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Design for Construction Safety Based on a presentation given withProf. John Gambatese atSafety in Design and Construction: A Lifecycle ApproachHarvard School of Public HealthFebruary 23-27, 2009and a presentation given at the 2009 North American Steel Construction Conference, Phoenix, AZ Mike Toole,PhD, PEBucknell University



  • Concept

  • Motivation

  • Examples

  • International and U.S. Initiatives

  • Barriers

  • Tools

  • Steel Examples

  • Trajectories

  • Moving forward in your organization

What is designing for construction safety

What is Designing for Construction Safety?

  • The process of addressing construction site safety and health in the design of a project

  • Designing for safety constructability

Prevention through design

Prevention through Design

  • “Addressing occupational safety and health needs in the design process to prevent or minimize the work-related hazards and risks associated with the construction, manufacture, use, maintenance, and disposal of facilities, materials, and equipment.”


What safety by design is not

What Safety by Design is NOT

  • Having designers take a role in construction safety DURING construction.

  • An endorsement of future legislation mandating that designers design for construction safety.

  • An endorsement of the principle that designers can or should be held partially responsible for construction accidents.

Typical annual construction accidents in u s

Typical Annual Construction Accidents in U.S.

  • Nearly 200,000 serious injuries

  • 1,000 deaths

Benefits of dfcs

Benefits of DfCS

  • Reduced site hazards

    • Fewer injuries and fatalities

  • Reduced workers compensation premiums

  • Increased productivity

  • Fewer delays due to accidents during construction allow continued focus on quality

  • Encourages designer-constructor collaboration

Hierarchy of controls

Hierarchy of Controls

  • Eliminate the hazard (Design for Safety)

  • Reduce the hazard

  • Isolate the hazard

  • Use engineering controls

  • Use administrative controls

  • Use PPE

Considering safety during design offers the most payoff 1

Considering Safety During Design Offers the Most Payoff1



Detailed Engineering

Ability to Influence Safety





Project Schedule

1 Szymberski (1987)

Accidents linked to design 1 2

Accidents Linked to Design1,2

  • 22% of 226 injuries that occurred from 2000-2002 in Oregon, WA, and CA

  • 42% of 224 fatalities in U.S. between 1990-2003

  • In Europe, a 1991 study concluded that 60% of fatal accidents resulted in part from decisions made before site work began

    1 Behm, M., “Linking Construction Fatalities to the Design for Construction Safety Concept” (2005)

    2 European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions

Ethical reasons for dfcs

Ethical Reasons for DfCS

  • National Society of Professional Engineers Code of Ethics:

    • Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.

  • American Society of Civil Engineers’ Code of Ethics

    • Engineers shall recognize that the lives, safety, health and welfare of the general public are dependent upon engineering decisions ….

Dfcs and sustainability

DfCS and Sustainability

Environmental Equity


Economic Equity

Social Equity

Sustainability s social equity pillar

Sustainability’s Social Equity Pillar

  • Do not our duties include minimizing all risks that we have control over?

  • Do not we have the same duties for construction workers as for the “public”?

  • Is it ethical to create designs that are not as safe as they could (practically) be?

Dfcs process 1

  • Establish design for safety expectations

  • Include construction and operation perspective

  • Identify design for safety process and tools

Design Kickoff

Internal Review

External Review

Issue for Construction


Trade contractor involvement

  • QA/QC

  • Cross-discipline review

  • Focused safety review

  • Owner review

DfCS Process1

1 Hecker et al. (2005)

Examples anchorage points

Examples: Anchorage Points

Examples prefabrication

Examples: Prefabrication

Bridge Trusses


Roof Trusses




Examples roofs

Examples: Roofs

Upper story windows and roof parapets


Head knocker at catwalk

Head Knocker at Catwalk

Examples: Clearances

Fall Hazard at Catwalk


Plan of Record (POR): Trench below sub-fab level

New Fab: Full basement and taller basement

Dfcs practices around the globe

DfCS Practices Around the Globe

  • Designers first required to design for construction safety in the United Kingdom in 1995

  • Other European nations have similar requirements

  • Australia also leading in DfCS


National initiatives

National Initiatives


    • NORA Construction Sector Council CHPtD Workgroup

    • Prevention Through Design initiative

    • Make Green Jobs Safe initiative

  • OSHA Construction Alliance Roundtable DfCS Workgroup

  • ASCE-CI PtDCommittee (inactive)

Osha construction alliance dfcs workgroup members

OSHA Construction Alliance DfCS Workgroup Members

  • Amer. Society of Civil Engineers-Construction Institute

  • American Society of Safety Engineers

  • Independent Electrical Contractors

  • ADSC: International Association of Foundation Drilling

  • Laborers Health and Safety Fund of North America

  • Mason Contractors Association of America

  • National Fire Protection Association

  • National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health

  • Sealant, Waterproofing and Restoration Institute

  • Washington Group International



  • Like many good ideas, DfCS faces a number of barriers that will likely slow its adoption.

  • Potential solutions to these barriers involve long-term education and institutional changes.

Design for safety viability study 1

Design for Safety Viability Study1

  • Review of OSHA Standards for Construction

    • Identify the OSHA provisions that mention the involvement of a licensed professional engineer.

    • Identify designs that can be implemented to forego the need to implement temporary, on-site safety measures required by OSHA.

  • Interviews:

    • Architects and Engineers (19)

    • Safety Manager, Construction Attorney, Insurance Risk Manager

      1 Prof. John Gambatese, Oregon State University and others, funded by CPWR Small Study No. 01-2-PS

Factors affecting implementation

Factors Affecting Implementation

  • Designer knowledge of the concept

  • Designer acceptance of the concept

  • Designer education and training

  • Designer motivation to implement the concept

  • Ease of implementation of the concept

  • Availability of implementation tools and resources

  • Competing design/project objectives

  • Design criteria/physical characteristics

Impacted by

Implementation of the Design for Safety Concept

  • Construction worker safety

  • Other construction characteristics (cost, quality, constructability, etc.)

  • Completed facility characteristics (design features, operator safety, operability, maintainability, etc.)

  • Design firm liability, profitability, etc.

Impact on

Barrier designers fear of liability

Barrier: Designers' Fear of Liability

  • Barrier: Fear of undeserved liability for worker safety.

  • Potential solutions:

    • Clearly communicate we are NOT suggesting designers should be held responsible for construction accidents.

    • Develop revised model contract language

    • Propose legislation to facilitate DfCS without inappropriately shifting liability onto designers.

Barrier increased designer costs associated with dfcs

Barrier: Increased Designer Costs Associated with DfCS

  • Barrier: DfCS processes will increase both direct and overhead costs for designers.

  • Potential solution:

    • Educate owners that total project costs and total project life cycle costs will decrease

Barrier designers lack of safety expertise

Barrier: Designers' Lack of Safety Expertise

  • Barrier: Few design professionals possess sufficient expertise in construction safety.

  • Potential solutions:

    • Add safety to design professionals’ curricula.

    • Develop and promote 10-hour and 30-hour OSHA courses for design professionals.

    • Develop and distribute DfCS tools

Design for construction safety toolbox

Design for Construction Safety Toolbox

  • Created by Construction Industry Institute (CII)

  • Interactive computer program

  • Used in the design phase to decrease the risk of incidents

  • Over 400 design suggestions

Safety in design checklists

Safety in Design Checklists



Links on www designforconstructionsafety org

Links on www.designforconstructionsafety.org

Constructability tips for steel design

Constructability Tips for Steel Design

  • Detailing Guide for the Enhancement of Erection Safety published by the National Institute for Steel Detailing and the Steel Erectors Association of America


  • The Erector Friendly Column

    • Include holes in columns at 21” and 42” for guardrail cables and at higher locations for fall protection tie-offs

    • Locate column splices and connections at reasonable heights above floor

    • Provide seats for beam connections


  • Avoid hanging connections

    • Design connections to bear on columns

Column splice

Column Splice

Column splice 2

Column Splice 2


  • Avoid awkward and dangerous connection locations


  • Avoid tripping hazards


  • Eliminate sharp corners


  • Provide enough space for making connections


  • Know approximate dimensions of necessary tools to make connections

Dfcs in practice design builders

DfCS in Practice: Design Builders

  • Jacobs

  • Parsons

  • Fluor

  • Bechtel

    Photo credit: Washington Group

Bechtel s steel design process

Bechtel’s Steel Design Process

  • Temporary access platforms

  • Lifting lugs

  • Shop installed vertical brace ladders

  • Bolt-on column ladders & work platforms

Temporary ladder platform and safety line

Temporary ladder, platform and safety line

Modular platforms

Modular Platforms

Brace lifting clips and rungs

Brace Lifting Clips and Rungs

Owners who are moving towards dfcs

Owners who are moving towards DfCS

  • Southern Company

  • Intel

  • Harvard University

  • U.S Army Corps of Engineers

The future of dfcs

The Future of DfCS

  • Trajectories: projectile analogy

  • Trajectories in technological innovation (Dosi 1992)

  • Where is DfCS heading?

    • Five proposed DfCS trajectories

    • Implications for professions and individual organizations

Five dfcs trajectories

Five DfCS Trajectories

  • Increased prefabrication

  • Increased use of less hazardous materials and systems

  • Increased application of construction engineering

  • Increased spatial investigation and consideration

  • Increased collaboration and integration

Increased prefabrication

Increased Prefabrication

  • Shift site work to safer work site environment

    • elevation to ground

    • underground to grade

    • confined space to open space

  • Shift site work to factory

    • Allows use of safer, automated equipment

    • Provides safer, engineered environment

Increased use of less hazardous materials and systems

Increased Use of Less Hazardous Materials and Systems

  • Coatings, sealants, cleaners

  • Building systems

    • Steel, concrete, masonry, wood

      Photo credit: Washington Group

Increased construction engineering

Increased Construction Engineering

  • Soil retention systems

  • Crane lifts

  • Temporary loads

  • Temporary structures

  • Fall protection anchorage points

  • Why designers increasingly involved

    • Growth of design-build

    • Their understanding of structure and site

      Photo credit: Washington Group

  • Increased spatial investigation

    Increased Spatial Investigation

    • Communicating site hazards on project documents

    • Working distances for each trade

      • Cranes and powerlines

      • Excavation dimensions for work within

      • Steel connections

      • Raceways and plumbing pipes

    • Ergonomic issues

      • Overhead

      • Awkward angles

    Increased collaboration and integration

    Increased Collaboration and Integration

    • Communication about risks, costs, time, quality….

    • Between owner, AE/DB, CM/GC, manufacturers and trade contractors

    • In every phase of project

      • concept design

      • detailed design

      • procurement

      • construction

    Factors affecting speed along trajectories

    Factors Affecting Speed Along Trajectories

    • Enablers

      • Growth of design-build

      • Growth of IT (web information, simulation, visualization systems)

    • Obstacles

      • Designers’ fear of liability

      • Designers’ lack of safety expertise

      • Owners’ facilitation of collaboration



    • Designers need knowledge of construction safety and construction processes

      • More safety in architectural and engineering curricula

      • Engineering licensure requirements

    • Designers need to become better gatherers and communicators of project safety information

      • For example: existing site utilities, availability of prefabricated components, likely methods to be used, working clearances.

    Implications for education of design engineers

    Implications for Education of Design Engineers

    • Shift in mindset

    • Holistic view

    • Exposure to DfCS fundamentals

    • Training in system-specific DfCS opportunities

    • Engineering course-specific DfCS modules

    Implications for contracting

    Implications for Contracting

    • New contract terms needed

    • Design-Bid-Build typically hinders collaboration during design

    • Design-Build, Design-Assist and IPD better facilitate collaboration

    Implications for use of information technology

    Implications for Use of Information Technology

    • IT represents efficient means for providing designers with information needed to perform DfCS

    • Manufacturers must make DfCS information available

    • All entities will need IT to facilitate communication, collaboration, integration

    Three steps towards dfcs

    Three Steps towards DfCS

    • Establish an enabling culture

    • Establish enabling processes

    • Secure clients who value lifecycle safety




    Establish a lifecycle safety culture

    Establish a Lifecycle Safety Culture

    • Instill the right safety values

    • Secure management commitment

    • Ensure recognition that designing for construction safety is the smart thing to do and the right thing to do

      • Professional Codes of Ethics

      • Payoff data

    Establish enabling processes

    Establish Enabling Processes

    • Provide designers with safety training

    • Ensure designer-constructor interaction

    • Provide designers with DfCS tools

    Secure clients who value lifecycle safety

    Secure Clients who Value Lifecycle Safety

    • Design-Builders less dependent on clients’ safety values

    • International clients favorable

    • Industrial clients favorable

    • Negotiated projects in other sectors offer opportunity to educate clients



    • DfCS can improve construction site safety

    • Ethical and practical reasons to perform DfCS

    • U.S. and international initiatives

    • Significant barriers being slowly resolved

    • Tools have been created to facilitate the DfCS process

    • Great DfCS resource for steel construction

    • First steps to implementing DfCS

    Questions for you

    Questions for You

    • Do engineers and detailers have a ethical responsibility to consider erector safety if they are able? 

    • Are the potential benefits of performing safety by design outweighed by the liability risks? 

    • Should AISC have a policy regarding safety by design (either for or against)? 

    • Do most engineers and detailers possess the knowledge needed to perform safety by design?

    • Should project owners demand safety by design on their projects?

    Thanks for the invitation

    Thanks for the Invitation

    • Questions? Comments?

    • For more information:

      • mike.toole@bucknell.edu

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