Breaking down the P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management: Project Health and Safety

The GPM P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management is a valuable resource for project managers and organizations. The P5 Standard focuses on understanding and managing the potential impacts of your project on the environment, society, and economy. Although its practices are clear and straightforward, we often receive requests for additional context. Therefore, we have launched a 49-part series aimed at dissecting each element of the standard, providing practical explanations one at a time.  This is part 3 of 49.

Ensuring Project Health and Safety is a Critical Imperative for Success.

Project management encompasses numerous elements that contribute to successful project delivery. One of the most critical yet often overlooked aspects is project health and safety. Creating safe working conditions for personnel involved in a project is not only a legal and ethical obligation but also a strategic imperative for achieving project goals efficiently and effectively.

What are a few reasons that Project Health and Safety is so Important?

  1. Human Capital Protection: The most apparent reason for prioritizing health and safety on a project is to protect the well-being of the workforce. By implementing comprehensive safety measures, companies can prevent accidents, injuries, and even fatalities that may occur during project operations. A healthy and safe workforce is a productive and motivated one.
  2. Risk Mitigation: Risks are inherent in any project, but by proactively identifying and managing safety hazards, project teams can significantly reduce the overall risk profile. This, in turn, lowers the likelihood of costly delays, disruptions, and legal liabilities.
  3. Reputation and Stakeholder Confidence: A company that prioritizes health and safety gains a positive reputation in the industry and among stakeholders. Clients, investors, and partners are more likely to trust and engage with a company that demonstrates a commitment to worker safety.
  4. Regulatory Compliance: Compliance with health and safety laws and regulations is not optional; it is a legal requirement. Failure to adhere to these standards can lead to severe consequences, including fines, legal penalties, and damaged brand reputation.

In our P5 Standard we prescribe the following practices:

The project team should:

  • Identify and comply with relevant health and safety laws and regulations.
  • Identify and evaluate options for controlling hazards.
  • Develop plans to protect workers during emergencies and other non-routine activities.
  • Ensure that workers are given the necessary equipment, clothing, and training to carry out their work safely.
  • Establish clear procedures for reporting incidents and near-misses.
  • Investigate the causes of incidents and near-misses.
  • Promptly inform workers about any changes to health and safety practices.
  • Conduct regular risk assessments and inspections of the work environment to ensure it is safe at all times.
  • Provide workers with appropriate training on health and safety procedures to ensure that they are aware of risks associated with any activities they are involved in. 

Examples of the Impact of Project Health and Safety

Here are a few examples of how project health and safety can make a significant difference:

  1. Construction Projects: In the construction industry, there are numerous hazards, such as working at heights, heavy machinery operation, and exposure to hazardous materials. Companies that prioritize health and safety implement measures like proper training, personal protective equipment (PPE), and rigorous safety protocols. This results in fewer accidents and injuries on construction sites.
  2. Oil and Gas Operations: In the oil and gas sector, projects often involve working with volatile substances and complex machinery. Companies that excel in health and safety develop comprehensive risk management strategies, emergency response plans, and regular safety drills. Such efforts have been known to prevent major accidents and protect both workers and the environment.
  3. Manufacturing Projects: Manufacturing facilities can be rife with potential hazards, from operating heavy machinery to handling chemicals. Companies that invest in health and safety training and equipment reduce the number of workplace accidents, leading to increased employee satisfaction and productivity.

Companies Setting the Bar High in Project Health and Safety

Several companies have earned recognition for their outstanding commitment to health and safety in their projects:

  1. Balfour Beatty: This UK-based construction company has implemented a robust safety culture and provides extensive training and resources to its workforce. Balfour Beatty’s safety programs have led to a significant reduction in accidents and injuries.
  2. Petronas: As a prominent player in the oil and gas industry, Petronas places a high priority on health and safety. The company has a strong safety culture that permeates all levels of its operations. Petronas invests significantly in safety training, state-of-the-art technology, and modern safety equipment to protect its workforce and the environment. By consistently enforcing safety protocols and fostering a proactive approach to risk management, Petronas has achieved a commendable safety record, resulting in a decrease in workplace incidents and accidents. The company’s commitment to project health and safety serves as a model for the industry, highlighting the importance of safeguarding employees’ well-being while achieving operational excellence.
  3. Toyota: The automobile manufacturer Toyota is renowned for its focus on employee safety. The company’s proactive approach to safety measures has resulted in a decrease in workplace incidents and increased employee satisfaction.

Project health and safety should never be underestimated or treated as an afterthought. By prioritizing worker well-being and implementing comprehensive safety measures, companies can protect their most valuable asset—their employees—and ensure the successful execution of projects. Not only does this lead to better project outcomes, but it also fosters a positive corporate culture and builds trust with stakeholders. Companies like Balfour Beatty, Petronas, and Toyota serve as shining examples of how investing in health and safety yields tremendous dividends for both workers and businesses alike. As the GPM P5 Standard rightly emphasizes, project health and safety is not just a checkbox; it is a vital pillar of project management excellence.


Dr. Joel Carboni

Dr. Joel Carboni is a highly respected expert in sustainable project management. He is a graduate of Ball State University and holds a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Environment. He has over 25 years of experience in project management, including government, finance, consulting, manufacturing, and education. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and events related to project management and sustainability and has worked in more than 50 countries. In addition to serving as President Emeritus of the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in the United States and being a member of the Global advisory board, Dr. Carboni is also the founder of GPM (Green Project Management) and a visiting professor at Skema Business School. He is also the GPM representative to the United Nations Global Compact, where he was a founding signatory of the Business for Peace Initiative and the Anti-Corruption call to action and a contributor to the development of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). Dr. Carboni is the creator of the PRiSM™ project delivery methodology and the P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management and has written training programs on Green and Sustainable Project Management that are offered in more than 145 countries through professional training providers, business associations, and universities. He is the lead author of the book "Sustainable Project Management."

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