In the United States, the formal consideration of construction site safety is absent during the design phase of a construction project. The concept of designing for construction safety is a viable intervention and is one piece of a holistic approach to construction project safety planning. This paper provides an introduction to the concept of designing for construction safety, reviews literature related to the concept, summarizes various implementation barriers and techniques, and presents recent research on the concept. By becoming familiar with this intervention, it is anticipated that safety professionals will seek to utilize the concept as one method to reduce overall risk in construction projects.
The safety of any operation is determined long before the people, procedures, and equipment come together at the work site (Stephenson 10). Construction operations are not different, in this respect, from any other operations. Construction, however, remains the most hazardous industry in the U.S. in terms of the aggregate number of fatalities. In 2003, the construction industry experienced 1,126 total deaths or 20% of all work-related fatalities (Bureau of Labor Statistics 3). The trend of the construction industry's safety problems (high fatality and injury rates) has been prevalent for too long; one breakthrough idea to reduce this trend is to involve architects and design engineers in considering construction safety during the design process (Korman 26).
Occupational safety professionals have recognized the concept of designing for safety as a significant method for eliminating hazards and reducing risk regardless of the industry. Manuele (161) provided an order of precedence that specifies design as the primary method to reduce risk. According to the Institute for Safety Through Design (ISTD), addressing safety in the conceptual or early design stages, rather than retrofitting to meet those needs, yields certain measurable benefits; among the benefits are improving productivity, decreasing operating costs, avoiding expensive retrofitting to correct design shortcomings, and producing significant reductions in injuries, illnesses, environmental damage and attendant costs (ISTD, 2003).
The concept of designing for construction safety (DfCS) is a form of project risk sharing whereby the design professional, and the owner (client) in many cases, become involved in facilitating construction site safety at the earliest stages of the project's life cycle. DfCS is defined as the deliberate consideration of construction site safety in the design phase of a construction project. This consideration includes modifications to the permanent features of the construction project and adjustments in the preparation of plans and specifications for construction in such a way that construction site safety is considered.