61 per cent of deaths at work and 15 per cent of serious injuries in Malta occur within the construction industry. This is disproportionately high, considering that the construction industry accounts for only 7 per cent of the Maltese workforce.
The nature of the industry plays a part in this figure; however, statistically, Malta's average is far higher than the majority of Europe, compared to 30 per cent in the UK or 42 per cent in Italy.
Legal framework: As a designer you are legally required to consider H&S
In Malta, consideration of health and safety during the design stages is generally undertaken by a PSDS. However, the Code of Practice for the Construction Industry requires that designers:
- Receive training in health and safety.
- Integrate the health and safety of the construction workers into the design and planning process in accordance with national laws, regulations and practice.
- Exercise care not to include anything in the design which would necessitate the use of dangerous structural or other procedures or materials hazardous to health or safety which could be avoided by design modifications or by substitute materials.
- Take into account the safety problems associated with subsequent maintenance and upkeep where maintenance and upkeep would involve special hazards.
- Facilities shall be included in the design for such work to be performed with the minimum risk.
Designers are well-placed to reduce risk
Designers are in a unique position to improve the health and safety record of the construction industry through their ability to design out risks throughout the lifetime of a project. Whilst the contractor is responsible for the safety of his staff on site, the designer makes the key decisions that determine how a structure will be built, and subsequently maintained and operated.
It is usually true that the simpler and more routine the design, the lesser the risks associated with it. Using simple and repetitive connections and avoiding connecting beams into column webs, for example. Unusual or awkward designs inherently carry greater risks because contractors are likely to have less experience of dealing with those risks.
Most importantly, the designer is also the person most familiar with the project before it goes to site. The designer has all of the site information, knows all of the reasons why design choices have been made and is best placed to identify alternative solutions. However, not all risks can be designed out or mitigated; the nature of the design may simply require it to be built in a particular way. The designer’s knowledge is key to identifying remaining hazards, and should work with the PSDS to do so. This information should be passed to the contractor as part of the pre-tender Health and Safety Plan. This will allow the contractor to be aware of site specific hazards and plan and price his work accordingly.
Finally, because it works:
In the UK, the Construction, Design and Management Regulations (similar to COP for the construction industry) give stringent guidelines on designers’ responsibilities. Since the introduction of the CDM regulations in 1994, deaths in the construction industry in the UK have fallen by 45 per cent.