The Professional Services Working Group (PSWG) develops resources and events for professional service organisations aligned to the construction Industry. In 2019 the What, Why, Who, When and How of Safety by Design were introduced. A year on, in October 2020 and with Covid-19 affecting all workplaces where design is carried out, this second Safety by Design event explored legislation, Insurance and Empathy in the workplace
Susan Rowe, Buddle Findlay explained how the H&S Act (section 39) sets out designer duties, summarising these duties and the design sequence into 6 design steps. Today’s last step used to be the first thing we did for people – hand out Personal Protective Equipment and send them out on the job! The designer is now right at the start, with responsibility to show at each step that the previous design step is implemented
It is important for designers to allocate resources – a big project needs to have people dedicated to Safety by Design and key information stored in one place. If there is an incident, Worksafe will come looking for this information (Worksafe want to see a risk management approach across the whole project). Cost is a consideration for what it is reasonably practical to do, but is the last consideration when all the other practical steps have been considered
Susan explained there are design expectations, but also limitations on the how far responsibility extends. For example, incidents that occur outside the ‘place of work’ or subsequent contractor incompetence do not necessarily implicate a designer or owner.
James Smith, Crombie Lockwood presented on the Insurance angle. How can risk exposure be reduced and can this impact premiums? James stated that New Zealand is one of the most insured countries but also one of the riskiest. Reduced competition from overseas insurers has led to increased premiums. We can expect insurance costs to continue to increase, and cover for large exposure may become hard to obtain.
Capturing sufficient information during the design process may be necessary if insurance is to be obtained at all. There is an opportunity for the Insurance Industry to take into account domestic design materials such as steel framing and how these might mitigate risk (eg earthquake damage in Christchurch) and therefore reduce premiums. Similarly, base isolation of structures might affect premiums in Wellington but not yet in Christchurch where insurance is still ‘cheap’ with not enough margin for reduction.
Hayley Fisher, Warren & Mahoney on Covid by Design. Responding to the imminent lockdown brought with it concerns about how to control a large business with people working from home. This however soon moved to how to stop people working. During lockdown boundaries blurred, people began to see each other’s lives beyond work. Trust was required, project goals needed to be shared. Isolation took a toll particularly on people alone or with small children
Mental wellbeing of the design team has now appeared on the project risk register. Covid restrictions pushed home, work and social places together and with reference to the theory of the third place, Hayley asked the questions – How does what we build value us? What will people in the future find out about us from our buildings (as we have from our view of ancient Rome)? A legacy of Covid is wellness rather than social spacing, buildings need to support diversity.