Contact Veritas Consulting

Please leave your details below and somebody will get back, today.

Enquiry Form

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Written by
on 12 September 2010


GOOD Designers can make a BIG difference designing OUT the risks


1) Health and safety should not be an afterthought. This is sometimes better understood by civil engineers than by designers of buildings because many civil engineering projects involve obvious and clearly defined risks. When designing a bridge to be built over a busy road the safety aspects of the operation have to be considered from the outset. There may be several ways of tackling the work.  Building designers should learn to work in a similar way when choosing between design options.

2) There is no easy answer to deciding the importance that should be given to health and safety. Perhaps the best way to look at the relative weightings that could be given is to examine the consequences that will result from a choice or decision. In the end a professional judgement has to be made – it should be a decision that involves a proper exercise of judgement  which takes account of health and safety issues.

3) The most important contribution a designer can make to improve health and safety often has to be made at the start of a project.  Opportunities can be lost if health and safety is not considered at this early stage. Rather than looking on health and safety as a matter that can be postponed until other issues are out of the way, designers should deliberately bring consideration forward to ensure that the other issues are resolved in a way that eliminates risk so far as reasonably practicable.

4) The appropriate level of risk assessment will vary from project to project and from one operation to another. Where it is clear that there are serious hazards, a thorough study of the risks and a detailed method statement may be needed, eg when glazing is to be replaced over an active shopping mall or when explosives are to be used to open a channel through rock. The assessment may involve a detailed analysis but more often all that is appropriate is a simple judgement based on the seriousness of any incident that could result and the degree of exposure to the hazard.  In a project that does not involve exceptionally hazardous operations, design reviews at key stages (eg before tender documents and working drawings are started) should help to identify hazards needing investigation. Sometimes it may be possible to avoid a hazard altogether but in many cases, where alternative methods of construction are possible, it will be necessary to assess the risks within each alternative so that safety measures can be considered and the health and safety aspects of alternatives can be taken into account.

5)  There is a great deal of information in existence on construction health and safety. Although rarely written specifically for designers, much of it can be used by them when carrying out their duties under the CDM Regulations. Also of relevance is the health and safety legislation governing:

i)    Materials (such as lead, asbestos and other hazardous substances

ii)   activities (such as demolition or removal of contaminated soil);

iii)  welfare requirements (including sanitary accommodation and first aid);

iv)  environmental conditions (resulting from noise and dust);

In compliance with the above, Designers will need to have regard to :

i)    the contractors who will be constructing the facility

ii)   others who may be affected by the design requirements during its construction eg the public

iii)  those who will have to maintain the facility

iv)  those who may have to decommission/demolish the facility

As a consequence of the risk appraisal process the Designer should aim to eliminate risks, and lessen others. The significant residual risks, and information about these risks, need to be communicated by the designers to the CDM Coordinator.

CDM Coordinators will convey the information that affects the construction phase to the Principal Contractor via the Health and Safety Plan, and information that affects the maintenance or decommissioning phase to the Client via the Health and Safety File.

To help CDM Designers we have an excellent Design Risk Register if you would like us to send you a free copy please contact us.

Another article by Veritas Health and Safety Consultants and CDM Coordinators

About the author

David Cant is a 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. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

One Comment
  • UK Consultant says:

    This article goes to how the importance of H&S in the UK. I have just started advising a Bulgarian company on the best way for them to attempt to enter the UK market for the purpose of construction and it’s like hitting my head against a brick wall!! They do not seem to comprehend the importance placed on H&S in the UK along with all the unique additional requirements. Every time their arguement is ‘we are in the EU’so it should all be the same, but they just dont get how different the UK is with all its secured opt outs and higher standards than many of those on the continent. Keep up the good articles….