From the first initial concept through to the final design phase, it is essential that there is collaboration, investigation and that the decisions made in all areas of building design take safety into consideration. According to Safe Work Australia ...
"Of the 639 work related fatalities from 2006-2011, one third (188) were caused by unsafe design or design-related factors contributed to the fatality".*
Safe Work Australia have listed safe design as their number one focus area in their Australian Work Health & Safety Strategy for 2012 - 2022. This makes good sense. Eliminating a risk before it becomes a hazard is a seemingly obvious answer and could help substantially in reducing the number of fatalities and injuries that are sustained within workplaces across the country. But while it would appear to be an easy answer the implementation may be a bit more complicated.
With the introduction of Workplace Manslaughter Laws in almost all states across Australia, the emphasis is even more on the need for designers to get involved in this area of design. Specifying the correct systems for height safety and access to plant and equipment such as HVAC, lighting and facades, is required to ensure that you are not held accountable should a fatality occur on one of your buildings.
But how can designers be experts in all facets of safety?
It is simply not practical, nor realistic, to expect designers to be knowledgeable in all the intricacies of safety. Roof access and fall protection safety requirements in particular are covered by a large amount of Acts, Standards and Regulations which are constantly changing and evolving.
"Of all fatalities where safe design was identified as an issue, one fifth (21%) was caused by inadequate protective guarding for workers."*
So what do they do? Often designers will put in the stock standard phrase "Provide compliant roof safety system to Australian Standards". In our recent article "Don't assume you're covered - this clause may not protect you", we discussed this practice which can open up a plethora of problems and is far from the answer.
"The biggest problem that we find is that architects and designers truly believe their responsibilities are met once they put these clauses into their specs. This is far from the reality", says Sayfa Project Team Leader Adrian McAlpin. "Leaving the work to someone else can cause all sorts of problems, especially if the systems turn out to be inadequate or non-compliant. It all comes down to knowing which products work best, choosing the best location for them and ensuring that they are installed compliantly and correctly."
Safe Work Australia states,
"Design contributes to at least 30% of work-related serious non-fatal injuries."*
With each year that goes by, there is requirement for higher and stricter controls and whilst this is always good news, it means that the burden of responsibility for designers is increasing. For more information on Safe Work Australia's safe design initiative visit their Safe Design page.