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Prevention through Design: Designing out hazards and risks in the workplace

Join a national effort to advance Prevention through Design (PtD)

New PtD Award: Recognize PtD Success in your Workplace

In 2021, NIOSH, the National Safety Council, and the American Society of Safety Professionals created a new award to recognize individuals, teams, businesses, or other organizations that have improved worker safety and health by designing-out hazards or contributing to the body of knowledge that enables PtD solutions.

The nomination process and instructions for the 2nd annual Prevention through Design (PtD) Award is now available on the PtD website.

Submit a nomination by May 2nd, 2022 and tell us how PtD principles have been used or have advanced in your work, the work of your team, or the work of others.

What is PtD?

Prevention through Design, or PtD, is the process of designing out workplace hazards to either minimize or eliminate hazards or risks of serious injury or illness. PtD involves efforts to anticipate and design out hazards to workers in facilities, work methods and operations, processes, equipment, tools, products, new technologies, and the organization of work. PtD is one of the best ways to prevent and control occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. In addition to reducing the risk of serious injury and illness, significant cost savings are often associated with hazard elimination and the application of engineering controls to minimize workplace risks.

What is the PtD National Initiative?

Since 2007, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has led the Prevention through Design (PtD) National Initiative whose goal is to prevent or reduce occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities through the inclusion of prevention considerations in all designs that impact workers. The NIOSH PtD program works with partners in industry, labor, trade associations, professional organizations, and academia to advance PtD through:

  • Research: To study the effectiveness of current PtD interventions, investigate additional solutions for existing design-related challenges, and identify future research needs.
  • Education: Teach and motivate others to use PtD priorities and processes in collaborative design and redesign of facilities, work processes, equipment, and tools
  • Practice: Increase use of PtD by sharing case-studies of real-life PtD solutions, encouraging stakeholders to apply them and share further.
  • Policy: Encourage business, labor, government, academic, and consensus standards organizations to integrate PtD into guidance revisions.
  • Small Business: Produce concise, practical PtD guides and checklists for small businesses, their insurers, and the publishers of code books used by their local municipalities.

What are examples of PtD?

The successful implementation of PtD involves a comprehensive approach, which includes worker health and safety in all aspects of design, redesign and retrofit and provides a vital framework for saving lives and preventing work-related injuries and illnesses.

Some PtD methods and examples include:

  • Eliminating hazards and controlling risks to workers at the source or as early as possible in the life cycle of items or workplaces.  This is the principle of the NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls.  One example is to design safer access for all high places where work may be required, such as movable platforms for window-washers or light fixtures that can be lowered to change bulbs.
  • Including design changes to eliminate or reduce risk. An example is to design tools and equipment to be quieter so that noise exposures do not cause permanent hearing damage.  The NIOSH Buy Quiet prevention initiative is a helpful resource for such an effort.
  • Enhancing the work environment through the inclusion of prevention methods in all designs that impact workers and others on the premises.  For example, installing a parapet or railing on the roof during early construction, or ordering stairs with pre-cast holes for railings so that nearly all personnel can be protected from the start, whether construction workers, occupants, or maintenance workers

Examples of accomplishments under the NIOSH PtD initiative include:

  • Assisting in the preparation and updating of a Prevention through Design consensus standard, ASSP/ANSI Z590.3, which is now in its second revision.
  • Partnering with the U.S. Green Building Council in publishing a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) PtD pilot credit for building certifications. The pilot credit, and PtD webinars (developed in collaboration with NIOSH), prompts the use of PtD methods to design out worker hazards for both the construction phase and operations & maintenance phase of a building’s life cycle.
  • Providing education about PtD methods at dozens of events to thousands of influencers in business, safety, health, government, academia, and labor.
  • Publishing educational curricula for universities and other interested users, for such topics as Architectural Design and ConstructionConcrete DesignSteel Design, and Mechanical-Electrical systems design.
  • Sponsoring and participating in a multi-year PtD Initiative with the Arizona State University engineering school, with free conferences and downloadable presentations.