As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure. This definitely applies to workplace design.
When designing or modifying a workplace, safety should be an integral feature that is built-in from the ground up.
Poor workplace design is known to be a major contributing factor to numerous workplace injuries, so it is essential that during periods of any workplace design or modification, you always take safety principles into account.
It will save you time and resources in the long run and can help prevent injuries, or even death, later on.
Good safety is a critical aspect of good design
The main decision-makers in your organisation, as well as designers must understand the crucial link between health and safety and good design.
While designers have a legal obligation to design safety into a workplace, it is also your responsibility to provide the designer with sufficient information so they can understand your needs and incorporate the safety features you need in your work environment.
Safety aspects to consider in the design of your workplace should include:
- work and storage areas designed so as to reduce the amount of twisting, lifting and bending required by employees (e.g. heavy items should be stored at waist height);
- noisy equipment located as far as possible away from other work areas;
- lighting levels suitable for the tasks being performed;
- guards to protect workers from all moving parts of machinery;
- mechanical aids to reduce heavy lifting (e.g. where loading and unloading is required);
- non-slip floor surfaces that are even to prevent tripping;
- passageways free from obstruction and exits that are accessible, signposted and adequately lit; and
- adequate ventilation in areas where people may be exposed to fumes or dust.
How to work with designers when modifying an existing workplace
A good designer should be able to provide you with advice and assistance in the design process, but when modifying an existing workplace, no one will know your organisation’s requirements better than you.
Below are 6 steps to help a designer safely undertake any workplace modifications.
Step 1: Identify production and usage issues
Detect any issues that may affect the plant or structure, including cleaning and maintenance.
Step 2: Give information to the designer
Provide information to the designer about any relevant hazards and previous incidents in relation to the plant or structure.
Step 3: Locate any health and safety risks
Identify specific health and safety risks that should be addressed in the design phase.
Step 4: Meet with the designer and health and safety experts
Set up a meeting between the designer and a health and safety consultant to discuss safety issues.
Step 5: Involve other workers
Ensure that you and the designer involve workers who will be using the plant or structure in the design process.
Step 6: Meet to finalise plans
Meet with the designer during the design phase to provide further information. This will also help you to understand the designer’s approach to resolving the risks relevant to your workplace.