Report: Are Too Many Architects Ignoring Construction Safety?
Before finishing a schematic design, architects are more likely to consider the operational safety of a building than the safety of the workers constructing it. And that’s unfortunate, since Prevention through Design (PtD) is one of the best ways to eliminate jobsite hazards before they can cause injuries.
According to the Dodge Data & Analytics SmartMarket Report "Safety Management in the Construction Industry 2017," just 51 percent of architects surveyed review their designs for possible safety issues during construction before they finish the schematics. By contrast, 68 percent look for changes that could improve the safety of a building’s operation and maintenance.
The Dodge researchers concluded, “This clearly demonstrates opportunities for improving construction safety through design reviews conducted early in the design process. Increasing the involvement by contractors in the early stages of design may be one way to encourage wider use of this approach.”
Part of the problem may be that architects simply aren’t familiar with the PtD, an emerging best practice that involves “designing out” safety and health hazards so workers never face them. PtD happens with collaborative delivery methods such as Integrated Project Delivery. Safety constructability reviews are often part of the PtD process.
According to the survey, architects also worry about what happens if they follow PtD practices and then something they didn’t foresee goes wrong during construction. In the survey, 79 percent of architects who aren’t using PtD identified construction liability as the biggest barrier to adoption.
Another big factor could be owner indifference. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of architects surveyed said they didn’t think clients were interested in adding the PtD process to the project. Other barriers identified included the added costs of conducting construction safety reviews (52 percent), truncated design schedules (48 percent) and competing priorities during design (46 percent).
Many architects said they’d be more likely to adopt PtD practices if owners/clients requested it. They’d also be more interested if they received insurance incentives for doing so.
What can you do if you’re a contractor who’d like to see PtD more widely adopted in the industry? For starters, educate yourself about it. (Check out the NIOSH website on Prevention through Design.) Then, since owner buy-in is key, start talking about the concept with your clients. And take every opportunity to talk with architects early in the design process and weigh in about the importance of PtD.
Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.