Global Insight


Modular construction - a Safety Management perspective

02 July 2018

Modular construction involving off-site assembly and delivery to site is not a new concept, but is increasingly used across a broad range of construction projects.

Strong benefits

There are strong benefits to this approach, both commercially and from a Health and Safety perspective. For fast-track projects, man hours on-site and programs are reduced. From the Health and Safety perspective, there are reduced risks across the project in a number of areas, including work at height, site vehicle movement and interfaces and reduced exposure to noise, dust and vibration. Properly managed, future access and maintenance requirements can be ‘built in’ also. 

Safety planning

The process needs careful planning, as there are significant issues and considerations to be addressed:

  • The modular units are constructed within an external manufacturing environment, but as part of an overall ‘project’, as defined by safety legislation.
  • Duties and requirements for all parties should be carefully defined, as these are rarely clear cut. There should be no confusion as to who is responsible for which element of the process.
  • The role and duties of all designers needs to be considered. Design involves a range of disciplines, as does the design process. Management of risk is key, as is the split between these elements. 
  • Clarity on communications and coordination is fundamental, particularly from the clients viewpoint.
  • There is a particular requirement for design safety coordination and communications.
  • The safety and health of project personnel visiting these manufacturing workplaces needs to be managed with regard to the employer’s duty of care.
  • The transport, offloading and moving into position of the modular units along busy access roads will be subject to a traffic management plan and risk assessment.  It is important to clearly identify the responsibilities involved for this process.
  • There are still significant risks associated with the installation and completion of the prefabricated structures.  These can include awkward handling and transportation of very large and heavy components, possible temporary works, welding within enclosed areas (although under controlled conditions) and works at height     
  • Installation and lifting are subject to strict safety protocols. An appointed lifting coordinator (Appointed Person) should take overall responsibility.  In many cases, installed structural components must be removed to facilitate installation and delivery (on one project the contractor painted these yellow for clarity). The structural designer needs to integrate stability and loadings within the overall design.