Prevention through Design Standard

Posted on by Donna S. Heidel, CIH

PtD logoThe American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) recently announced the approval of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/ASSE standard, “Prevention through Design: Guidelines for Addressing Occupational Risks in Design and Redesign Processes” (Z590.3). This new standard provides guidance on including Prevention through Design concepts within an occupational safety and health management system, and can be applied in any occupational setting.

The new standard focuses specifically on the avoidance, elimination, reduction and control of occupational safety and health hazards and risks in the design and redesign process. Through the application of the concepts presented in the standard, decisions about occupational hazards and risks can be incorporated into the process of design and redesign of work areas, tools, equipment, machinery, substances and work processes.
Design and redesign also includes construction, manufacture, use, maintenance, and disposal or reuse of equipment used on-the-job. One of the key elements of this standard is that it provides guidance for “life-cycle” assessments and a design model that balances environmental and occupational safety and health goals over the life span of a facility, process or product. The standard focuses on the four key stages of occupational risk management. The pre-operational, operational, post incident and post-operational stages are all addressed within.

This standard can save lives and prevent injury. For example, as skylights become synonymous with green construction and energy conservation, we expect to see an increase in skylight installation. If skylights are designed and installed with proper guarding, deaths and injuries to workers who inadvertently fall though skylights during construction and maintenance activities could be prevented. Another example involves bailing machines used to break down cardboard for recycling in various industries. If the bailers were designed and installed with proper guarding, workers would not be able to enter the machines for trouble shooting thus preventing deaths and injuries.

Development and publication of this standard was a major goal for the NIOSH Prevention through Design Plan for the National Initiative. ASSE’s leadership in developing this standard and gaining ANSI approval lays the foundation for organizations to include Prevention through Design principles in their occupational safety and health management systems. The standard also provides tools for determining and achieving acceptable levels of risk to hazards that cannot be eliminated during design.

The new standard complements, but does not replace, performance objectives existing in other specific standards and procedures. The goals of applying Prevention through Design concepts in an occupational setting are to:

  • achieve acceptable risk level;
  • prevent or reduce occupationally related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities;
  • and reduce the cost of retrofitting necessary to mitigate hazards and risks that were not sufficiently addressed in the design or redesign processes.

The newly approved standard will be available soon in print and electronically. For more information, please contact ASSE Customer Service at 847-699-2929 or

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) is also actively engaged in including Prevention through Design concepts into the revisions to (ANSI)/AIHA Z10 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems standard. Including Prevention through Design into Z10 is a natural fit since the “systems” approach to occupational health and safety enables management and worker collaboration on corrective actions, enables the “anticipation” of occupational hazards so that risks to workers from the hazards can be assessed and controlled during design, and enables the inclusion of occupational safety and health into an organization’s planning process.

We hope these efforts bring a renewed interest in Prevention through Design. We would like to hear from you. Do you have ideas on where redesign could lead to safer work environments and cost savings in your industry?

For more information about Prevention through Design, please visit the NIOSH Prevention through Design topic page.

For more information on the new standard, see the ASSE Tech Brief

Ms. Heidel, a NIOSH Research Industrial Hygienist, is the Coordinator of the PtD National Initiative.

Posted on by Donna S. Heidel, CIH

20 comments on “Prevention through Design Standard”

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    Are these standards enforced by law or are they “simply” respected guidelines? Or to put it another way I’m wondering, does the CDC use this “Prevention through Design” standard to formulate and issue legal regulations?

    ANSI standards are voluntary consensus standards and are not regulatory. NIOSH conducts research and prevention on occupational safety and health issues and is not a regulatory body. ASSEs leadership in developing this standard and gaining ANSI approval lays the foundation for organizations to include prevention through design principles in their occupational safety and health management systems. The standard also provides tools for determining and achieving acceptable levels of risk to hazards that cannot be eliminated during design.

    Interesting development. I have a few questions:

    ◦How does this standard relate to the publications from 2008, in particular “Prevention through design” by FA Manuele in Professional Safety Oct 2008?
    ◦How does this standard relate to ISO 31000 ‘Principles and guidelines of risk management’ and ISO 31010 ‘Risk assessment techniques?
    Have a nice day, Paul.

    Fred Manuele chaired the committee that developed ANSI/ASSE Z590.3; therefore, it is aligned with the article to which you refer.

    ISO 31000 Principles and guidelines of risk management is a broadly based treatise which Z590.3 supports. The Prevention through Design standard provides guidelines for including PtD principles and procedures within an overall safety and health management system. Particularly, Z590.3 is supportive of Section 5.4 Risk Assessment in ISO 31000.

    IEC/ISO 31010 is devoted entirely to Risk assessment techniques. Z590.3 is definitely in line with the sections on Risk Assessment Concepts, Risk Assessment Process and Selection of Risk Assessment Techniques. Discussions cover 31 such techniques, which were considered a bit much for Z590.3. In an addendum for Z590.3, comments are made on eight of the techniques, all of which are included in IEC/ISO 31010.

    Incidentally, these ISO standards are now also ANSI standards. The American Society of Safety Engineers is the Secretariat. The relative numbers are ANSI/ASSE Z690.2-2011 and ANSI/ASSE Z690.3-2011.

    Thanks for the information. But I coundn’t understand when exactly they announced the ANSI standard approval? It’s stated “recently”…

    I work in the deli at shoprite and the slicers are at least 20 years old. I have been injured 3 to 4 times due to the hook coming loose from the product. I have seen newer slicers and see that they have many safety prevention features. Please have someone call me at [phone number]. I am tired of my words being ignored by the store. I need help please. Thank you.

    If you feel your safety or the safety of your coworkers is at risk you can contact your local OSHA office. Contact information can be found at

    Additionally, the OSHA document Safeguarding Equipment and Protecting Employees from Amputations contains a section on page 38 describing Safeguarding and Other Controls for Food Slicers.

    Hi Donna,
    Thanks for the great summary you posted. I just participated in the ASSE webinar on Z590.3 and look forward to PtD case studies/ROI when available. I will forward any to you as they develop.

    I will also be interested in seeing PtD incorporated into the upcoming Z10 revision.

    Thanks again,

    We are excited to see that the American National Standards Institute has validated our efforts.and those of many other safety organizations.with the implementation of a Prevention .Through Design (PtD) standard.

    I am very glad to know that American National Standard Institute is aware for human health. I visit your link a got more information about this rule. I hope its working better.

    Fall protection in the open deck transportation industry needs improvements in prevention through design. Most shipping locations that require work at heights fail to provide fall protection or alternative means. Specifically, securing loads and covering loads with a tarp often requires work at heights that create an imminent danger of death or serious injury from a fall. Furthermore, the associated risk of a fall hazard is high and generally prohibits operations. However, OSHA lacks a mechanism of enforcement on multi-employer worksites to address this hazard. The GDC does not apply, and no standard specifically requires fall protection for truck trailers. State/federal plans, OSHA regions, and federal court jurisdictions further impede OSHA’s ability to address fall hazards in the open deck transportation industry. Prevention through design is where the task of securing and covering freight needs attention.

    Thank you for your interest and contribution to PtD, and for focusing attention in this needed area. One of our fall protection researchers has just written a new book chapter where he addresses this need (no publishing info yet). Much improvement is yet needed, but progress is encouraging. It appears that more solutions are becoming available, as seen in the results of web searches such as: “Fall Protection open deck transportation industry“, “fall protection for shipping containers”, or “Fall Protection Systems goods retrieval and transporting

    Can you please elaborate on how this woks with risk assessment and particularly with selecting a risk matrix?

    The process of Prevention through Design (PtD) is an organized risk management methodology laid out in the ANSI/ASSP Z590.3 Prevention through Design consensus standard. The process starts by gathering a small group of key players in a business to conduct a design safety review of a new action, including Safety/Health professional(s), experienced user/operator(s), designer(s), and manager(s). This “Design Safety Review” (DSR) team reviews the proposed action to first identify the hazards, then evaluate and assess the hazards and their level of risk, and then look for controls that favor the upper part of the Hierarchy of Controls (HoC) and/or reduces the actions workers and management must take to be protected. Controls chosen by the team will often use a mix from different levels of the HoC. Regardless of the level of the Hierarchy, “passive” controls that provide protection automatically or by default are preferred over “active” controls that require actions to be taken. The Z590.3 standard provides other alternative risk assessment methods beyond the risk matrix, though the risk matrix is quite a useful tool for many situations. In addition to the Z590.3 standard, we recommend you look at the Business Case Tool released in 2022 by AIHA. This tool helps conduct the process of PtD, and also helps estimate the financial and non-financial business case for a hazard control option being recommended to management.

    The ANSI/ASSP Z590.3 standard can be purchased here:
    (NIOSH receives no funds from sale of the standard. NIOSH is simply one of many stakeholders that help to improve the standard)

    The AIHA Business Case Tool can be downloaded here:

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Page last reviewed: December 7, 2016
Page last updated: December 7, 2016