Designer Duties Arising from Health and Safety Legislation

Summary of designer duties

  • determine any possible dangers that might arise when carrying out construction and maintenance in future
  • find relevant solutions to deal with the hazards
  • inform PSDP about significant control measures, design presumptions or remaining risks to ensure they are handled in the Safety and Health Plan
  • collaborate with PSDP, PSCS and other designers
  • responsible for existing safety and health plan or safety file
  • follow the guidance from PSDP or PSCS
  • remind client on the necessity of PSDP
  • ensure project to be constructed is safe and will maintain safely besides fulfil the needs of health and safety legislation, according to the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005

Defining design and designers

Under the Regulations, “design work” includes the formation of drawings, particulars, specifications, calculations, the preambles and preliminaries of bills of quantities, where we can find specifications or other expressions of purpose from them, in accordance with which a project, or any part or component of a project, is to be carried out.

The “design process” is the process of developing and preparing a design of a project from initial ideas up to a more precise specification, which often include different teams and fields at various stages throughout the project.

Designers” involve organisations or individuals who responsible for the design work of a project, including the design of temporary works. It is possible for them to make decisions that significantly reduce the hazards to safety and health when construction is on-going and during subsequent use and maintenance.

Potential designers from various professions are:

  • architects, civil and structural engineers, building services consultants, building surveyors, landscape architects and other design practices and individuals who assist or responsible for analysing, calculating, preparatory design work, designing, detailing, specifying and preparing bills of quantities for construction work;
  • Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical and other related engineers who involved in the project;
  • person who determine or modify a design, or who specify the application of certain work methods or specific materials, including client, temporary work designers, interior designers, specialist subcontractors who contribute to design work and construction materials selection

Examples of temporary works are trench shoring, scaffolding, propping, working platforms, gangways and access stairs or ladders.

Employers or the head of design team are designers.

Areas of responsibility between various designers on a project should be outlined precisely to prevent any overlap or gaps, which cause confusion or even possible danger. The duties relating to safety and health of each designer can be formed after outlining scope of responsibility for designers.

Duties of Designers

According to Regulation 15(1), a designer is required to consider the general principles of prevention, relevant safety and health plan and safety file when working on design of a project.

  • General Principles of Prevention

Under Regulation 15(1), designers must consider the General Principles of Prevention that are found in Schedule 3 to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 as well as other related Safety and Health Plan or Safety File. The Principles of Prevention are a hierarchy for reducing and eliminating risks.

If applicable, the first thing to tackle in handling safety and health on construction projects at design stage is to reduce and eliminate risks. Designers should consider existing risks in certain areas of the project and relate any possible new hazards created by design process for workers in construction areas, end users and the public.

General Principles of Prevention is used as a guide in reducing risks experienced during the construction process and after the project is completed. The measures in descending order of effectiveness are:

  1. risks prevention
  2. assessment of inevitable hazards
  3. dealing with risks on site
  4. adaptation of work to the person: working environment, equipment used for work, working systems, in order to prevent repetitive jobs and health risks
  5. adaptation of working place to technical development
  6. replacing risky elements, substances or working systems with those that less dangerous
  7. establishment of prevention policy related to safety, health and welfare at work that consider about technology, social factors, working organisation, environment and conditions
  8. prioritizing collective protective measures over individual protective measures
  9. providing appropriate training and guidance to employees
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Besides, designers should:

  • identify any hazards in the design
  • eliminate risks when applicable without introducing other higher risks
  • evaluate and reduce residual hazards by using risk assessment process of the design and prioritizing collective protection
  • supply relevant information so that other designers, contractors and the PSDP are aware of identified residual hazards and able to take action

Designers should be aware of hazards that likely cause injury. They must assess design proposals critically at beginning, followed by throughout the design process, to identify the main construction safety and health issues, and include them into overall design process. The nature of risks varies depends on the type of project constructed.

Designers should review the hazards before informing the PSDP when developing the design, especially for design and build contracts, where there is a large overlap in time between designing main elements of a project and the construction stage. Designers are recommended to participate in some safety and health meetings between the PSDP, PSCS, and contractor.

Designers may have direct influence, and should consider other design considerations such as:

  1. choosing position and design of structures to prevent or minimise risks from known site hazards, e.g. buried services, traffic movements, contaminated ground
  2. minimise health hazards, e.g. use less hazardous materials, prevent activities that emit dangerous substances, use materials can be handled easily, design block paved areas and access areas
  3. minimise safety hazards, e.g. work at height, fragile roof site, public areas or on motorways, flammable materials; apply prefabrication to minimise dangerous work or in a controlled manner
  1. prevent hazardous aspects that cause falling or injury if work at height is unavoidable, e.g. install permanent access in the beginning; apply edge protection
  1. work on attempts that simplify the construction process, e.g. provide lifting points, weight and centre of gravity for heavy items on the items and drawings; consider temporary works needed; end bearings to slabs or beams that end-propping temporarily; design connections to ensure accuracy of assembly
  1. design to simplify maintenance and cleaning jobs in future, e.g. concern on safe permanent access; create access areas for future maintenance; utilise windows that can be cleaned from indoor; design safe plant rooms; create safe access for roof

Providing Information

According to Regulation 15(b), a designer requires to supply all related information in written form to project supervisors in order for them to conduct their duties. The details provided should be up-to-date so that the PSDP able to coordinate activities of designers involved in the project besides ensure the effectiveness of communication between PSCS and other duty-holders.

Moreover, designers should provide relevant information on the design features that might cause risks in future construction work or maintenance. It will then be included into the Safety File by the PSDP.

Completing design certificates is a way of recording agreement with these duties and keeping record of different stages throughout the design process. This ensure the safety of works carried out at different stages, besides help in design examination and communication of design assumptions between various designers. Other method can also be used as an alternative for communication, record and verification of information related to the project.

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This will help the PSDP to fulfil his or her co-ordination role, and will also demonstrate the designer’s compliance with the legislation. It is recommended that a permanent works designer should complete a permanent works design certificate with respect to the adequacy, in the context of safety and health, of their design.

A permanent works designer is recommended to complete a permanent works design certificate related to the adequacy, in line with safety and health, of their design.

Temporary works designers and contractors should locate their temporary works design according to the assumptions made in loadings and construction sequence. The temporary works designer is recommended to complete a temporary works design certificate in order to supply sufficient information to all parties and ensure the structure can be built safely.

Completed forms are handed over to the PSDP for verification in coordinating various designers. The forms are passed to the PSCS and other relevant person afterwards.

Designer Co-operation

Under the Regulation 15(2), designer is required to cooperate with the project supervisors for both design process and construction stage as well as other designers, to allow them to comply with these Regulations. This can be done in terms of supplying relevant information, attending meetings or reviewing designs in order to improve the features of safety and health on site.

Besides, designers ought to supply information for the PSDP to compose a Safety File. The information provided include details about plants or materials specified in the building, design assumptions, and relative calculations for the functioning, maintenance, and possible extension of the building.

Designers should also determine demolition risks to the PSDP for inclusion in the Safety and Health File, these include:

  • substantial stored energy sources, including pre- or post-tensioned members
  • stability demands;
  • adjustments that altered the original “structure”

Complying with Directions

According to Regulation 15(c), designers should agree with all commands from the project supervisor for both design process and construction stage, which are expressed as stated in Regulation 14 or 20, when applicable.

It is possible for the PSDP or PSCS to request any designer to achieve Designer’s duties, so that the Project Supervisor may accomplish own duties under Construction Regulations 2006. Designers have to fulfil any reasonable requests from the PSDP or PSCS, including issues related to General Principles of Prevention or coordinating design activities among different designers.

However, it is not reasonable for designers to comply with directions that they not capable of doing, or not related and controlled by them, or legally constrained from doing.

If a designer failed to carry out a direction from project supervisor, the project supervisor must issue the direction in written form. When PSDP considers the designer failed to complete a confirmed written direction, they need to inform the Health and Safety Authority, Client and the person who failed to comply with the direction, by including a copy of the written direction and relevant response from the person in accordance with the direction.

Once the Health and Safety Authority carry out investigation, it usually determines whether the parties involved have complied with their legal duties, before any enforcement actions are taken. The Authority will not conduct any negotiation or judgement between the parties. When an investigation commences, a designer or Project Supervisor may express any additional responses to the instruction so that consideration is given to all relevant sides in the matter.

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Detailed Provision of information

Under Regulation 15(3), a designer has to provide relevant information in written form to project supervisor immediately when working on design of a project. This information is:

  • hazards to the safety, health and welfare of workers related to the project, including those stated in Schedule 1 to the Regulations

The significant risks are:

– dangerous or flammable substances involved in the design (epoxy grouts, fungicidal paints, isocyanates materials)

– particular problems and solutions

– structures that affect accessibility

– huge, heavy or cumbersome prefabricated objects which are difficult and risky to handle

– works that cannot be achieved by normal methods of tying scaffolds

– aspects of design and sequences of constructing or disassembling that need to be noticeable at the design stage and significant to work safely

– unusual stability approaches

  • includes the type and areas to be covered by the project to allow project supervisor complies with the Regulations
  • relevant details for project supervisor to include in the safety file
  • aware by the designer and the safe construction of design for the project

Information given should be limited to project. In the context of structural stability, design is based on:

  • particular erection or construction sequence
  • setting up and removal of false work, interim propping or formwork as well as the arrangement
  • loading restrictions during construction
  • if contractor is not aware of the factors, designers (temporary or permanent works, specialist designers) should inform the PSCS, PSDP and contractors, to ensure construction proceeds safely according to the design intent

If a structure became unstable due to certain reason, the temporary works to ensure stability during the construction, alteration, or demolition of any part of the structure will be the pertinent information. Other relevant designers should be informed as well in order for them to take appropriate measures in their design to accommodate safety, health and welfare.

Making Clients Aware of their Duties

Under Regulation 15(4), designers should provide information to a contractor if there is no appointed project supervisor for the project according to the Regulation 15(3).

Regarding to the duties of Client, a Client has no legal obligation to assign Project Supervisors in some circumstances. In this context, a designer has to provide information required under Regulation 15(3) to the appropriate contractor.

According to Regulation 15(5), designers should immediately inform the client of the client’s duties under Regulation 6 when they are not aware of the appointment of project supervisor in design process.

Does any other Legislation Apply?

Any other duty-holders who responsible to oversee a work place have to ensure the preservation of the safety, health and welfare of workers at working site, as well as others who affected by the on-going work on site.

Designers may have other responsibilities besides those stated in the Construction Regulations. Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and other related legal provisions will also apply.

Section 17 (2) of the Act also requires a designer of construction work to ensure that the project:

  • is designed and qualified to be constructed safely without risking one’s health
  • can be maintained safely without risking one’s health when in use
  • obeys all respects, as appropriate, of the relevant statutory provisions.
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