How you can Help Manage Health by Design

Health by Design can be neatly woven into current project and product design activities. To give health the prominence it deserves, we need to work with designers, engineers and project managers; to work with them to consider health from the starting concept of a project.

Health by Design is an exercise in prediction. It uses the talents and knowledge of people in the design and installation of projects, equipment and assets. Involving the right people, who are clear about their role, can create predictions that are powerful in reducing future risk. You will need to involve key stakeholders from the full lifecycle. Make sure they know their responsibilities in controlling the design; so that the risks they know can be shared with others. Within this set of web pages we focus on clients and designers but aim for greater connections with other roles as health by design is developed.

Important roles

Roles that can be involved can fit into these categories:

  • Clients
  • Designers
  • Customers
  • Contractors
  • Manufacturers
  • Occupational health specialists
  • Project managers.

Roles defined

Although not directly applicable for all design activities, the HSE (in relation to the Construction (Design and Management) (CDM) Regulations) provides useful definitions for some of the important roles in design:

  • Client - Anyone who has construction work carried out for them. The main duty for clients is to make sure their project is suitably managed, ensuring the health and safety of all who might be affected by the work, including members of the public. Commercial clients have construction work carried out as part of their business. This could be an individual, partnership or company and includes property developers and companies managing domestic properties
  • Designer - An organisation or individual whose work involves preparing or modifying designs, drawings, specifications, bills of quantity or design calculations. Designers can be architects, consulting engineers and quantity surveyors, or anyone who specifies and alters designs as part of their work. They can also include tradespeople if they carry out design work. The designer’s main duty is to eliminate, reduce or control foreseeable risks that may arise during construction work, or in the use and maintenance of the building once built. Designers work under the control of a principal designer on projects with more than one contractor.
  • Principal designer - A designer appointed by the client to control the pre-construction phase on projects with more than one contractor. The principal designer’s main duty is to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety during this phase, when most design work is carried out.
  • Principal contractor - A contractor appointed by the client to manage the construction phase on projects with more than one contractor. The principal contractor’s main duty is to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety during this phase, when all construction work takes place.
  • Contractor - An individual or business in charge of carrying out construction work (e.g. building, altering, maintaining or demolishing). Anyone who manages this work or directly employs or engages construction workers is a contractor. Their main duty is to plan, manage and monitor the work under their control in a way that ensures the health and safety of anyone it might affect (including members of the public). Contractors work under the control of the principal contractor on projects with more than one contractor. 

Defining roles can be complex

To make Health by Design more prominent in relation to its risk, we need clients to become more knowledgeable about the health risks. One approach would be for clients to ask for greater involvement of health professionals throughout the lifecycle of the project. Make sure that clients are familiar with key Railway health hazards such as Musculoskeletal Disorders and Respirable crystalline silica. The client with ultimate sign off should look for consistency across their organisation, so that the practicalities of undertaking design activities are not prioritised over the long-term benefits of good design.

If a design activity has multiple layers, then these roles might repeat at the different levels in different ways. Principles and intentions made at the highest level of a system are often lost as a design is split into sub systems, each with its own development requirements.

Designers should involve knowledgeable health expertise at significant points within an activity, and certainly at decision points before designs are signed off. In multiple level projects, the designers at the highest system or enterprise levels should specify practice at lower levels.

A principal contractor should uphold the intentions of the client, even as the project or activity is broken down into its components. Principal contractors will want to work for knowledgeable clients, who want to enhance health and wellbeing management and increase their understanding of the risk. It is vitally important to maintain the intention of the client at the interfaces of the components and sub systems.

Contractors often have sound knowledge of health risks associated with their work and sometimes of new technologies that can make their work or the outcomes of their work healthier. Tap into this knowledge to support healthier design. Contractors should also be told about how their activities support good Health by Design, so that they can maintain the purpose of the design against the testing conditions of bringing it to life.

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