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Communication: the Key To Designing Safely.

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Introduction

COMMUNICATION: THE KEY TO DESIGNING SAFELY J. MacKenzie, A.G.F. Gibb & N.M. Bouchlaghem Civil Eng. Dept. Loughborough University, UK j.mackenzie@lboro.ac.uk ABSTRACT We have come a long way since the first recordings of workplace related incidents and over the years the UK construction industry has witnessed a steady decline in the number of accidents and fatalities. However, compared to other industries these figures are still unacceptably high. Formally, safety held its domain firmly within the construction phase where it was perceived most accidents were caused. Over the last twenty-five years fundamental changes to UK legislation have seen health and safety being addressed in the design phase. The initial response is that the CDM Regulations have raised awareness of health and safety issues throughout the industry. However, for many designers the application of such regulations is intuitive and relies on the attitude and behaviour of the designers towards safety and their ability to communicate the identifiable risks effectively. Encouraging designers to think safely will only flourish in an environment where technical information is freely available. This paper will address some of the problems associated with CDM and look at the importance of communication and possible ways of enhancing information flow. Keywords: Communication Design Safety INTRODUCTION The CIB/ECI Design for Safety and Health conference has drawn on research from a wide geographical area. From the USA and South Africa to Japan and Europe and although the inference is on Designing for Safety and Health, the issues generated range from design for construction, operation, maintenance and temporary works to tools and techniques, education and training and legal aspects associated with health and safety. Whilst causational criteria may hold the route to many a solution it is communication that binds together all the influencing issues. If we are to address workforce safety issues from ergonomics to long term health problems we must begin with open communication and dissemination of information. ...read more.

Middle

This turmoil created by the Treasury and the Judiciary is not helping designers or the industry. It is therefore crucial that the industry is more self-regulating. THE NEED FOR COMMUNICATION DURING DESIGN Numerous government and stakeholder-sponsored studies on the culture and operation of the UK construction industry have been conducted. These reports have acknowledged that communication and information flow during design have a major impact on the performance of construction projects. The most recent, the Egan Report (1998) identified a number of shortcomings, which included: "too much time and effort is spent in construction on site, trying to make designs work in practice.... which is indicative of a fundamental malaise in the industry - the separation of design from the rest of the project process." "there has to be a significant re-balancing of the typical project so that all these issues are given much more prominence in the design and planning stage before anything happens on site" "designers should work in close collaboration with the other participants in the project process. They must understand more clearly how components are manufactured and assembled." From a designer point of view the lack of knowledge of construction materials, processes and techniques used in the industry is of major concern. This is compounded by the inability to identify and eliminate risks. Associated with the introduction of the CDM Regulations is the necessity to keep abreast of new and revised health and safety legislation, for in designing safely and being able to carry out risk assessments, designers will now need to know the parameters which govern work tasks, operations and materials used. This is no small accomplishment for, since their introduction, numerous regulations, approved codes of practice and revised statutes have been implemented, not to mention new materials each of which have particular handling characteristics and COSHH requirements. It is hardly surprising therefore that some in the industry have been slow to adopt such practices. ...read more.

Conclusion

Specialists are more than likely to be at the forefront of technology within their discipline, certainly more aware than most designers. They have knowledge on initial and life cycle costing, buildability, maintainability and possibly demolition / decommissioning. In fact numerous reports have found that early incorporation of specialist knowledge enhances overall project performance. However, just as fragmentation of the industry has helped evolve the diversity of specialist contactors it has also created barriers. Design liability would strictly lie with the specialist if they were to provide design information. Thus specialists would have to charge for the information, if not for their time, certainly for the liability insurance, which in turn would increase the design costs. Whether the additional design costs outweigh the benefits of safety, buildability and maintainability not to mention other factors would be open to debate. CONCLUSIONS Health and Safety need to be considered as a part of project risk along side programme, environment and budget etc. For only when all risks are considered and controlled as an integral part of the project will benefits be seen? Designing for safety at an early stage would lead to greater appreciation of project risk and its proper apportionment. It would also lead to increased buildability and thereby its associated benefits: quality, production rates, reduced delays etc. If safety cannot be sold on its own merits then selling it as a means of achieving other requirements may be the most convincing method for its incorporation and inclusion. Feedback, more flexible procurement contracts, Education and CPD, communication with specialists and longer design times would all aid the designer in communication and dissemination of project information. This paper clearly indicates that insufficient knowledge is dedicated to the implementation of safety procedures during the design phase. This paper concludes that there is much need for improvement. Designers need more information about the projects' potential hazards at a time when information is traditionally scarce. The ability to effectively communicate design intentions is critical for safe construction and maintenance operations. Research into the communication of safety during design is therefore crucial for future improvements. ...read more.

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