With the introduction of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations in 1995, designers within the UK were made responsible under criminal legislation for the safety of their designs. Prior to this, all legislation relating to the construction industry was aimed at contractors.
Although with the Regulations now nearly ten years old, a recent Health and Safety Executive investigation revealed that some 40% of designers still did not understand how they could, or should, reduce the risk of health and safety hazards for construction workers. With the further fact that 60% of all accidents are attributable to design decisions, there is still much room for improvement in this area.
Despite this, the UK is the world leader in construction safety in general with, for example, the fatality rate per 100,000 construction workers being 5.1. In Germany the figure rises to 8 and continues to rise with Italy at 12.8, France at 17.6 and Spain at 19.3. Serious injuries and health problems are also proportionately greater outside the UK. Whilst we have no comparable statistics available, the situation in the US is regarded as being worse than the European Union.
As part of this UK drive towards higher safety standards, we have been involved in the Planning Supervision role almost since the introduction of the Regulations and have specifically employed a consultant Architect throughout this time. We are also a member of the regional construction safety association comprising of over eighty construction companies and professional firms with regular contact with the Health & Safety Executive.
In essence, we see our role as ensuring that both hazard identification and risk assessment are carried out correctly by the designers, and are also able to advise on safer solutions to design problems.
Health and safety in construction is not just a moral or ethical issue, as important as those are. We find that in many instances when risk assessment has been applied correctly that the health and safety improvements which result are not the only ones. Safe design can also result in better design, better overall planning and better execution of the works, which ultimately saves time and can therefore also reduce costs.
Maintenance issues are also examined as part of the risk reduction process, and can therefore similarly result in a more cost effective and better managed finished building for the client.
V B Johnson LLP provide full CDM Co-ordinator and project safety services. We consider ourselves to be an integral part of the design team, and if made part of that team from design inception we can contribute added value to the project.