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Em 385-1-1 Updates ... Are You in Compliance?

Owners, managers, safety staff in the construction world who know how much accidents cost in terms or money, time and morale don’t mess around when it comes to worker safety and health.  The United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) tries to stay on the leading edge of safety to support contractors, reduce liability, and reduce injuries as much as possible too.  To this end, the USACE updates their construction safety manual (Engineering Manual [EM] 385-1-1) as often as reasonably possible as well.  Contractors that have USACE, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) and many other Federal construction contracts recognize this manual as the safety standard for their projects. 

Updates to the manual are just around the corner now.  The proposed updated publication date was anticipated to be end of calendar year 2013 but it is now February 2014 and we haven’t seen the official document yet.  Are you ready to step up all your AHAs (Activity Hazards Analysis) and safety plans to be in compliance?  Many changes are included in this revision and if you have an opportunity, now is the time to get ready.  You may start reviewing the proposed revisions here.

If you are not aware and ready for these changes, it may delay approval of required plans.   Even worse, an accident that could have been avoided may occur.  It is your responsibility as a contractor to make sure you and your projects are in compliance.  At the end of the day employee safety rests with the employer.  As we all know, ignorance is no excuse for the law and nobody likes to show up unprepared!

The USACE EM 385-1-1 Update Process

You may wonder what goes into updating this mammoth manual and we did a little research to find that out.  Updating EM 385-1-1 requires not only researching and compiling data to update the manual, the proposed changes then must be submitted and reviewed internally.  Once the internal review is accepted, it must be reviewed by the public.  Comments from the public are then reviewed and incorporated and finally, the manual can be issued with changes.  As you might imagine, this does not happen overnight!

Due to the length and breadth of this process, the document is constantly under review and evolution.  The last official version of E.M. 385-1-1 was issued in October of 2008.  Since that time, seven (7) changes have been officially issued to the document.  The changes can be reviewed online here.  While many changes are identified between revisions, typically only those changes that require immediate attention are incorporated prior to issuance of the next revision.  Unfortunately, it is often the case that the case that many of these changes do not receive the attention they deserve and may not even be incorporated into Contractor Accident Prevention Plans when they are issued and sometimes, not at all.  

Is Safety Your Top Priority?

Safety is the top priority for the USACE and for their contractors who value their workers and the bottom line.  Sometimes, it is easy to get caught up in getting the job started or getting it done but safety can never take the back seat because a single oversight can potentially result in accidents that cost lives, money, and time.  

If you are starting a new job or working a long-term construction project, it will be well worth it to take a very close look at your Accident Prevention Plans (APP) to make sure they are up-to-date with all of the current USACE and OSHA requirements.  

Professionals Available

EM 385-1-1 compliant plan templates are available at For a small fee, you get the benefits of professional up-to-date plan templates* created by professional construction consultants.  Full service plan writing and consulting services are available at We work with regulations full time and can offer valuable consulting services to you at no additional charge when you purchase plans.  Either of these options will often save you a significant amount of time and money when you want to get your plans in quickly and make a great first impression for your project.

* offers current plans templates for USACE, NAVFAC, VA and other Federal, State and local Projects to include:  CQC (Construction Quality Control Plans), DQC (Design Quality Control Plans), EPP (Environmental Protection Plans), and APP (Accident Prevention Plans). Or call 206-734-4600

Full service plans are available for all agencies (public and private) at or by calling 206-734-4600