Research Shows Digital Tool Could Help to Build Safer Buildings

Research funded by IOSH and Glasglow Caledonian University has found the use of a hazard-identifying tool could educate architects on typical design-related hazards.

There’s an app for that. Research now shows that a multimedia design tool could help to decrease the number of design-related hazards in new construction projects as well as educate architects on how to design safety into projects more effectively.

According to research funded by IOSH and Glasglow Caledonian University, many professional design institutions have been withdrawing requirements for architects and civil engineers to spend prolonged periods of time on construction sites resulting in less knowledge of how their designs impact occupational safety and health.

This often leads to contractors taking on the responsibility for building designs. However, research shows that up to half of construction accidents in the UK have a connection to the design of the building, highlighting the importance of improving designers’ knowledge of hazards and designing safety into developments from the outset of projects.

As part of the study, 40 designers from two popular industry groups of architects and civil engineers were recruited. They were randomly assigned the multimedia tool as an experimental group, or a non-user (control) group, which were allowed to use the internet for help. Participants were asked to look at a set of CAD drawings and identify hazards and make decisions about designing for OSH.

Using the tool, the designers identified hazards a total of 599 times, three times more than the non-users group did. For civil engineers it was five times more.

"Everyone would agree that it’s always best to prevent an accident from taking place in the first place, rather than reduce the injury,” Mary Ogungbeje, Research Manager at IOSH, said. “In today’s age of technology, being able to utilize digital training resources to help designers do just that is great. Such tools can make a real difference in upskilling professionals, irrespective of their level of experience. Architects and civil engineers can identify hazards and come up with better controls when developing and reviewing designs. Ultimately, this will reduce injuries and save lives.

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