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12 Hazards to Avoid in Your Building Design and Project
Posted by David Cant on June 19, 2014

Building Design Hazards to avoid

construction building designYou might find some aspects of health and safety a bit tricky to figure out; because they’re a grey area and vary from site to site.

But sometimes it’s also refreshingly black and white.

And it’s nice to know with crystal clarity what you should avoid when designing your building.  These 12 culprits are on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) red list.

So basically, they’re all pretty much a no-no.  A handful of hazardous procedures, products and processes it’s best to avoid at all costs; unless absolutely necessary.

To be safe in the HSE’s eyes – avoid them like a Silica dust cloud;

1. Harmful substances being sprayed on-site

Particularly solvents, extremely harmful chemicals found in paints, varnishes, adhesives, pesticides and white spirits.  Nasty stuff, and a cause for many worker health-problems.

2. Inadequate pre-construction info on the site

Make sure you have your asbestos surveys, that you’ve analysed the geology, possible obstructions, ground contamination, etc.

3. Roof mounting without safe access

For any services that require mounting the roof for maintenance or any other purpose, make sure you design them with full safe access; such as barriers and sturdy walkways.

4. Fragile roofing assemblies and lights

Just make sure there’s nothing too fragile up there.  Fragile roofing construction accidents are way too common.

5. Any process that creates a lot of dust

Don’t use any processes giving rise to dust clouds, which we all know can cause severe health problems and expose workers’ lungs to a bunch of nasty things.  Blasting and dry cutting are the two big dust-cloud creators.

6. Hand scabbling of concrete

This means ‘stop-ends’ and the like. As with number 5; one danger with this is too much dangerous dust.

7. Demolishing the top sections of concrete piles with hand-held breakers

You can use safer pile cropping techniques instead.

8. Steelwork without allowance for safety nets

When designing the specification of structural steelwork, make sure it’s designed so that safety nets will be easily and safely used.

9. Glazing without safe access

It’s recommended you always design glazing with a mind on its maintenance in future. Assume it’s going to need cleaning, and at some point replacement.  And it will need some very safe system to access and carry this out.

This is one example where careful design will prevent accidents years later.

10. Escalators, floors, stairs, ramps, entrances; not designed for safe access

As with glazing, all these building parts and more will need maintenance. Make sure you design the access taking best care to prevent slips, trips and falls happening. Also bear in mind how things may be made worse with possible spillages and rainwater.

11. All environments not clear of adverse conditions; vibration, noise, wetness, etc.

By this we mean take care that all the building’s environments which will be used and maintained regularly don’t generally involve adverse vibration, temperature, lighting, too much noise, wetness, draughts or humidity.

Or of course dangerous chemical and biological conditions.

12. Design not prepared to contain fire during construction

All your designs have to be prepared for fire containment, not only when complete, but during construction too.

The HSE red list is prepared looking at actual accident statistics and dangers; so you know they’re relevant. And well-worth holding in mind when you begin your design.

See our other recent post on using Building Information Modeling (BIM) to test and prepare for threats just like these. Before you even get started.

What else do you think should be on the ‘red list’?


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

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  1. June 20, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Great post David! I know someone who has just started a construction business, so I’ll make sure I sent this onto him.

  2. August 19, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    One of the biggest contributors to accidents on site must be compressed programmes as the contract nears completion. More operatives on site, in less space and working longer hours has to be a recipe for error. Are there any statistics on what stage of contracts accidents happen?

    • August 20, 2014 at 7:14 am

      A very valid point David, always a rush and extra labour on site when a project nears completion and definitely a recipe for error of some kind, as for statistics, i’m not aware of any to that degreee..but it would be interesting to know nonetheless

  3. Jay
    September 16, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Possibly the most obvious, but also alarmingly common, try and design the workplace to avoid persons carrying liquids via staircases wherever possible, most notably drinks and soups.

    • September 17, 2014 at 7:39 am

      A very valid point.. how about designing in facilities on upper floors

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