The construction industry sector consistently reports the highest levels of workplace injury and fatalities in the UK. Starting with the Health and Safety at work Act 1974 the onus for assuring the health and safety of workers has shifted from those directly carrying out activities with associated risks to employers to all key stakeholders. Within the construction industry this has culminated in the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 which holds everyone from the client to designers to contractors responsible for evaluating risks and ensuring safety on construction sites to using and maintaining buildings.
At LBA we often work with existing buildings that were designed and built at a time when health and Safety was very much considered only when the potential risk was confronted. This was also a time when workplace accidents and fatalities were significantly higher than they are today, there has been an 85% reduction in workplace fatalities since 1974. When addressing these projects one of the key factors is finding suitable solutions the residual risks posed by previous lack of consideration to Health and Safety, whether this be floor to ceiling sash and case windows that are difficult to clean safely or roofs that can’t be accessed. Projects like this allow us to appreciate that we as architects play an important role in considering and managing Health and Safety risks throughout the design, construction, use and eventual demolition of buildings.
When decisions on a project directly affect others, it is vital that the onus of reducing risks to Health and Safety is shift to all key stakeholders from the very beginning of a project. Designs and proposals are dictated by numerous factors; whether it be cost driven by the client, design driven by the architect, management driven by the contractor or many other reasons, each decision needs to be assessed by the persons making the decision and other relevant parties to consider the repercussions that these might have. As Principal Designers on many of our projects we ensure coordination of the design and construction team to minimise risk to workers, building users and maintenance.
From the day we are born, (well almost), we are constantly evaluating risk and assessing hazards around us so we all have plenty of experience in identifying risks and considering how to address these, even if our decisions are not always the safe ones. Our subconscious can have over 30,000 thoughts simultaneously, it is not too much of a stretch for everybody to apply experience based critical thinking when involved in construction projects. The CDM 2015 regulations may be predominantly about a legal shift of responsibility for Health and Safety to all key stakeholders but this is a very sensible framework to ensuring that safety is considered by all at every stage for the betterment of the construction sector.