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A new code of practice on the safe design of building structures

17 June, 2008

A new code of practice on the safe design of buildings and other structures – the first of its kind in Australia – has been launched at Subiaco Arts Centre.

The code aims to assist people involved in designing buildings or other structures to meet the requirements of WA’s workplace safety and health laws.  It is aimed at designers, architects, builders and engineers, all of whom have responsibility for safe building design.
The Code of Practice Safe Design of Buildings and Structures was launched by Tony Cooke, Chair of the Commission for Occupational Safety and Health, who was joined by Dr John Culvenor PhD, a specialist in industrial ergonomics, human factors, engineering and occupational safety and health.
Dr Culvenor said that safe design applied to every activity and every industry, and that risks should be controlled at design stage wherever possible.
“This includes considering how design can affect workers during construction and how it can later affect maintenance workers,” Dr Culvenor said.  “The potential hazards to the eventual users of the structure are best addressed via upstream thinking.”
The code of practice will:
·       Explain the legal obligations applicable to a person who is in control of, or who may have influence over, the design of a building or other structure; and
·       Provide guidelines on ways in which these obligations can be met by providing practical guidance on ways of maximising the safety of the design.
Cooke said it was a pleasure to launch the code, the development of which has involved extensive consultation with industry at both State and national level.
“The code aims to address the lost time injury rate in the construction industry, which is around 15 per cent per million hours worked,” Cooke said.
“This can be achieved by ensuring that safety and health issues related to building and structure design are thoroughly examined before construction begins, including the new requirement that designers provide written safety and health reports to clients prior to construction.”
The code contains information to help designers with these reports, which must include:
·       As assessment of potential injury or harm;
·       The action the designer has undertaken to reduce those risks such as changes to design or construction methods or materials;
·       Parts of the design where identified hazards have not been resolved; and
·       A level of detail appropriate for the client and the hazards and risks.
“It’s all about reducing the risks through considering human factors and organisational issues, and not just products,” Cooke said.
“There is also a need to consider how the design of related products or systems affects building design.
“Controlling risks as early as possible in the design and planning stage not only improves safety, but also saves money by avoiding any need to make changes at a later date.
“The key is to get it right in the design phase.”

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