Why Safety in Design is sometimes overlooked?  (The Auditors perspective) 

Why Safety in Design is sometimes overlooked? 

(The Auditors perspective) 

At SOS-Switched Onto safety one of the many activities we conduct are in-depth audits and/or inspections on a multitude of projects and industries. These audit/inspections assist our clients and their contractors comply with contract requirements, specifications and legal compliance. During an audit we look at all levels of the documentation trail, products and physical activities (We drill down to identify any gaps in the projects processes to eliminate future issues). We don’t just look at the main contractor (or their sub-contractors) we sometimes look to see that all relevant information has been conveyed/communicated to all stakeholders to the project. 

Throughout all the years of SOS conducting these audits (25+ years) there have always been a few themes of non-conformances we have always identified i.e. mobile plant not compliant, Hazardous substances management, Temporary electrical equipment/supply management and PPE compliance etc. 

One of these non-compliant themes we have identified (And on a regular basis) has been safety in design (SID) issues. Either a SID report not available for review or not given to the contractor who is building the project e.g. structure or facility. In several instants a Safety in design process had not even been conducted, or if it had was of a limited detail i.e. unknown who compiled the report, not all hazards identified or assessment incomplete. We have also observed instances where safety in design obligations were attempted to be delegated from the designers onto the contractor in contract documentation.  

It is important to note here that; between 2006 – 2011 there were 188 works related fatalities in Australia which were due to unsafe design or design-related factors contributed to the fatality (Safe Work Australia Statistics).  

In recent years there has been some prominent safety in design failures (some fatal some non-fatal) 

  • Takata Airbags
  • Opal Towers built 2017 (NSW)
  • Building Cladding issues
  • Grenfell Tower fire (United Kingdom);
  • Mascot Towers

What is Safety in Design:

Safety in design (SID) is the application of hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control processes during concept stage (design stage) of a product i.e. Plant or structure. This is sometimes called the ‘Cradle to grave’ or ‘life cycle’ process. It is the process from creation to disposal of product. The process involves identifying and eliminating hazards or minimising risks as early as possible in this life cycle using the hierarchy of control process 

The designers of the structures or plant have a clearly defined ‘Duty of care’ (A moral or legal obligation to ensure the safety or well-being of others) to minimise risk or injury of harm to others. Clear definitions have been developed to assist designers of these items “Designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers must provide plant which is safe to install, maintain and use at workplaces” and Designers or builders of any building or structure for use at a workplace must ensure, so far as is practicable, that persons constructing, maintaining, repairing, servicing or using it are not exposed to hazards”. 

This is just the beginning. We will take this discussion further in later blogs.

Your comments are welcome.

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