Improving health and safety through better design practice

The Health and Safety by Design (HSbD) report was prepared by Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ) with funding provided by the Construction Sector Accord.

The work underpinning the report was guided by a steering group comprising members of the Accord, Worksafe, and CHASNZ, as well as a number of key leaders in industry in the area of Health and Safety by Design.

Purpose and aim of the study

If organisations are to effectively influence the practice of HSbD then they need to understand where, when and to what end to intervene.

  • This study looks at how HSbD is actually practised in New Zealand compared to the idealised model of HSbD as described by NZ and international guidance documents.
  • It explores and illustrates the work done to fulfil Health and Safety by Design (HSbD) principles and outcomes in the context of the real-world design practices, and it identifies opportunities to modify real-world design practices to give better effect to Health and Safety by Design principles and outcomes.

The report includes the following

  • A catalogue and review of 34 international guidance documents to understand the purpose and functions of Health and Safety by Design.
  • Observations of current practice through 39 stakeholder interviews framed around three core functions identified from existing Health and Safety by Design guidance: knowledge, decision making, and communication.
  • Seven directions for intervention framed up at the strategic level focused on areas where Health and Safety by Design practice can be improved.

Seven directions for intervention

Direction 1 – Socialisation of the report

The socialisation of the report within the NZ construction sector. We want others to reflect on the findings of the report in light of their own experiences and perspectives. To promote debate, test the findings and questions raised in this report, and help shape future work.

Direction 2 – Understanding the construction sector and its performance

Better data and understanding on the construction sector, its activities, and the harm that is occurring is critical to enable evidence-based interventions to be shaped, targeted, and prioritised at both organisational and sector levels.

Direction 3 – Reconceptualising HSbD

Move away from the notion that health and safety is addressed by occasional, objective, and systematic risk assessment when a design has been substantially conceived. Instead, to acknowledge the many ways health and safety matters are addressed in the design process and when they are addressed, to understand the factors that enable, contribute to, or constrain the realisation of a healthy and safe design.

Direction 4 – Putting downstream stakeholders at the centre of design

Orient attention to the downstream stakeholders by making them visible and by considering how knowledge of the downstream activities is best accessed and how downstream stakeholders are engaged and informed about the design. This is critical because the knowledge required for design is not limited to what designers know or can access in design standards.

Direction 5 – Changing behaviours in the construction sector

Look at what can be done to promote desired behaviours within construction sector supply chains, including incentivising and supporting clients to procure, drive, and manage good design process, incentivising and supporting consultation, coordination, and cooperation between parties involved in design and construction.

Direction 6 – Decision making

Uncover how and when design decisions, including point-of-no-return decisions, are performed for construction projects, and what this means for "reasonably practicable". This includes how conventional decision making in organisations and contracting models, and delegated authorities and escalation thresholds, may need to be altered to support the production of a healthier and safer designs.

Direction 7 – Closing the loop

Increase the awareness of designers regarding the limitations of their own experience with respect to design for construction and use; and the inherent limitations of standards including the misconceptions about compliance with the Building Code. And to encourage organisations, the sector, and the government to draw on their learnings and make this knowledge accessible for design elsewhere.

The report

Read the report(external link)  -

Last updated: 15 December 2022