Designing for Safety

Designers can make decisions that significantly reduce the risks to safety and health during the construction stage and during subsequent use and maintenance. They are therefore a key contributor to construction health and safety. image relating to designing for safety

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As a designer you can directly influence safety. Designers must take account of the General Principles of Prevention when preparing designs. The Principles of Prevention are a hierarchy or risk elimination and reduction.

The General Principles of Prevention are set out in descending order of preference as follows:

  1. Avoid risks.
  2. Evaluate unavoidable risks.
  3. Combat risks at source.
  4. Adapt work to the individual, especially the design of places of work
  5. Adapt the place of work to technical progress.
  6. Replace dangerous articles, substances, or systems of work by non-dangerous or less dangerous articles, substances, or systems
  7. Use collective protective measures over individual measures
  8. Develop an adequate prevention policy
  9. Give appropriate training and instruction to employees.

As a designer you can directly influence safety. Some of the well-proven ways of reducing risk include:Choosing the position and design of structures to avoid or minimise risks from known site hazards, including:

  • buried services, including gas pipelines, overhead and underground power lines
  • traffic movements to, from, around, and adjacent to the site
  • contaminated ground (for example by using driven rather than bored piles)


Designing out or minimising health hazards, for example:

  • specify/permit the use of materials known to be less hazardous, e.g. low solvent adhesives and water-based paints
  • avoid processes that create hazardous fumes, vapours, dust, noise or vibration, including disturbance of existing asbestos, cutting chases in brickwork and concrete, unnecessary breaking down cast in-situ piles to level or scabbling concrete
  • specify the use of easy to handle materials
  • design block paved areas to enable mechanical handling and laying of units
  • design access areas to accommodate work-at-height equipment.