Case study: St John of God Hospital Berwick

The planning of this new hospital shows safe design in action, where early consultation with stakeholders can create a healthier and safer workplace.


Early in the design process

Identifying the hazard and eliminating or controlling the risk early in the design process is the most effective way to reduce the risk of harm. It's also often easier and cheaper than making changes later on when the hazards become risks in the workplace.

The design process can achieve better outcomes when designers and those who commission them consult with all stakeholders to identify hazards and work together to find solutions.

St John of God Berwick's design approach

When St John of God Berwick commenced planning for the design of their new hospital, user groups and stakeholders, including Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs), staff and subject matter experts, were all consulted throughout the design, build and commission phases. HSR Sandi Hatfield said, ‘Most of the staff had an opportunity to be involved, and I think everyone’s feedback was really thought about and considered, and having an opportunity to make a difference to our actual work environment was really special.'

Lisa Norman, Chief Executive Officer of St John of God Berwick said, 'We're required to build a hospital within the Australian Health Facility Guidelines, that's a given, and that's what the Health Department demand of us, but from our point of view we wanted to build something that really was quite different, and in terms of safety we had to listen to the staff. How do they want to work in the environment? Is the environment going to function well and meet their needs?'

To assess the suitability of the environment, the hospital built a series of prototype work areas, fitted out with beds and equipment, to ensure spaces worked the way they were intended to. This included an initial mock up of a patient room, built in-house for around $6000.

Over 8 weeks of workflow and scenario testing, most of the staff who would be using the areas had an opportunity to be involved and provide feedback. This process helped to detect any design and safety issues, and enabled identification and implementation of many improvements well before the build.

St John of God Berwick is an impressive example of safe design, which was recognised by WorkSafe Victoria when they won the OHS Achievement award at WorkSafe Victoria's Awards Ceremony in 2018.

Safety features incorporated into the design

Through consultation a number of refinements were made to improve the design. For example:

  • room layouts were adjusted to allow clinicians a clear path from door to bedside, with patient and visitor seating, locker and storage on the opposite side of the room
  • in built cupboards were installed at a height to enable use as write-up desks
  • security to the back of house and the midwifery unit was improved to ensure the public and patients cannot get access to restricted areas

Other features incorporated into the design to address key hazards include:

  • overhead tracking in the rooms, enabling patients to be moved from the bed to bathroom to ensuite with minimal manual handling
  • couches which double as beds to maximise space functionality in the rooms and reduce manual handling
  • height-adjustable workstations and equipment washing stations to ensure safe working postures
  • electronic bed movers to reduce pushing of beds and trolleys to remove manual handling
  • a U-shaped driveway to the loading dock to allow trucks easy entry and exit without turning around, improving traffic flow

Development of prototype workspaces

Early stage prototype of patient room. The view of room is from its entrance.
Image 1: Early stage prototype of patient room viewed from its entrance
Image shows early stage prototype of patient room. The view of room from foot of bed towards the entrance.
Image 2: Early stage prototype of patient room viewed from the foot of bed towards the entrance
Image shows prototype of reception counter and workstation.
Image 3: Prototype of reception counter and workstation
Image shows a late stage prototype of patient room.
Image 4: Late stage prototype of patient room