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Safety in design needs better understanding and management

ARBS 2018 is just a month away, with the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Sydney set to be the epicentre of innovation in the HVAC&R sector from 8-10 May 2018. Attendees will not only be able to experience the latest innovations in plant and technology at the ARBS exhibition, they will also be able to hear the latest insights from industry leaders during the concurrent Speaker Series.


Among the many presentations on topics relevant to all stakeholders across the built asset space will be Safety in Design. According to Warwick Stannus, group engineering manager at A. G. Coombs Group who will be a key speaker on this topic, Safety in Design, or SID, is an issue that needs to be top of mind and effectively managed through the project’s design and construction as well as in the transition to operation.

Ultimately, safety in design outcomes have implications for management of workplace safety throughout the building’s lifecycle and therefore should also be of vital interest to building owners looking to manage their workplace health and safety obligations, he says.

SID became an area of management focus, after a business risk study A. G. Coombs undertook a few years ago.

“We felt we were dealing with safety in design, but we weren’t sure we had all the right processes and technical resources in place to assure that we were managing SID effectively,” Stannus says.

While the intent and principles of SID are relatively clear, he says, in practice they are very complex to manage. It also became evident from the analysis that while Work Health and Safety management on commercial construction sites has become established practice, the management of SID risk has not reached the same level of maturity within the industry.

On a construction site, the head contractor takes effective charge of the build, including management of the site safety. Management practices are well established including site safety inductions, use of Safe Work Method Statements and PPE.

“With safety in design, we haven’t got to the same level of consistency or maturity,” Stannus says.
Complexities arise around who is the designer, the adequacy of the SID records, definition of the term “as far as reasonably practical” and designers’ understanding of the competency of people using the design.

Overlay this with commercial pressures and Australia’s widespread use of Design & Construction project delivery and poor SID outcomes that affect life cycle costs and residual WHS risks are not difficult to find.

Many of the adverse SID outcomes start with inadequate spatial planning that does not provide adequate space to safely maintain, replace or renew plant and equipment. SID issues often cannot be satisfactorily resolved if there is not sufficient space to allow lifting and moving equipment to be safely used to shift heavy equipment such as pumps and motors.

There are several practical means to assuring safety in design is better managed moving forward, Stannus explains.

Project clients and project managers have a vital role to play by providing clear project brief requirements, acceptance criteria and project management processes that assure safety in design remains a priority at all points through the project delivery.

The use of BIM modelling practices and virtual build SID reviews can identify and help resolve issues before they become evident on site.

Of particular value is the ability for the services maintainability to be assessed from the perspective of the commissioning and service technicians at floor level, not from above which is the view point most commonly utilised with the use of 2D plan drawings.

Stannus says most safety in design issues seem to revolve around mechanical services.

There are many factors that influence this: the general requirement for more frequent inspection, testing and maintenance; the frequent requirement to access plant and equipment at high level or on the roof; as well as the weight of the components involved.

The specialist mechanical contractor also often takes on the role of lead services coordinator and the virtual build process they lead must not only assure a clash free installation but also one that is both constructible and maintainable.

While in most instances, safety in design involves risk assessment and mitigation processes an important part of a firm’s SID resources is the development of supporting checklists, design guides and standard details.

There is no doubt that the management of SID involves costs and, in many instances, add some costs to the installation, Stannus says.

Compliant cooling tower access platforms, adequate plant room space to allow plant to be safely maintained and safe roof access provisions add cost, but in the total scheme of the project cost in most cases are still comparatively small.

“What owners don’t often fully appreciate is that if someone gets injured maintaining their building, the owner or manager of the building has the primary duty of care to assure the workplace is without risks to health and safety.”

Stannus will be presenting on Safety in Design at ARBS 2018. As well as discussing the challenges the sector faces in having SID become business as usual, he will be outlining how his company has tackled incorporating SID, and some of the tools and systems it has used.

The Speaker Series is held concurrently with the ARBS 2018 exhibition at the International Convention Centre, Sydney, from May 8-10. See all of the program details and how to register here.

ARBS 2018 Sydney

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