Safe design of buildings and structures

There is a strong link between the design and layout of a workplace and the risk of injury to employees and others at the workplace.


The cost of unsafe design

Every year, around 30,000 workplace injuries are reported in Victoria to WorkSafe, as well as many more injuries which are not reported. People are often off work for significant periods, which not only causes suffering and inconvenience, but also costs the Victorian economy more than $1 billion.

The safe design of buildings and structures can eliminate risks at the design stage to prevent these injuries and illness later, when construction is completed.

Integrating safety into building and structure design

Section 28 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 requires designers of buildings or structures (or parts of buildings or structures) to be used at a workplace to ensure that they are designed to be safe and without risks to the health of people using it, when using it for the purposes for which it was designed. 

An integrated approach to considering safety should occur at each design milestone. It's easier to change a line on a drawing than to alter a finished building.

Consulting during design

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. Early consultation can lead to healthier, safer and more productive workplaces.

  • creating user groups – these should be made up of a mix of managers, employees, HSRs, designers and external users
  • training the user group in design awareness, including skills and knowledge in relation to the design process
  • establishing a transparent consultation process – clearly document and conduct it in a language and style suitable for all participants
  • visualising the design – use tape or chalk on the floor to do a simple mock-up of an area, computer mock ups, layout plans, etc

Helping designers create safer workplaces

As a developer you can help your designers by:

  • ensuring they know the intended purpose of the building or structure
  • providing any health or safety related information you have about the proposed uses and workplaces in the building or structure
  • encouraging them to show you how occupational risks are addressed in the design options

As the employer at the workplace being designed, you can help designers by:

  • identifying industry issues that may affect the building or structure during its lifecycle, including cleaning and maintenance
  • providing an analysis of hazard and incident information relevant to the workplace
  • identifying target occupational health and safety risks that you wish addressed in the design
  • ensuring the designer has access to a user group for the building or structure
  • meeting systematically during the development of design options to provide information and to understand the designers' approach to the workplace risks

More information