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Chris Potts
Chris Potts

Get Your Copy of EM 385-1-1, The Official Safety and Health Requirements Manual of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

EM 385-1-1: What You Need to Know About the Safety and Health Requirements Manual

If you are involved in any construction or engineering project related to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) or other federal agencies, you need to be familiar with EM 385-1-1. This manual prescribes the safety and health requirements for all Corps of Engineers activities and operations, as well as USACE contracts and those administered on behalf of USACE. In this article, we will explain what EM 385-1-1 is, why it is important, how to access and download it, and what are some of the key requirements and compliance issues that you need to know.

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What is EM 385-1-1 and who needs it?

EM 385-1-1 is the Safety and Health Requirements Manual developed by the USACE. It details the safety and health standards and regulations that apply to all Corps of Engineers activities and operations, whether accomplished by military, civilian, or contractor personnel. The manual also implements and supplements the safety and health requirements of other federal agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EM 385-1-1 is applicable to anyone who works on or oversees a project related to the USACE or other federal agencies, such as:

  • Construction contractors under the provisions of Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Clause 52.236-13

  • Service, supply, and research and development contractors

  • Hazardous, toxic, and radioactive waste site investigation, design, or remediation contractors

  • USACE employees, military personnel, and subcontractors

What are the main features and benefits of EM 385-1-1?

EM 385-1-1 is a comprehensive manual that covers all aspects of safety and health for USACE projects. Some of the main features and benefits of EM 385-1-1 are:

  • It provides clear guidance and best practices for preventing accidents, injuries, illnesses, and fatalities

  • It ensures compliance with federal laws, regulations, policies, and standards

  • It promotes a culture of safety and health among all stakeholders

  • It reduces risks, liabilities, costs, and delays associated with safety and health issues

  • It enhances the quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of USACE projects

How to access and download EM 385-1-1 PDF?

You can access and download a copy of the complete EM 385-1-1 PDF from the USACE Official Publications website. The current version of the manual is dated September 15, 2008. However, you should also check for any interim changes (changes made between publication of new editions) that may affect your project. You can find the latest changes on the USACE Safety and Occupational Health Office website. You can also subscribe to receive email notifications of any updates or revisions to EM 385-1-1.

EM 385-1-1 Requirements and Compliance

General safety and health requirements

The first part of EM 385-1-1 covers the general safety and health requirements that apply to all USACE projects. These include: Accident prevention plan

Every contractor must prepare and submit an accident prevention plan (APP) to the USACE contracting officer for approval before starting any work. The APP is a document that describes how the contractor will comply with EM 385-1-1 and other applicable safety and health requirements. The APP must include the following elements:

  • A safety and health policy statement

  • An organizational chart and responsibilities of key personnel

  • A list of applicable safety and health standards and regulations

  • A hazard analysis and risk assessment for each phase of work

  • A description of the safety and health training program

  • A description of the inspection and audit program

  • A description of the accident reporting and investigation program

  • A description of the emergency response plan

  • A description of the subcontractor control program

  • Any site-specific safety and health requirements or procedures

Safety and health training

All personnel involved in USACE projects must receive adequate safety and health training to perform their duties safely and competently. The contractor is responsible for providing the necessary training to its employees, subcontractors, and visitors. The training must cover the following topics:

  • The contents and requirements of EM 385-1-1 and the APP

  • The recognition, evaluation, and control of hazards

  • The use, care, and maintenance of personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • The proper handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous materials and waste

  • The emergency procedures and first aid measures

  • The reporting and investigation of accidents and incidents

  • Any other relevant safety and health topics specific to the project or task

Personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is any device or clothing that protects the wearer from injury or illness. PPE includes items such as helmets, gloves, goggles, ear plugs, respirators, boots, vests, etc. The contractor must provide appropriate PPE to its employees, subcontractors, and visitors, and ensure that they use it properly. The contractor must also comply with the following PPE requirements:

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  • Conduct a hazard assessment to determine the need for PPE

  • Select PPE that meets or exceeds the applicable standards and specifications

  • Train personnel on the proper use, care, and maintenance of PPE

  • Inspect PPE before each use and replace or repair any defective or damaged PPE

  • Enforce the use of PPE through supervision and discipline

  • Document the PPE program in the APP

Specific safety and health requirements

The second part of EM 385-1-1 covers the specific safety and health requirements that apply to different types of work or activities on USACE projects. These include:

Hazardous materials and waste management

Hazardous materials and waste are any substances or items that pose a risk to human health or the environment. Examples of hazardous materials and waste include explosives, flammable liquids, corrosive chemicals, radioactive materials, asbestos, lead, etc. The contractor must comply with the following requirements for hazardous materials and waste management:

  • Identify, label, and inventory all hazardous materials and waste on site

  • Store, handle, transport, and dispose of hazardous materials and waste in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and standards

  • Provide adequate spill prevention and control measures

  • Train personnel on the hazards and precautions of hazardous materials and waste

  • Report and clean up any spills or releases of hazardous materials and waste

  • Maintain records and documentation of hazardous materials and waste activities

Fire prevention and protection

Fire is a potential hazard on any USACE project, especially when working with flammable or combustible materials, equipment, or processes. The contractor must comply with the following requirements for fire prevention and protection:

  • Conduct a fire hazard analysis and implement appropriate fire prevention measures

  • Provide adequate fire detection, alarm, suppression, and extinguishing systems

  • Train personnel on the fire hazards and emergency procedures

  • Coordinate with local fire authorities and obtain necessary permits and approvals

  • Inspect and test fire protection equipment regularly

  • Report and investigate any fire incidents or accidents

Electrical safety

Electricity is a common source of energy on USACE projects, but it can also cause serious injuries or fatalities if not used safely. The contractor must comply with the following requirements for electrical safety:

  • Design, install, operate, and maintain electrical systems and equipment in accordance with applicable codes and standards

  • Use only approved electrical devices, tools, cords, plugs, outlets, etc.

  • Protect electrical systems and equipment from damage, moisture, corrosion, etc.

  • De-energize and lockout/tagout electrical systems and equipment before servicing or repairing them

  • Use proper grounding, bonding, insulation, guarding, and personal protective equipment when working with electricity

  • Train personnel on the electrical hazards and safety practices

  • Avoid contact with overhead or underground power lines

Fall protection

Falls are one of the leading causes of fatalities on USACE projects. Falls can occur from heights (such as roofs, scaffolds, ladders, etc.) or from the same level (such as slips, trips, or holes). The contractor must comply with the following requirements for fall protection:

Evaluate the fall hazards and implement appropriate fall prevention or protectio


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