Recently, Southland’s Mid-Atlantic Division launched a formal safety initiative, called Prevention Through Design, which aims to use all available resources to help us reach our goal of zero injuries. The concept of Prevention Through Design has its roots in Europe and Australia and is now beginning to take root here in the US.  For some, Prevention Through Design is seen as a radical shift in the way a project is built safely. However, I believe those that are familiar with and implementing lean initiatives have already taken a safe step in that direction.

There are four trajectories of Prevention Through Design, including: the increased use of prefabrication, the use of less hazardous materials and substances, increased use of construction engineering, and increased spatial investigation and awareness. While most companies see Prevention Through Design as a giant leap forward, Southland’s adherence to lean principles, LEED design, and use of BIM made our transition to Prevention Through Design more of a brisk shuffle. In fact, last month at a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health event, I discussed Southland’s approach to Prevention Through Design and the lean initiatives that positively affect safety. During this event, I was asked how difficult it was to develop our Prevention Through Design program and the length of time the process required. My answer was easy: Though I was told to expect over a year, Southland’s program developed much more quickly since we were already engaged in lean principles and LEED design. The actual amount of time required for this program to take shape was only a few weeks.

We were already doing much of what makes Prevention Through Design successful; now, we are simply taking those elements of success and combining them into one program. What we have done with our Prevention Through Design program is to ensure that safety is formally involved earlier in the project phase. Our goal is to go from the best in the business at solving problems to ensuring safe installation when materials are delivered to being the best in the business at ensuring the materials delivered have already been cleared for safe installation in the design phase.  We can solve problems earlier, while saving time and money and limiting risk.

Normally, Prevention Through Design programs are spearheaded by the project owner, architect, or general contractor.  However, as a design-build-maintain firm, we have a unique opportunity to affect the overall safety of a project throughout its lifecycle.  Our commitment to our core values of people, safety, innovation, and sustainability make Prevention Through Design a natural fit at Southland.

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  • Joe Visgaitis was responsible for the safety and health of office and field employees.  He helped drive progressive safety programs towards great achievements and a goal of zero mishaps.  

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