of the National Safety Council “Accident Prevention Manual” advocated its application. A current literature review will return literally hundreds of articles on PtD, and the focus of these articles run the gamut from design and construction to occupational safety and occupational health.

Most exciting is that traditional PtD is now morphing into new and synergistic applications of the root concept, such as crime prevention through environmental design and LEED Prevention through Design credits.

For corporate and project management, PtD becomes the perfect segue into the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide™). In the latest version of the PMBOK Guide™ (Version 5), safety is a tool or technique of many of the 10 knowledge areas (e.g., project cost management, project scope management, project human resource management and project procurement management).

This component approach has been the traditional way safety has been captured in the operational and project management arena: plan in the needed safety training, document needed equipment, cost and timing for purchase, etc. As organizations matured, PtD and project management had key interface points in stakeholder management, scope management, risk management and quality management – ensuring the right subject matter experts were involved to confirm the project designs out the occupational hazards necessary to protect the end users of the project.

The next leap forward is taking PtD into an integrated operations role, ensuring requirements lead into design, which leads into operations, which successfully permeates the culture of the organization.

Constructing a culture of safety from which operations consistently design out hazards needs to be the mantra to the employees – and it needs to be illustrated. Key stakeholders, utilizing PtD, anticipated and designed out project hazards and then communicated these designs to a majority of the project stakeholders to ensure buy-in and acceptance of change. Upon project completion, they ensured the end result, transition or product of the project had ongoing safety changes easily submitted (like a near miss or hazard ID report) and employees trained on the changes.

If this model looks familiar, it should – it is Plan-Do-Check-Act, W. Edwards Deming’s famous “Deming Cycle” or continuous improvement cycle.

As organizations look to add – or have added – certifications such as BS OHSAS 18001 (Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems – Requirements), ISO 14001 (Environmental Management Systems) and soon ISO 45001 (Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems) to their organizational repertoire, it is important to ensure PtD is a documented part of the organization’s repeatable process, continuous improvement and management system. In my reviews of BS OHSAS 18001 and ISO 14001 management systems, I have yet to see PtD mentioned.

As these certifications focus on continuous improvement, applying continuous improvement cycles to PtD moves its core concepts from “one moment in time” to an active part of the organization’s culture.

If you have adopted continuous improvement into your safety management system, or you have implemented PtD throughout your project portfolio – think about taking that next step in your organization by creating a culture that continually anticipates and designs out hazards. It is the next, exciting step with PtD – blending today’s continuous improvement models (Kaizen) with the recent work of NIOSH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on PtD (“The State of the National Initiative on Prevention through Design,” May 2014).

Robert Bulger, PfMP, PgMP and PMP, is the chief project officer and vice president of HSEQ for WHPacific. WHPacific is the largest Native-owned engineering firm in the United States.

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