Building Designers, Architects, Builders, Engineers and all those involved in the design of structures from the 1 January 2012 will be required to practice Safe Design under the new National Harmonisation of WHS legislation. Designers will also have a duty to provide a safety report and risk assessment to their clients for all design projects including residential housing.
The purpose of this new legislation is to reduce the number of workplace deaths and injuries in the construction industry. It is estimated that up to two-thirds of deaths in the industry can be attributed to poor design and planning (Breslin 2007). The number of deaths and injuries could be reduced by considering work health and safety at the design stage and eliminating or minimising the risks. The designer must consider the building each time that it is used as or in a workplace including during its construction, maintenance and end of life demolition.
Sophie Barrett of Safe Design Australia says that although many designers are concerned about the extra work, thinking about safe design early in the design stage and making a few minor modifications can make a big difference to the safety of construction and maintenance workers.
“Examples could include specifying non-toxic paints and finishes rather than their hazardous alternatives, which could safe a painter’s life in the future; putting permanent anchor points on the roof for maintenance; or making sure risk from overhead power lines are shown on your plans or managed in your safe design report.” She said.
There is also a greater responsibility for the client to provide WHS information about the site to the designer and to consult with other persons involved in the project including distributing the safety information to the principal contractor or builder.
Public comment on Safe Work Australia’s Draft Code of Practice on the” Safe Design of Buildings and Structures” closed in December 2011. The Code of Practice should be used as a guide by designers and those commissioning a design.
Queensland, NSW, ACT, NT and the Commonwealth will be implementing the new legislation from the 1 January 2012 with the other States expected to follow in 2013. More information can be found at www.safedesignaustralia.com.au or by contacting your state work health and safety agency.
Safe Design Australia
Safe Design Australia is a Work Health and Safety Consultancy that specialises in Safe Design and Safety Reports and assisting designers with meeting their duties under WHS legislation.