Design for Safety

RT-101 Topic Summary
RT 101


Research Team 101 (RT-101), Design for Safety, was conducted in order to identify methods which engineers and designers can use to improve the safety of projects during construction. Historically, the design profession was not widely addressing construction site safety in its scope of work. RT-101’s specific objectives were to:

  • Recommend appropriate hazard identification techniques
  • Determine planning and design steps to facilitate risk reduction
  • Identify economic evaluation procedures for design options
  • Focus on facility planning and design aspects affecting safety in the construction phase, allowing future considerations of start-up, operational, and decommissioning phases during conception and detailed design
  • Produce a “tool box” of design ideas to assist design teams in identifying and mitigating construction safety hazards

The research included collection of existing design practices that had been fully developed and practiced by design firms via literature research, 30 interviews of Seattle-based construction industry personnel, and mail surveys of 50 Seattle-based design-build firms. In addition, new design suggestions were identified from CII member companies’ safety design manuals/checklists, from government agency worker safety manuals (e.g., OSHA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), and from the research team members themselves.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : 430 Design Suggestions Identified

A total of 430 different design suggestions were identified from the sources described above. In order to facilitate easier identification of  the appropriate suggestions to consider on specific projects, these suggestions were categorized as follows: (RS101-1, p.10)

  • By design discipline (11 total), such as: “Structural,” “Piping/Plumbing,” “Electrical/Instrumentation,” “Mechanical/HVAC,” “Tanks/Vessels,” “Traffic/Transportation,” and “Coatings/Insulation.” 
  • By project component in the design (20 total) such as: “Piping,” “Structural Framing,” “Stairs, Ladder, Ramp,” “Slab-on-Grade, Floor, Roof,” “Electrical/Instrumentation,” “Roads, Paving, Flatwork,” “Tank/Vessel,” “Walkway/Platform,” and “Handrail/Guardrails.” 
  • By the hazard(s) addressed (17 total), including: “Falls,” “Electrical Shock,” “Explosions,” “Cave-in,” “Fire,” “Toxic Substances,” “Environment/Climate,” “Struck By Objects,” “Vehicular Traffic,” “On-line Equipment,” “Obstructions,” “Confined Space,” and “Caught In/Between.” 
  • By project system (16 total) based on the CSI divisions, such as: “Site Work,” “Concrete,”  “Thermal and Moisture Protection,” “Doors and Windows,” “Mechanical,” “Specialties,” “Equipment,” “Special Construction,” “Conveying Systems,” and “Electrical.”
Reference: (RS101-1)

2 : Designing for Construction Safety Toolbox

Many of the design suggestions identified were already being implemented, but no general method was available by which these suggestions could be readily shared amongst owners, constructors, designers, and architect/engineers. Thus, RT-101 developed the Designing for Construction Safety Toolbox (IR101-2). The Toolbox allows users to identify the suggestions most applicable to their projects according to the categories described above. Instructions for use are included within RS101-1. (RS101-1, p. 13)
Reference: (RS101-1)

3 : Implementation Tool #1

IR101-2, Designing for Construction Safety Toolbox

This versatile, easy-to-use software tool provides a means by which designers and other can address worker safety in their designs. This tool is best used at the beginning, or during the early stages of the design phase so that the safety ideas can be easily implemented without additional effort or expense.
Reference: (IR101-2)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved safety, Improved RIR, Improved LTIR, Zero fatalities

Research Publications

Design for Construction Safety Toolbox, Version 2.0 - IR101-2

Publication Date: 01/2010 Type: Implementation Resource Pages: 0 Status: Tool

Design for Safety - RS101-1

Publication Date: 10/1996 Type: Research Summary Pages: 38 Status: Supporting Product

Addressing Construction Worker Safety in the Project Design - RR101-11

Publication Date: 06/1996 Type: Research Report Pages: 149 Status: Reference

A Multi-Media Design Aid for Project Hazard Identification & Remediation, Part I - SD-107

Publication Date: 05/1995 Type: Source Document Pages: 101 Status: Reference

Supporting Resources

Education Materials

Design for Construction Worker Safety - WS101-01

Publication Date: 09/2010 Type: Video Pages: 0 Status: Supporting Product