Prevention through Design Program

Program Description

Drawings with red protractor

One of the best ways to prevent occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities is to eliminate hazards and minimize risks early in the design or re-design process and incorporate methods of safe design into all phases of hazard and risk mitigation. Although a long history of designing for safety for the general public exists in the U.S., less attention has gone to factoring the safety, health and well-being of workers into the design, re-design and retrofit of new and existing workplaces, tools and equipment, and work processes. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) currently leads a nationwide initiative called Prevention through Design (PtD). PtD addresses occupational safety and health needs by eliminating hazards and minimizing risks to workers throughout the life cycle of work premises, tools, equipment, machinery, substances, and work processes including their construction, manufacture, use, maintenance, and ultimate disposal or re-use.

The PtD program works with partners in industry, labor, trade associations, professional organizations, and academia in an effort to change business culture from reactive to preventive with respect to worker hazards. Our goal is for business and overall societal viewpoints to change to the point that considering worker hazards at early business planning and design stages is widely understood and expected. Toward this end, NIOSH and partners focus on advancing PtD in the four key areas of Research, Education, Practice, and Policy.

Research is important to evaluate the effectiveness of current PtD interventions, investigate additional solutions for existing design-related challenges, and identify future research needs.

Education efforts seek to inform and motivate others to use PtD priorities and processes in collaborative design and redesign of facilities, materials, work processes, facilities, equipment and tools.

Practice of PtD occurs when new designs and design processes reduce worker hazards.

Policy advances, whether by law and regulation, by voluntary consensus standards, or by competitive industry programs such as certifications, will serve to make PtD culture change permanent and not dependent on continuous promotion campaigns.

Page last reviewed: September 16, 2019