In the United States, construction has always been one of the most dangerous industries to work in. The number of fatalities that occur in this industry year after year demonstrate this. In 2014, 19.6% of worker fatalities, in private industry, were in construction (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015) despite the industry comprising only 6.8% of the total work force. This epidemic is not unique to the United States. Essentially every country faces similar problems regarding construction safety. For example, in 2004 the Australian construction industry employed approximately 8% of the countries workforce. However, workers compensation statistics indicated that the industry’s incidence rate was 28.6 per 1000 employees, nearly twice the overall industry average (Zou, Redman & Windon, 2008). Efforts to improve upon these dismal statistics have intensified in recent years in large part due to the escalation of successful liability suits and the effect the rising cost of workers compensation insurance has on a company’s ability to do business.
Managing Occupational safety and health in the construction industry is difficult to manage for various reasons. The ever-changing environment, a persistently varying workforce and the various building methods utilized by the industry complicate safety measures. Those in the construction industry often view safety as problematic and as result safety solutions are only applied to the minimum limit allowed by law. A common outlook in the construction industry is that construction work is characteristically unsafe. This outlook creates problems. Physical work conditions do not and should not contain unnecessary hazards. There are several solutions to minimize these risks; chief amongst these resolutions is implementation of engineering controls to design out risk.
Many of the aforementioned problems can be eliminated or mitigated using safe design techniques. Safe design is the process of identifying, assessing, and eliminating hazards or potential risks that may occur in the workplace during construction or the life cycle of a designed product (Breslin, 2007). Designers have not traditionally addressed safety in their design and are often unaware of how their design impacts safety, yet research has shown that in construction project management, many safety risks may be eliminated or mitigated and opportunities seized at the design stage if proper analysis and assessment is carried out (Zou et al, 2008). Countries around the world have realized this to be true and numerous countries have passed regulation placing some of the safety burden on designers. This paper reviews the literature on the design and implementation of safe design techniques and programs in the construction industry.
Why safe design?
Many times, risks faced by contractors exist at no fault of their own. That is, in some cases the contractor is bound by a design that places specific hazards...