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Safe Design Legislation Definitions

Safe Design Legislation – Some Definitions

Safe Design Legislation – Some Definitions

The following are definitions of key terms and aspects from Australia’s Safe Design Legislation, explaining the various parties and contributors as well as key elements in the WHS Act and legislation. Here we explain:

  • Design and Designer
  • Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU)
  • Principal Contractor
  • Reasonably Practicable
  • Recognised Standards, and
  • Structure

Design and Designer

Under the WHS Act, ‘design’ in relation to plant, a substance or a structure includes:

  • design of part of the plant, substance or structure; and
  • redesign or modify a design.^

The Code of Practice: Safe Design of Structures defines a designer as a person conducting a business or undertaking whose profession involves them in, “preparing sketches, plans or drawings for a structure, including variations to a structure and making decisions for incorporation into a design that may affect the health or safety of persons who construct use or carry out other activities in relation to that structure.” *

Designers can include:

  • architects,
  • building designers,
  • landscape designers,
  • interior designers,
  • builders,
  • town planners,
  • engineers that design part of the structure (e.g. mechanical, structural, civil, electric, hydraulic),
  • services and plant designers and persons specifying how alteration or demolition work is carried out,
  • If a principal contractor or other person changes a design, they then take on the role of designer.

Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU)

Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) is a term that is used throughout the WHS Act and Regulation in relation to the design of structures. A PCBU is a person who conducts a business or undertaking alone or with others that can operate for profit or not-for-profit.+ These include PCBUs:

  • who commission construction work (‘the client’),
  • PCBUs that commission plant or structures (‘the client’), and
  • PCBUs that design structures (‘the designer’).
  • The principal contractor is also a PCBU.

The definition of a PCBU focuses on the work arrangements and the relationships to carry out the work. PCBU’s can be:

  • A corporation,
  • An association,
  • A partnership, or
  • Sole trader.

Employers or volunteer organisations which employ any person to carry out work is considered a PCBU. Householders where there is an employment relationship between the householder and the worker are also considered a PCBU.

PCBUs can also include:

  • A person commissioning a design for a workplace, or
  • A person commissioning a structure for residential purposes, who is an owner builder, investor, developer, or is working from home or employing workers at home.

The Code of Practice: Construction Work says that a “person commissioning the design is not a PCBU if they are a home buyer, owner or occupier commissioning work on their home; or an individual undertaking maintenance, refurbishment or renovations of their own home or helping a friend”.

Regardless of whether a client is considered a PCBU or otherwise, the designers’ duties in relation to safe design under section 22 of the WHS Act still apply. This includes designers providing information to their clients and anyone issued with the design on any conditions necessary to ensure that the structure is designed to be without risk to health and safety when it is used as a workplace.

Designers conducting design businesses are also considered PCBUs and as such have duties in relation to the safety of their own workers when they are working for them either in or out of the office or on site.

Principal Contractor

A principal contractor is required for a construction project where the value of the construction work is $250,000 or more. The principal contractor is a person conducting a business or undertaking that:

  • commissions the construction project (the client); or
  • is engaged by the client to be the principal contractor and is authorised to have management or control of the workplace #

Reasonably practicable

The designer must ensure, so far as is ‘reasonably practicable’, that the structure is designed to be without risk to the health and safety of persons who manufacture or construct any component of the structure, who use the structure for the purpose for which it is designed or are involved in the maintenance or disposal of that structure.

The term ‘reasonably practicable’ is also used in relation to consultation with other duty holders and between designers and clients on how risks to health and safety during construction can be eliminated or minimised.

‘Reasonably practicable’ means that which is, or was at a particular time, reasonably able to be done to ensure health and safety, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters including:

  1. The likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring;
  2. The degree of harm that might result from the hazard or the risk;
  3. What the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about the hazard or risk and ways of eliminating or minimising the risk (as a professional in the design field);
  4. The availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk; and
  5. After assessing the extent of the risk and the availability of ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, the cost associated, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.~

Recognised standards

‘Recognised standards’ include legislation, WHS codes of practice, Australian standards, building laws, the National Construction Code of Australia (NCCA) and industry guidance materials.

It is important to be aware of the currency and applicability of any standards and to assess the efficacy of the standard and research current injury data to determine whether a recognised standard is adequate to address the identified hazard. In some cases, designers may need to go beyond the requirements of a standard. E.g. injury data shows that standard balustrade heights on highrise buildings are often inadequate to address the risk of falls.

Structure

The WHS Act defines structure to mean “anything that is constructed, whether fixed or moveable, temporary or permanent, and includes:
a. buildings, masts, towers, framework, pipelines, transport infrastructure and underground works (shafts or tunnels);
b. any component of a structure; and
c. part of a structure”.^^

Examples also include all types of buildings, pipe work, tunnels, landscape elements, swimming pools, paths and roadways.

 

GET IN TOUCH

Want to find out more about your Safe Design obligations under legislation? Download our FREE EBOOK.

Or if you’re a building designer, architect, engineer, or other building design professional, we encourage you to enrol in our flexible and convenient ‘Safe Design Online Short Course’, designed to assist you understand and practice safe design principles and endorsed by the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA).

Need more info, contact us.

^ Safe Work Australia. (2011). Model Work Health and Safety Bill. Canberra: Safe Work Australia, p.4
* Safe Work Australia. (2012). Code of practice: Safe design of structures. Canberra: Safe Work Australia, p.5.
+ WorkCover NSW. (2011). Fact Sheet – PCBUs, Workers and Officers. Sydney: NSW Government.
# Safe Work Australia. (2012). Code of practice: Safe design of structures. Canberra: Safe Work Australia, p.5.
~ Safe Work Australia. (2011). Interpretive Guideline – model Work Health and Safety Act – the meaning of ‘Reasonably Practicable’. Canberra: Safe Work Australia.
^^ Safe Work Australia. (2011). Model Work Health and Safety Bill. Canberra: Safe Work Australia, p.7.
Responsibility for Safe Design

Responsibility for Safe Design

Whose responsibility is it to ensure design safety?

 

Responsibility for safe design.

The biggest mistake many building design and architectural practices make is assuming they do not need to do anything in relation to their duties under work health and safety (WHS) legislation.

The reality is that designers in most states and territories throughout Australia have a legal duty to design structures, so far as is ‘reasonably practicable’, that are without risk to health and safety when they are used as, or at, a workplace.

Designers need to make sure that they are protecting themselves and their practices and the people who are going to use the buildings or structures they design. Designers need to understand their duties under legislation and what they need to do to comply with these duties.

The good news is that it is easy to comply with legislation once you have processes in place.

How can designers meet their legislative requirements?

Designers can meet their legislative requirements for work health and safety by:

  1. Reading the Code of Practice: Safe Design of Structures and other WHS codes of practice.
  2. Training staff in safe design and legislative requirements.
  3. Researching WHS Injury statistics and specific data relating to the structure being designed.
  4. Consulting with the client, workers, engineers, plant designers, specialist operators (e.g. crane operators) and the principal contractor.
  5. Implementing a safe design procedure for their company and a systematic process for identifying hazards.
  6. Designing structures to be without risk to health and safety.
  7. Facilitating safe design workshops with key stakeholders.
  8. Preparing safe design reports and other supporting documentation.
  9. Engaging a safe design specialist like Safe Design Australia, to assist them with the above where required.
  10. Having an internal WHS procedure for staff.

 

Flexible and convenient online training for safe design

We know safe design ‘sounds’ boring. But it doesn’t have to be. We’ve developed a flexible and convenient online training course specifically focussed on Safety in Design (SiD) for design professionals – architects, building designers, engineers and other building professionals.

The online course has been designed by international safe design expert and WHS professional, John Daly, and is endorsed by the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA). It provides the latest information, advice and tools relating to safe design practices in Australia, New Zealand and around the world.

 

 

 Contact us to find out more

To find out more about the duties of designers under safe design legislation, or how we may assist you with a Safe Design Workshop for your next design project, contact us.

 

Duties of designers under safe design legislation

Duties of Designers – Safe Design

Duties of Designers under Safe Design legislation

 

‘Safe design’ of structures involves designers preventing potential injuries by
considering safety throughout the design process.

Analysis of fatal accidents on building sites show that many are due to shortcomings in design as well as organisational problems. So what are the duties of designers during the design process to ensure they meet safety in design requirements?

In the early stages of a project, there is greater scope to remove foreseeable hazards through design. Prevention is the most effective and affordable way to improve the safety of workers and requires the least effort compared with making changes at later stages.

Duties of designers as ‘upstream duty holders’

Designers of structures are known as ‘upstream duty holders’ and make decisions every day, as part of their expertise, which affect the safety of the people who work on, or in, these structures further ‘downstream’ in the structure’s lifecycle.

These include people who construct the structure, who use the structure for the purpose for which it is designed, who maintain the structure, or who demolish the structure at the end of its life. It also includes the safety of people in the vicinity of the structure. That’s a lot to think about!

Concerns about safe design legislation

So, just what are designers concerns about safe design legislation, and are they justified?

An online poll conducted by Safe Design Australia^ showed, alarmingly, up to 44.5% of those surveyed had a lack of knowledge about the legislation, with a further 31.5% having a fear of prosecution under the legislation. 19% of those polled felt that it restricted their creativity, and only 5% had no concerns.

Understanding WHS obligations and legislation

Knowledge of safe design is relatively low industry-wide. The majority of designers have no formal education in this area. And, research has shown that while designers of structures may be aware of safe design legislation, very few can nominate their specific obligations under the legislation.

It is important that designers understand safe design legislation and how to incorporate safe design into their standard design process.

Learning and understanding the current legislative requirements is the best way to overcome any concerns about safety in design.

Why is safe design important?

It is important to remember that the intent of the legislation is to improve the safety of workplaces, not to prosecute designers. Designers can protect themselves by discharging their legislative duties and by designing structures to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety.

Designers have the opportunity to make a difference to the health and safety of workers and end users of structures through safe design. By approaching safe design with innovation and creativity, designers can create safer workplaces without compromising the integrity of their designs.

Benefits of safe design*

There are a number of benefits to safe design including:

  • preventing injury and illness,
  • improving usability of structures,
  • improving productivity,
  • reducing production and operational costs, and
  • encouraging innovation.

And, most importantly, saving people’s lives!

How can designers learn about their safe design obligations?

Let’s be honest – no one gets excited about safety. But what if it wasn’t boring? The team from Safe Design Australia have developed a flexible and convenient online training course specifically focussed on Safety in Design (SiD) for design professionals

The online course has been designed by international safe design expert and WHS professional, John Daly, and provides the latest information, advice and tools relating to safe design practices in Australia, New Zealand and around the world. It’s easy to access and can support your Continuing Professional Development.

The Not Boring Safe Design Course

 Contact us to find out more

To find out more about the duties of designers under safe design legislation, or how we may assist you with a Safe Design Workshop for your next design project, contact us.

* Safe Work Australia. (2012). Code of practice: Safe design of structures, Canberra: Safe Work Australia, p4.
^2012-2013 online polls conducted by Safe Design Australia of over 300 architects and building designers on their concerns about the harmonised legislation.
Case Study - Safe Design Considerations for Childcare centres

Case Study: Childcare Centre Safe Design Considerations

Case Study: Childcare Centre Safe Design

This case study is a compilation of issues from several different childcare projects. 

 

Identifying hazards during the design phase

Every project has its own unique considerations, and in this particular project, the design brief required the conversion of an existing structure – a three storey building – into a large multilevel childcare centre.

The existing building had been built in the 1960s and as such had historical construction aspects to consider. The designer undertook a visual inspection and identified asbestos and lead based paints had been used in the original construction. As a result, project managers organised a hazardous materials survey, which confirmed the presence and the location of the hazardous substances.

It was determined that the hazardous materials would be removed during the construction of the childcare centre.

Across the road from the site, was a power generation plant which posed issues around the health effects of electro-magnetic radiation (EMR). The designer subsequently took this potential health issue into consideration and researched various claddings and glazing which would reduce exposure of EMR to occupants of the new building.

Including outdoor areas into design

There is strong evidence that shows the importance of outdoor play in childcare environments and the client wanted to ensure that this was included as a key component in the design of the childcare centre. The designer incorporated this into the framework of the existing structure and achieved the inclusion of outdoor spaces by creating large balconies on each level. This did, however, create potential significant hazards including the possibility of children moving and climbing on outdoor furniture and falling.

The designer used ‘safe design’ principles to address this hazard, increasing the balustrading above the standard required height to 1.6 metres and also specifying glass balustrading without footholds. Other safe design measures included the specification of soft fall and shading for the outdoor playground equipment and large windows to provide greater visibility from internal staff areas.

Garden beds were located in these outdoor areas, taking into consideration the location of the plants and types of plants, to ensure they were out of reach of children, and most importantly, non-toxic if ingested.

The designer also undertook research into the types of treatments possible for the feature timber balcony posts to eliminate the chance of splinters and ensure materials used were non-toxic to children.

Greater visibility and sightlines for interiors

The reception area was located in a position that provided clear visibility and surveillance of people entering the childcare centre, with access controlled by secure glass doors to prevent unauthorised people from entering the centre. A sign-in area for parents was also considered in the design process.

The layout design included separation and soundproofing of the baby area from the toddler area, clear sightlines from baby nappy change stations and food preparation areas to play areas to allow staff to supervise others while undertaking these tasks.

A central staff control area was provided to allow for supervision of each group.

Additional hazard identification and minimisation

Heat sources such as the hot water system and oven were isolated from children to avoid potential harm. A lockable cleaners’ storeroom was provided to store cleaning chemicals and equipment. The designer specified no volatile organic compounds paints and low emissions joinery and carpets to prevent the potential health effects from the off gassing of these products, particularly for those children with Asthma. This also had the added benefit of providing safer products for construction workers during the construction stage.

Greater accessibility for maintenance and site users

Plant was relocated from the roof to ground level to allow for easy access for maintenance purposes. Some air conditioning units were located on the balcony area, but these were located away from the edges and in a screened area. The openings in these screens were resized during the design process to eliminate the potential hazard for hand and finger entrapment. Windows were openable from the inside to allow for easy cleaning, but were secured to prevent access by children.

The original basement car park design did not incorporate pedestrian paths and research indicated this was a significant hazard in childcare centres. The design was revised to include pathways with wheel stops in front of the car spaces, and one-way traffic to allow for better traffic flow.

Managing potential emergencies

To facilitate the evacuation of babies during a potential fire emergency, fire safety cots were specified and a room provided for their storage in an appropriate location. The babies would be placed in these cots to be evacuated by staff. To prevent children from exiting through the fire safety door, it was programmed to only unlock when the alarm was activated. The designer also consulted with the workers’ WHS representative on the proposed safe lock down procedure for the centre to ensure that areas could be safely secured in the event of a lock down in an emergency situation.

 

Safe Design Consultant: Safe Design Australia

 

Contact us to find out more

To find out more about this particular project, or how the Safe Design Australia team can assist you on your next project, contact us.

Precast concrete panel collapse

Structure and Process Design. Why are we getting it wrong?

Construction incident causes death of two workers

What can we learn about structure design and the safe design process?

In October 2016, two workers employed in a $25 million development at Eagle Farm Racetrack in Brisbane, were killed when an 11 tonne concrete panel fell over and crushed them.

The large concrete drainage structure, consisting of four individual concrete panels (the walls), were progressively being lifted into place with a crane when two panels fell forward, one after the other.

The men narrowly avoided the first panel falling, however they were subsequently crushed by the second panel, causing their deaths.

Structure Design and the Safe Design process. Why are we getting it wrong?

When we see incidents like this one in Queensland which resulted in the two workers being crushed to death, it makes you wonder. How, in this day and age, does this happen?

We can not help thinking about all the possible design solutions that could have been adopted to prevent the two workers being exposed to the precast panels collapsing. It raises the question – did the designer have time to think about this, to consult, to plan and to talk to people with experience? What control measures could have been put in place to mitigate the construction risks?

WorkCover Qld* proposes the following control measures

WorkCover Qld proposed the following in their Safety Alert – Concrete Wall Panels:

“Control measures to prevent such collapse are to be applied before workers enter the pit.

Concrete wall panels should not be erected unless the following has been carried out:    

  • Each wall panel is provided with a minimum of two braces that are attached to the face [1of the panel and anchored to the ground with engineer designed footings.
  • Each panel is provided with an effective way to restrain the bottom of the panel when it is installed.
  • The panel restraint system, including brace footing details, is to be designed and certified by a suitably qualified professional engineer (in Queensland the engineer is required to be a Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland). The engineering certification must be on site.
  • Workers involved hold the appropriate high risk work licence:
  • A comprehensive safe work procedure (i.e. safe work method statement) is to be developed by the panel erector and verified by the principal contractor. Responsibilities of every worker (including the rigger) should be specified in the procedure. 
  • The procedure should include detailed diagrams that include the relative position of the mobile crane to the panels, the sequence of panel installation, and details on the panel restraint system. 
  • Prior to work commencing a pre-start meeting should take place to ensure all workers are familiar with the procedure.”

Safety in Design

This very sad, but serious incident is what Safety in Design (SiD) is all about. Eliminating hazards through good design. We all need to learn from these tragic events.

Contact us for more information.

 

This is an updated article from a previous Safety Alert notice from October 2016.

*Source: Injury Prevention Safety – Alerts at worksafe.qld.gov.au, first published 12 October 2016, updated 17 July 2018.

Case Study Prince Alfred Park Pool Sydney

Case Study: Prince Alfred Park Pool, Sydney

Case Study: Prince Alfred Park Pool, Sydney

“The overriding principle was to premiate landscape over built form, based on a conviction that in these inner urban areas, green space is sacred.”

Source: 2014 Sydney Design Awards submission.

Based on this concept, a main feature of the design of the Prince Alfred Park Pool complex in Sydney was the landscaped grass roof that sits over the pool building facilities. The safe design of this roof required consideration of safety in relation to potential falls as it could be accessed from street level and also consideration of how this roof would be safely maintained.

Designing for safety without compromising design intent

Potential unauthorised access to the roof was addressed by a 2.4 metre high fence that is set back from the edge so it doesn’t impact on the intended visual effect. This fence is angled back and has no footholds, preventing climbing. The architect incorporated security lighting, CCTV and an alarm back to City of Sydney Security. The landscape designer reduced the need for maintenance by proposing an irrigation system and the specification of native grasses so that no mowing was required. An integrated cable access system was incorporated into the design to enable maintenance of the plants for weeding. In addition, a wide coping provides edge delineation and is illuminated by lighting from the pool deck below.

To ensure safe maintenance of the structure and associated plant, the designer consulted extensively with the plant designers and design engineers. The project incorporated a concrete plant hatch above the plant rooms, fitted with lifting points hidden in the grass mound roof, should the need arise for future replacement of plant with a designated crane operation area. Large skylights and tri-generation chimneys, projecting above the grass mound, are not only safe and functional, but are also a great sculptural element – fitting in with the original design intentions of the architect.

Pivoting outdoor light poles allow maintenance access without the need to work at height.

Designated access ways for emergency access were engineered to take the loads of vehicles that may need to access the site. Research and testing was undertaken to select durable materials and surfaces, and also to ensure that surfaces met slip resistance ratings for its proposed use.

The importance of Consultation and Collaboration

Consultation involved a number of safe design workshops led by the safe design consultant with key stakeholders including the client, architect, maintenance personnel and the operator. Outcomes were documented during each stage and the risk register was updated throughout the design process, and also at the end of construction.

An operations and maintenance plan was created at the completion of the project incorporating residual risks and safety controls so that people further along in the lifecycle of the complex could be made aware of safety issues.

Project Contributors

Architect: Neeson Murcutt

Client: City of Sydney

Safe Design Consultant: Safe Design Australia

 

To find out more about this particular project, or how the Safe Design Australia team can assist you on your next project, contact us.

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