Project Practitioners > Project Safety

Project Safety

By Morley Selver, P.Eng IPMA B

HSSE - What’s That? 

HSSE stands for Health, Safety, Security, and Environment. In the old days, it was one of the issues that people had a tendency to let slide.  The safety was a concern but health, security and environment were passing interests. Nowadays these are all important issues. They have to be addressed on your projects and you need to have funding to cover them. Companies vary on how serious they treat HSSE so you should be prepared for every eventually. I have worked across several industries and it seems as the liability  and risk of death or injury increases, HSSE becomes more important.

Does It Run For A Specific Time?

There is no time limit on HSSE. It starts at the beginning of the project and runs through to close out. You probably have authorization documentation that requires you to explain how you intend to address your project HSSE issues. Every project is different, however there are always HSSE issues to contend with. At the start of the project HSSE will not be very well defined but as the project manager, you have to look forward into the future at what you feel will be issues and decide how to handle them. However, as you move through the project life cycle the issues become better defined. As stated above, there is a cost associated with handling and mitigating the specific project HSSE issues. You also need the resources to address and track them.

Rules, Regulations, And Procedures

Most HSSE issues come about through regulations (Workers Compensation Boards in Canada), standards (pipe specifications, etc.) & operating procedures. The HSSE procedure we use requires a facilitated meeting with all the team members. We attend the meeting and the facilitator has a computer program with a whole bunch (good engineering term) of questions. The questions cover every conceivable issue associated with projects. One example from a recent project was to let the surrounding community know when we started pile driving. Didn’t want them getting excited when they heard the bang, bang, bang. One way or another all questions have to be answered. The answer is either not applicable or it becomes an action item.  Every life cycle phase has an HSSE review. At the beginning of the project life cycle, there are fewer questions than in the later phases. 

 What Are The Health Issues?

We all want to keep our fellow workers in good health. We have all seen the affects of poor health on people, heart attacks, early death, affects of stress, etc. With your projects you need to keep the health of your fellow workers in mind. Some examples of health issues to be concerned about are: 

  • Over Time limits for team members. You know yourself, that once you work more than 50 hours a week you get burnt out and can’t think straight. There should be limits on the over time. How much work are you really accomplishing after 50 hours?
  • Lack of exercise causes obesity and poor health. Many employers have some sort of exercise equipment or program to get them exercising.
  • For turnaround work, some organizations take a down day. Turnarounds are high stress, 24/7 work for long times and create burn out issues with the workers. What some companies are doing is to take a day off to give everyone a break. After say 7 to 10 days, the job is shut down and everyone takes a break. Companies have found there are fewer accidents with this arrangement. 

There are numerous chemicals and materials that affect your health, example being asbestos. For these hazardous materials you need the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and follow regulations. For asbestos, amongst others, government have regulations in place controlling access to them.

Safety Includes The Public.

Safety covers a wide range or areas, not just the process, but construction and surrounding community. Most plant sites are fenced to keep the public out, not just for security reasons but for safety reasons as well. You cannot have the public wandering around, getting into areas that are not safe. You may think this is straight forward, however I have worked for companies that did not believe in fences to keep the public out. We were building a greenfield plant and I could not persuade the owner to put up fencing to protect the site. Well, the site was not far from a home for slightly mentally challenged people. They were allowed to wander around the town unencumbered which was no problem for the town but the construction site was different. It was after the third incident of finding someone on our job site that the owner agreed to erect fencing and a gate to protect the site. If the public ever get hurt on your job site and you have not done anything to protect your site from their accessing it, it will be nothing but trouble and law suits. You have to do every thing you can to protect the public from your site.

In your tender documents you tell the contractors they can only work in their specific area and you do not want them wandering around your site. Contractors should be required to stay in the area where they are working. You need to control access to hazardous locations. In the refineries, you cannot get into the units unless you talk to the operators so it may not be a problem, there but there are many companies that don’t go through this effort. Again, it mainly has to do with liability. 

Hazard analysis or HAZOPs are a safety standard for process work. This is a facilitated meeting with all the team members where the P&ID’s are reviewed for safety issues and to make sure the process changes will work. A HAZOP has to take place before the P&ID’s can be issued for design. This process is used for electrical single line drawings as well. The Job Safety Analysis or JSA is a look at the task to be performed to determine the hazards. This can be a construction task or a site visit task. We do JSA’s every time we do a site visit. They are important and need to be recorded and filed. This is part of the due diligence process.


There are various reasons for not wanting people just walking on to your site. You need some type of security system, whether it is a fenced compound with a security gate or cameras, something needs to be done. The company has to protect it’s investment whether new construction or ongoing operations. You cannot have material disappearing, technology being stolen, unauthorized photography, etc. You always have to keep in mind how to secure your site and make sure you have funding for it. When dealing with contractors, you have to advise them that the security is there for your plant or site and not for their tools and equipment.

If you have a greenfield site, at some point you should invite the fire department and the police to visit the site to see what you are doing and give them an idea of where things are in case there is an emergency they have to attend to.


Environment is a big issue and I do not want to get to deeply into it. Industry have deep pockets so everyone is after them. You have to be aware of the materials you are using and their potential hazard to people, animals and the surrounding. An environmental person should be part of your team. In fact, the regulations are so ambiguous and convoluted that interpretation can be difficult and you may need expert advice. Another cost you have to have the funding for.

There are all kind so permits required. Each site and project are different and the permits required will have to be researched for each project. We were going to put fire pumps out on a dock where ships loaded & unloaded fuel, however there were twelve environmental permits required and one would take a year & a half to get after the studies were complete. Needless to say the project did not go forward.

Your bid documents should describe who gets what permits. The owner usually gets the environmental permits as he knows the process, owns the property, and takes the risk of applying or not applying for the permits. At the beginning of the project you should be investigating what permits are required so you can put a dollar value and schedule to acquiring them. 

That is basically what HSSE is about. It is a cost your project has to cover. Each project will be different so look into what is required at the front end. Schedule can be affected as it can take months to get some permits. You will need to include permits in your schedule. If you have many permits to get you may want one person assigned to track  them as you do not want to be starting up only to find out you are missing a permit. 


Upcoming Workshops

Fundamentals of Project Management

February 22-24, 2012  Calgary, Alberta

March 7 - 9, 2012 Houston, Texas

Course Overview

This practical workshop will equip participants with the tools, skills, behavioral attributes, and competencies needed to manage design and construction projects. Using lecture, discussion, and case studies, the focus will be on practical applications and techniques for immediate implementation and project results. Participants learn "what" to do, "how" to do it, and "why" they need to do it. The course is designed for people involved in managing the design and construction of projects in operating facilities, including engineers, technologists, technicians, tradesmen, and maintenance personnel. Participants will receive a copy of the instructor's published book, "Plant Project Engineering Guidebook".

Course Outline

Introduction & Definitions

Project Manager Behaviors

Budgeting & the Staged Gate Process

Project Authorization and Scope of Work

Engineering Control


Request For Proposals & the Bidding Process

Construction Management

Contract Administration and Earned Value Analysis

Commissioning Procedures


Commissioning & Startup


This course is sponsored by Petroleum Institute for Continuing Education Inc. (PEICE)


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