Australian Safe by Design Guidance Gives us a Foot in the Door for the Approach to Health

While our focus is on ‘health’, we can also benefit from the guidance surrounding Safety by Design. The rationale and activities you can do to manage safety throughout the lifecycle of a design can be applied to the management of health. This approach to the whole lifecycle is valuable and is often overlooked.

There is currently no reference point for Health by Design. For those new to the idea of Health and Safety by Design, the Australian Safety by Design guidance document offers a good, engaging discussion on the subject. We recognise that Health and Safety by design would have been more inclusive of our focus, however the content of this guidance does cover health and the principles remain useful. Short, at twenty pages, it is brief enough to work though quickly and pick up the context of Health and Safety by Design.

Key elements to pull from the guidance are

  • What is Safe Design
  • 5 Principles of Safe Design
  • The design lifecycle
  • Safe Design Model 

What is Safe Design?

The Safe Design guidance identifies safe design as the integration of hazard identification and risk assessment methods early in the design process to eliminate or minimise the risks of injury throughout the life of the product being designed. It encompasses all design including facilities, hardware, systems, equipment, products, tooling, materials, energy controls, layout, and configuration.

A safe design approach begins in the conceptual and planning phases with an emphasis on making choices about design, materials used and methods of manufacture or construction to enhance the safety of the finished product.

Safe design will always be part of a wider set of design objectives, including practicability, aesthetics, cost and the functionality of the product. Safe design is the process of successfully achieving a balance of these sometimes competing objectives, without compromising the health and safety of those potentially affected by the product over its life.

In addition to the risk of injury causing ill health, Health by Design encompasses exposure to health hazards and acknowledges that poor health is not exclusively a result of a work-related injury. Developing this further, the guidance outlines five principles which provide a view of the key elements that can manage Health by Design. These are:

Principle 1: Persons with Control – persons who make decisions affecting the design of products, facilities or processes are able to promote health and safety at the source.

Principle 2: Product Lifecycle – safe design applies to every stage in the lifecycle from conception through to disposal. It involves eliminating hazards or minimising risks as early in the lifecycle as possible.

Principle 3: Systematic Risk Management – the application of hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control processes to achieve safe design.

Principle 4: Safe Design Knowledge and Capability – should be either demonstrated or acquired by persons with control over design.

Principle 5: Information Transfer – effective communication and documentation of design and risk control information between all persons involved in the phases of the lifecycle is essential for the safe design approach.

Not surprisingly from our research these principles ring true and are good areas to focus upon to manage health by design. The RSSB web pages cover Principle 1 with guidance around the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM), as well as considerations of Universal design and Human factors integration to cover the range of potential designs which fall outside construction (such as software, chairs, tools and procedures).

Our web pages focus on principle in some detail because we feel that the whole lifecycle view can be overlooked. For instance, when a large project considers Health by Design to be the design of the project but has much less attention to the outputs and products of the project.  The figure below highlights a useful lifecycle that is explained through Australian Safety by Design guidance document, although we have further details on these web pages.

Lifecycle of designed products

Principle 3 is managed by our Case Studies and the accompanying Railway health hazards information that goes with it. For Principle 4 we offer a maturity model that can help an organisation understand how to improve its maturity and capability in relation to the CDM regulations.

Principle 5 is vitally important and something that we can heavily influence through the community we are attempting to build around the web pages. Within an organisation information transfer will be managed in accordance with the CDM Regs, but within the community for Health by Design we can enhance the sharing of information between companies so that together we raise the understanding of what can be achieved through Health by Design.

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