Designing for construction safety best practices
Designing for construction safety (DFCS), also known as prevention through design (PtD), is a concept that encourages architects and design engineers to consider the safety of construction and maintenance workers during the design phase of a project. It could be as simple as providing a parapet wall that’s high enough to provide fall protection for workers, designing anchor points in areas where workers are exposed to a potential fall, or ensuring light fixtures are installed in areas for easy access.
This is not a new concept. It’s been required in the United Kingdom for more than two decades, and other countries require or highly encourage it. In the U.S. the concept has gained momentum in recent years. For example, OSHA’s Alliance Program Construction Roundtable continues to focus on the development of DFCS-related outreach and training products. This includes a short course that provides employers, contractors, owners, design engineers, and architects with information on how to recognize and anticipate construction hazards. It also provides advice on how to eliminate potential hazards.
While there has been commitment to the concept of DFCS, much more needs to be demonstrated by other stakeholders such as owners, contractors, design engineers and architects. Some concerns regarding DFCS that have been raised by design engineers and architects include:
- Exposure to potential lawsuits from injured workers
- Increased costs associated with insurance premiums
- Direct and overhead costs for designers
- Lack of safety expertise on the part of designers.
There have also been reports of owners refusing to allow high parapet walls in their building designs because they will alter the look of their buildings. Some of these concerns may be legitimate, but they pale in comparison to the thousands of injuries and fatalities that occur every year. Many of these incidents could have been prevented by appropriate design measures and saved employers billions of dollars each year due to direct and indirect costs from these injuries and fatalities.
Companies need to bring DFCS into the design phase to remove unnecessary hazards and to take safety into account. Such considerations include limiting the depths of excavations to four feet or less where possible to eliminate cave-in hazards, prefabbing fixtures in controlled environments, installing lights at locations with easy access, providing parapet walls or anchor points for fall protection, and installing sleeves instead of core drilling holes. These are meaningful solutions that have been brought to our design-build projects to enhance the safety of our workers.
It’s no secret the construction industry remains one of the most hazardous in which to work. However, many hazards could be eliminated at the source by implementing reasonable design for safety concepts. It takes the continued efforts of all involved to embrace this concept and help prevent the injuries and deaths occurring on construction projects.
Is your team on board?
Joe Amara, safety director, Faith Technologies. This article originally appeared on Faith Technologies’ blog. Faith Technologies is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, Control Engineering, CFE Media, email@example.com.