Global Insight


Design safety and risk assessment

02 July 2018

Legislation imposing specific duties on designers to manage risk on a construction project was a major turning point at the time. The legislation has since been updated twice both in 2006 and 2013 and now a given for all construction projects throughout Europe.

Design and designers

Definitions as to what constitutes ‘design’ and the ‘design process’ are key elements of the legislation.  The ‘design’ role has been expanded to include specialists in temporary works, lighting and other activities, as have the duties, to ensure coordination of the various design inputs. 

Safety in design

The quality of this design safety process can vary.  A critical element to the safety in design process, however, is the initial and ongoing assessment of risks, but also the management of these in the event of changes.  This aspect can be very difficult to manage, and it is one of the issues which is most ignored.

In comparison with other European countries, Ireland have taken a pragmatic approach to the original EU legislation, and have focused on 'Particular or High Risk Activities' (HRA) to be addressed in the design. Designers need to be mindful of the key aspects of the risk management process, with considerations including:

  1. Awareness of the huge range of safety legislation that impinges on design. Talk to the Project PSDP early and often – typically, conversations are far more productive than exchanging emails.
  2. Definition of the scope of design - provision of meaningful detail in the risk assessment is essential, but this is also the case on drawings and specifications. Keep it concise and relevant.
  3. Awareness and provision in the design to facilitate safe access, and for inspection and maintenance, can be as important construction safety.  Operational safety issues can be regularly overlooked. Changes to original assumptions can, and do, change frequently.
  4. Demonstration of competence as a designer - for example, recent evidence of training, CPD events, ‘lessons learnt’ from previous projects etc..  This is important, not least, because the client has a duty to assess and confirm this.
  5. Maintenance of an up-to-date database of health and safety issues – bear in mind that safety legislation is goal-based.  What was acceptable in recent years may no longer be the case. Standards in design safety are continually rising.
  6. Update of the design risk assessment – it needs to reflect the current status of the project.  It is very unlikely that a design risk assessment will not need to be changed or amended over the lifetime of a project
  7. Commitment to regular communications with the PSDP – they have overall responsibility for design coordination
  8. Awareness of one’s legal duties.  Doing what other designers do, or even what was done on the last project, does not ensure protection.
  9. Maintenance of a written practice policy of design safety and its implementation.
  10. Consideration of ‘buildability’ at each stage of a project. It is not necessary to have all of the answers, but the questions should be noted.