Prevention through design

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Prevention through design (PtD) is the concept of mitigating occupational hazards by "designing them out". This method for reducing workplace safety risks lessens workers' reliance on personal protective equipment.[1] Each year in the U.S., 55,000 people die from work-related injuries and diseases, 294,000 are made sick, and 3.8 million are injured. The annual direct and indirect costs have been estimated to range from $128 billion to $155 billion. Recent studies in Australia indicate that design is a significant contributor in 37% of work-related fatalities; therefore, the successful implementation of prevention through design concepts can have substantial impacts on worker health and safety.[2]

A history of prevention through design[edit]

While engineering as a rule factors human safety into the design process, a modern appraisal of specific links to design and workers' safety can be seen in efforts beginning in the 1800s. Trends included the widespread implementation of guards for machinery, controls for elevators, and boiler safety practices. This was followed by enhanced design for ventilation, enclosures, system monitors, lockout/tagout controls, and hearing protectors. More recently, there has been the development of chemical process safety, ergonomically engineered tools, chairs, and work stations, lifting devices, retractable needles, latex-free gloves, and a parade of other safety devices and processes.[3]

Integrating PtD concepts[edit]

Prevention through design represents a shift in approach for on-the-job safety. It involves evaluating potential risks associated with processes, structures, equipment, and tools. It takes into consideration the construction, maintenance, decommissioning, and disposal or recycling of waste material.[3]

The idea of redesigning job tasks and work environments has begun to gain momentum in business and government as a cost-effective means to enhance occupational safety and health. Many U.S. companies openly support PtD concepts and have developed management practices to implement them. Other countries are actively promoting PtD concepts as well. The United Kingdom began requiring construction companies, project owners, and architects to address safety and health during the design phase of projects in 1994. Australia developed the Australian National OHS Strategy 2002–2012, which set "eliminating hazards at the design stage" as one of five national priorities. As a result, the Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC) developed the Safe Design National Strategy and Action Plans for Australia encompassing a wide range of design areas.[1]

Related links[edit]

Additional reading[edit]

  • MacCollum, David V. Construction Safety Engineering Principles Designing and Managing Safer Job Sites (1st ed.). McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-07-148244-8.
  • Brauer, Roger L. Safety and Health for Engineers (2nd ed.). Wiley-Interscience. ISBN 978-0-471-29189-3.


  1. ^ a b National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Prevention through Design. Accessed 9/24/08.
  2. ^ Heidel, Donna S., Paul Schulte. Making the Business Case for Prevention through Design. NIOSH Science Blog, 6/2/08. Accessed 9/23/08.
  3. ^ a b Schulte, Paul A., Richard Rinehart, Andrea Okun, Charles L. Geraci, Donna S. Heidel. National Prevention through Design (PtD) Initiative, Journal of Safety Research, Volume 39, Issue 2. Prevention through Design, 2008, Pages 115-121.