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EM 385 Blog

COMPLETE OVERHAUL OF THE EM 385-1-1

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Safety and Health Requirements Manual (EM 385–1–1) is the gold standard for Safety and Occupational Health regulations. The manual holds a long history dating back to 1941 and is designed to facilitate the standardization of all safety programs. The EM 385–1–1 prescribes the safety and health requirements for all Corps of Engineers activities and operations.

The EM 385-1-1 has not been updated since 2014.  The document, ten years in the making, has been streamlined to reduce redundancies and eliminate unsubstantiated requirements. The USACE reviewed over 5,000 comments and 190 people to completely rewrite the newest edition.  You can find this 756-page edition here. Safety and Occupational Health Requirements (army.mil)

The change from the 2014 version to the latest edition is beyond significant. 

The Corps of Engineers even changed the name. The new title is Safety and Occupational Health Requirements.

The new edition is effective March 15, 2024, and continues to be a requirement that contractors comply with the latest version of EM 385-1-1 (including interim changes) that is in effect on the date of the solicitation.

The numbering system has been changed. Gone are numbers like 6.F.03.b.(4) or 10.A.04.a.  The 2024 edition has a standard outline format. 

Each chapter has also been standardized. The chapters have a set heading for each paragraph. If applicable, each chapter contains the following paragraphs in order:

  1. References
  2. Definitions
  3. Personnel Required Qualification/Training
  4. Roles and Responsibilities
  5. Inspection Requirements
  6. Activity Hazard Analysis Requirements
  7. Minimum Plan Requirements
  8. General Requirements
  9. Charts and Tables
  10. Checklists and Forms

Each chapter contains the References, Definitions, Charts and Tables, etc. that apply to that specific chapter. 

The previous edition contained 34 titled chapters, appendixes, a section on forms and a section on tables, a list of acronyms and an index.  The new edition contains 37 chapters with the tables and forms in the specific chapter. There are no appendixes in the 2024 edition.  They have been incorporated into the chapters or removed.

The list of acronyms and index in the previous edition have been completely removed.1

Chapters were created, divided, merged, structured, and revamped.

  • Program Management has been separated into two chapters Safety and Occupational Health (SOH) for USACE Personnel and SOH Management for Contractors.
  • Rope Access became its own chapter.
  • New chapter on Dive Operation – Scientific Diving.
  • New chapter on Emergency Operations.
  • New chapter on Uncrewed Aircraft Operations.
  • Completely updated chapter on Confined Space.
  • Material Handling, Storage, & Disposal and Conveyors were merged (to align with OSHA).
  • Electrical was revised to be in alignment with Army regulations (defining AHJ). Its chapter and the chapter on Control of Hazardous Energy are noticeably changed. Including an updated Hazardous Isolation Procedure (HIP).

There are also new requirements throughout including:

  • Site Safety and Health Officers.
  • Fire prevention and protection associated with fire watches.
  • Vehicles, machinery, and mechanized equipment associated with defensive driving.
  • Loading handling equipment medical evaluation.
  • Blasting associated with the blaster-in-charge and explosive site safety plan.
  • Sanitation associated with food service training and extermination plan.
  • Army Electrical and Hazardous Energy Control (HEC) Safety Programs.

Of specific note are new requirements under the Fall Protection Chapter including new qualification and training for personnel, Activity Hazard Analysis developments, and rescue plans.  Personal Fall Protection Systems and Passive Fall Protection System regulations have been changed in important ways.

The newest edition is truly a completely new set of rules for safety and health for government construction projects.  Even the requirements for the mandatory first aid kit have increased in the amount and types of items. Table 3-1 is shown below.

1OSHAPDF has included both to assist the reader in navigating the new edition.

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