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Overview of Health by Design

Exposure to health and wellbeing hazards affect your employees, organisational productivity and the business bottom line. Our Health by Design web pages will help you design out those hazards. Whether you are a client or designer developing new services, infrastructure or products, these pages will help you understand your role in developing the culture or systems that will prevent, manage, or mitigate exposure to those hazards.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recognises that proportionately the risk from health hazards today to UK employees today can be three times the size of safety risk. What was seen as acceptable design practice in recent years needs new thinking; to be built upon with a fresh drive for techniques and knowledge that can reduce the current high levels of health risk.

As a client or designer, you have a significant role to play, in engaging other, less well informed, stakeholders; guiding them to enhance their Health by Design capability. This information is designed to help you in that role.

What is Health by Design

Health by Design brings together hazard identification, risk assessment, requirements gathering and communication methods early in the design process, with the aim of eliminating or minimising risk to people's health and wellbeing. It encompasses all design elements and considers the whole of the lifecycle of the project, service or product. This approach supports capability development of all involved by getting everybody to think about all aspects of the project.

Good Health by Design

Good Health by Design practice encapsulates five key principles. You can find more detail on each of these within this set of webpages. By understanding the principles, the associated guidance and tools, you will enhance your Health by Design capability, and be better prepared to include good practice in your work.

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

Principle 2: Product Lifecycle – Healthy 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 healthy design.

Principle 4: Healthy Design Knowledge and Capability – should be either demonstrated or acquired by people 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.

Knowledgeable clients can, with good designers, reduce unexpected costs, legal risks and harm in a development activity because issues are considered right at the start of a project. Changes made in the early stages of a project, during planning, are much less costly than those to prototypes or the physical environment, or to pull back on initial investments.

Scope of Health by Design

Health by Design encompasses the principles and processes described above and applied within the context of health and wellbeing.  Health and Wellbeing considers the effects of work on an individual's health and the effects of an individual's health on work, as well as psychological, social and physical wellbeing.

We want to apply Health by Design processes and knowledge onto:

  • design activities to develop construction projects (a collection of products, services, architectural and infrastructure developments)
  • services (products, knowledge and service activities to apply them for the benefit of the customer)
  • products (tools, software, equipment).

When we consider these design activities, we should recognise that Health and Safety law covers each area. There are important areas of legislation that include the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and 'CE' marking for design of products. Principles for Universal Design are also significant for 'healthy' design outputs.

What is the difference between Health by Design and Health and Safety by Design?

There is little difference between the processes for good safety by design, good environmental design and Health by Design.  The different elements of these processes can be managed together. We have separated them out because the health hazards, their risk management activities, and any design out options are not yet well understood. Health by Design needs specific attention to strengthen understanding.  In the future it is likely that we will want ideas around health, safety and environment brought closer together.

Building our Health by Design capability

As a part of the Health by Design project this set of web pages aims to provide a focal point for a community of clients and designers who want to change industry approaches to Health by Design. This community, using the adopted principles, will work to support the ongoing development of capability by upholding these values:

  • maintain an ongoing conversation with and between clients and designers from a variety of backgrounds, to establish a focus on Health by Design and the benefits to be achieved
  • continuous community improvement by gathering case studies, tools and good practices
  • transfer of knowledge between industries
  • work with projects, manufacturers and service providers to develop better Health by Design solutions
  • use of a whole lifecycle view when creating design solutions
  • ongoing work to support understanding of whole lifecycle costs and establish cost benefits of health interventions in design.

Community members should use the information available here and contribute new knowledge and understanding to the web pages as capabilities improve.

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