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Designers still have a long way to go

HSE InfoLine : 20 April, 2004  (New Product)
Building designers are still not doing enough to design out risk, the Health and Safety Executive has concluded.
During February 2004 HSE inspectors continued the 'designer initiative' meeting with designers as their buildings were going up to quiz them about what they had done to design out risk.

Meetings between HSE inspectors and building designers took place in Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire as HSE's campaign to reduce the number of accidents in the construction industry involving falls from height continues.

Joy Jones, HSE's Principal Construction Inspector of the four counties, said:

'Work at height continues to be the most significant cause of fatal accidents on construction sites in the UK, responsible for around 40 per cent of all deaths. For 10 years designers have had legal duties to design out risk where possible. We looked at a sample of new buildings locally to see how well designers were doing.'

Inspectors asked the designers to explain what they had done during the design stage to reduce the risks of working at height and to address issues that impinge on site safety. Discussions also covered the subsequent safety of maintenance workers during the life of the structure.

HSE's findings are being sent to all who were involved. Commenting on the results of the meetings Joy Jones said: 'It is encouraging that many of the designers we met understood they had legal duties to design out risk and were trying to comply.

'We found that designers who go onto site often and consult with those constructing the buildings had a better appreciation of the problems created by some of their ideas and could collaborate with contractors to design a workable and safer solution. However we are concerned that some designers wanted to rely on harnesses as a means of preventing people falling when it is much better to design out the need to work at height, or if it is necessary, ensure it can be done from a safe place of work with proper guardrails. Overall I have to conclude that there is still a long way to go before we can say that designers are making a real contribution to reducing the toll of death and injury caused by falls from height in this industry.' Inspectors will continue to target designers as part of their routine work.
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