10 Principles of Good Work Design – the How the What and the Why.
#HumanFactors #SafeDesign #SafeWork
10 Principles of Good Work Design – the How the What and the Why.
#HumanFactors #SafeDesign #SafeWork
Want some good guidance on Safe Design? In this 52-minute video from the Safety Artisan, you will find it. We take the official guidance from Safe Work Australia and provide a value-added commentary on it. The guidance integrates seamlessly with Australian law and regulations, but it is genuinely useful in any jurisdiction.
A free video on ‘Good Work Design‘ is available here.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Safety Artisan, where you will receive safety training via instructional videos on system safety, software safety and design safety. Today I’m talking about design safety. I’m Simon and I’m recording this on the 12th of January 2020, so our first recording of the new decade and let’s hope that we can give you some 20/20 vision. What we’re going to be talking about is safe design, and this safe design guidance comes from Safe Work Australia. I’m showing you some text taken from the website and adding my own commentary and experience.
The topics that we’re going to cover today are: a safe design approach, five principles of safe design, ergonomics (more broadly, its human factors), who has responsibility, doing safe design through the product lifecycle, the benefits of it, our legal obligations in Australia (but this is good advice wherever you are) and the Australian approach to improving safe design in order to reduce casualties in the workplace.
The idea of safe design is it’s about integrating safety management, asset identification and risk assessment early in the design process to eliminate or reduce risks throughout the life of a product, whatever the product is, it might be a building, a structure, equipment, a vehicle or infrastructure. This is important because in Australia, in a five-year period, we suffered almost 640 work-related fatalities, of which almost 190 were caused by unsafe design or design related factors contributed to that fatality., there’s an important reason to do this stuff, it’s not an academic exercise, we’re doing it for real reasons. And we’ll come back to the reason why we’re doing it at the end of the presentation.
First, we need to begin safe design right at the start of the lifecycle (we will see more of that later) because it’s at the beginning of the lifecycle where you’re making your bad decisions about requirements. What do you want this system to do? How do we design it to do that? What materials and components and subsystems are we going to make or buy in order to put this thing together, whatever it is? And thinking about how we are going to construct it, maintain it, operate it and then get rid of it at the end of life., there are lots of big decisions being made early in the life cycle. And sometimes these decisions are made accidentally because we don’t consciously think about what we’re doing. We just do stuff and then we realise afterwards that we’ve made a decision with sometimes quite serious implications. And, a big part of my day job as a consultant is trying to help people think about those issues and make good decisions early on when it’s still cheap, quick and easy to do. Because, of course, the more you’ve invested into a project, the more difficult it is to make changes both from a financial point of view and if people have invested their time, sweat and tears into a project, they get very attached to it and they don’t want to change it. there’s an emotional investment made in the project. the earlier you get in, at the feasibility stage let’s say, and think about all of this stuff the easier it is to do it. A big part of that is where is this kit going to end up? What legislation codes of practice and standards do we need to consider and comply with? So that’s the approach.
So, designers need to consider how safety can be achieved through the lifecycle. For example, can we design a machine with protective guarding so that the operator doesn’t get hurt using it, but also so the machine can be installed and maintained? That’s an important point as often to get at stuff we must take it apart and maybe we must remove some of those safety features. How do we then protect and maintain when the machine is maybe opened up, and the workings are things that you can get caught in or electrocuted by. And how do we get rid of it? Maybe we’ve used some funky chemicals that are quite difficult to get rid of. And Australia, I suspect like many other places, we’ve got a mountain of old buildings that are full of asbestos, which is costing a gigantic sum of money to get rid of safely. we need to design a building which is fit for occupancy. Maybe we need to think about occupants that are not able bodied or they’re moving stuff around in the building they don’t want to and need a trolley to carry stuff around. we need access, we need sufficient space to do whatever it is we need to do.
This all sounds simple, obvious, doesn’t it? So, let’s look at these five principles. First of all, a lot of this you’re going to recognise from the legal stuff, because the principles of safe design are very much tied in and integrated with the Australian legal approach, WHS, which is all good, all consistent and all fits together.
Principle 1: Persons with control. If you’re making a decision that affects design and products, facilities or processes, it is your responsibility to think about safety, it’s part of your due diligence (If you recall that phrase and that session).
Principle 2: We need to apply safe design at every stage in the lifecycle, from the very beginning right through to the end. That means thinking about risks and eliminating or managing them as early as we can but thinking forward to the whole lifecycle; sounds easy, but it’s often done very badly.
Principle 3: Systematic risk management. We need to apply these things that we know about and listen to other broadcasts from The Safety Artisan. We go on and on and on about this because this is our bread and butter as safety engineers, as safety professionals – identify hazards, assess the risk and think about how we will control the risks in order to achieve a safe design.
Principal 4: Safe design, knowledge and capability. If you’re controlling the design, if you’re doing technical work or you’re managing it and making decisions, you must know enough about safe design and have the capability to put these principles into practice to the extent that you need to discharge your duties. When I’m thinking of duties, I’m especially thinking of the health and safety duties of officers, managers and people who make decisions. You need to exercise due diligence (see the Work Health and Safety lessons for more about due diligence).
Principle 5: Information transfer. Part of our duties is not just to do stuff well, but to pass on the information that the users, maintainers, disposers, etc will need in order to make effective use of the design safely. That is through all the lifecycle phases of the product.
So those are the five principles of safe design, and I think they’re all obvious really, aren’t they? So, let’s move on.
As the saying goes, is a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is the overview of the Safe Design Model, as they call it. We’ve got activities in a sequence running from top to bottom down the centre. Then on the left we’ve got monitor and review, that is somebody in a management, controlling function keeping an eye on things. On the right-hand side, we need to communicate and document what we’re doing. And of course, it’s not just documentation for documentation sake, we need to do this in order to fulfil our obligations to provide all the necessary information to users, etc. that’s the basic layout.
If we zoom in on the early stage, Pre-Design, we need to think about what problem are we trying to solve? What are we trying to do? What is the context for our enterprise? And that might be easy if you’re dealing with a physical thing. If you build a car, you make cars to be driven on the road. there’ll be a driver and maybe passengers in the car, there’ll be other road users around you, pedestrians, etc. with the physical system, it’s relatively easy with a bit of imagination and a bit of effort to think about who’s involved. But of course, not just use, but maintenance as well. Maybe it’s got to go into a garage for a service etc, how do we make things accessible for maintainers?
And then we move on to Concept Development. We might need to do some research, gather some information, think about previous systems or related systems and learn from them. We might have to consult with some people who are going to be affected, some stakeholders, who are going to be affected by this enterprise. We put all of that together and use it to help us identify hazards. Again, if we’re talking about a physical system, say if you make a new model of car, it’s probably not that different from the previous model of a car that you designed. But of course, every so often you do encounter something that is novel, that hasn’t been done before, or maybe you’re designing something that is virtual like software and software is intangible and with intangible things it’s harder to do this. It requires a bit more effort and more imagination. It can be done, don’t be frightened of it but it does require a bit more forethought and a bit more effort and imagination than is perhaps the case with something simple and familiar like a car.
Moving on in the life cycle we have Design Options. We might think about several different solutions. We might generate some solutions; we might analyse and evaluate the risks of those options before selecting which option we’re going to go with. This doesn’t happen in reality very often, because often we’re designing something that’s familiar or people go, well actually I’m buying a bunch of kit off the shelf, (i.e. a bunch of components) and I’m just putting them together, there is no optioneering to do. That’s actually incorrect, because very often people do optioneering by default, in that they buy the component that is cheap and readily available, but they don’t necessarily say, is the supplier going to provide the safety data that I need that goes along with this component? And maybe the more reputable supplier that does do that is going to charge you more. you need to think about where are you going to end up with all of this and evaluate your options accordingly. And of course, if you are making a system that is purely made from off-the-shelf components, there’s not a lot of design to do, there is just integration.
Well that pushes all your design decisions and all your options much earlier on in the lifecycle, much higher up on the diagram as we see here. we are still making design options and design decisions, but maybe it’s just not as obvious. I’ve seen a lot of projects come unstuck because they just bought something that they like the look of, it appealed to the operators (If you live in an operator driven organisation, you’ll know what I mean).me people buy stuff, because they are magpies and it looks shiny, fun and funky. Then they buy it and people like me come along and start asking awkward questions about how are you going to demonstrate that this thing is safe to use and that you can put it in service? And then, of course, it doesn’t always end well if you don’t think about these things up front.
So, moving on to Design Synthesis. We’ll select a solution, put stuff together, work on controlling the risks in the system that we are building. I know it says eliminating and control risks, if you can eliminate risks that’s great, very often though you can’t. we have to deal with the risks that we cannot get rid of and there are usually some risks in whatever you’re dealing with.
Then we get to Design Completion, where we implement the design, where we put it together and see if it does come together in the real world as we envisaged it. That doesn’t always happen. Then we have got to test it and see whether it does what it’s supposed to do. We’re normally pretty good at testing it for that, because if you set out requirements for what it’s supposed to do, then you’ve got something to test against. And of course, if you’re trying to sell a product or service or you’re trying to get regulators or customers to buy into this thing, it’s got to do what you said it’s going to do. there’s a big incentive to test the thing to make sure it does what it should do. We’re not always so good at testing it to make sure that it doesn’t do what it shouldn’t do. That can be a bigger problem space depending on what you’re doing. And that is often the trick and that’s where safety get involved. The Requirements Engineers, Systems Engineers are great at saying, yeah, here’s the requirements test against the requirements. And then it’s the safety people that come along and say, oh, by the way, you need to make sure that it doesn’t blow up, catch fire, get so hot that you can burn people. You need to eliminate the sharp edges. You need to make sure that people don’t get electrocuted when operating or maintaining this thing or disposing of it. You must make sure they don’t get poisoned by any chemicals that have been built into the thing. Even thinking about if I had an accident in the vehicle, or whatever it is that has been damaged or destroyed, and I’ve now got a debris spread across the place, how do we clear that up? For some systems that can be a very challenging problem.
So, we’re going to move on now to a different subject, and a very important subject in safe design. I think this is one of the great things about safe design and good work design in Australia – that it incorporates ergonomics. we need to think about the human interaction with the system, as well as the technical design itself, and I think that’s very important. It’s something that is very easy, especially for technical people, to miss. As engineers some of us love diving into the detail, that’s where we feel comfortable, that’s what we want to do, and then maybe we miss sometimes the big picture – somebody is actually going to use this thing and make it work. we need to think about all of our workers to make sure that they stay healthy and safe at work. We need to think about how they are going to physically interact with the system, etc. It may not be just the physical system that we’re designing, but of course, the work processes that go around it, which is important.
It is worth pointing out that in the UK I’m used to a narrow definition of ergonomics. I’m used to a definition of ergonomics that’s purely about the physical way that humans interact with the system. Can they do so safely and comfortably? Can they do repetitive tasks without getting injured? That includes anthropomorphic aspects, where we think about the variation in size of human beings, different sex’s, different races. Also, how do people fit in the machine or the vehicle or interact with it. But, the way that in Australia we talk about ergonomics is it’s a much bigger picture than that. I would say don’t just think about ergonomics, think about human factors. It’s the science of people working. let’s understand human capabilities and apply that knowledge in the design of equipment and tools and systems and ways of working that we expect the human to use. Humans are pretty clever beasts in many ways and we’re still very good at things that a lot of machines are just not very good at. we need to design stuff which compliments the human being and helps the human being to succeed, rather than just optimising technical design in isolation. And this quotation is from the ARPANSA definition because it was the best one that I could find in Australia. I will no doubt talk about human factors another time in some depth.
Under the law, (this is tailored for Australian law, but a lot of this is still good principles that are applicable anyway) different groups and individuals have responsibilities for safe design. Those who manage the design and the technical stuff directly and those who make resourcing decisions. For example, we can think about building architects, industrial designers, drafts people who create the design. Individuals who make design decisions at any lifecycle phase, that could be a wide range of people and of course not just technical people, but stakeholders who make decisions about how people are employed, how people are to interact with these systems, how they are to maintain it and dispose of it, etc. And of course, work health and safety professionals themselves. there’s a wide range of stakeholders involved here potentially. Also, anybody who alters the design, and it may be that we’re talking about a physical alteration to design or maybe we’re just using a piece of kit in a different context. we’re using a machine or a process or piece of software that was designed to do X, and we’re actually using it to do Y, which is more common than you might think. if we are not putting an existing design in a different context, which was never envisaged by the original designers, we need to think about the implications of both the environment on the design and the design on the environment and the human beings mixed up working in both. There’s a lot of accidents caused by modifying bits of kit, some might call it a signature accident in the U.K.: the Flixborough Chemical Plant explosion. That was one of the things that led to the creation of Molten Health and Safety in the UK and that was caused by people modifying a design and not fully realising the implications of what they were doing. Of course, the result was a gigantic explosion and lots of dead bodies. Hopefully it won’t always be so dramatic the things that we’re looking at, but nevertheless, people do ask designs to do some weird stuff.
If we want safe design, we can get it more effectively and more efficiently when people get together who control and influence outcomes and who make these decisions so that they collaborate on building safety into the design rather than trying to add on afterwards, which in my experience never goes well. We want to get people together, think about these things up front where it’s maybe a desktop exercise or it’s a meeting somewhere. It requires some people to attend the meeting and prepare for it and so on, and we need records, but that’s cheap compared to later design stages. When we’re talking about industrial plants or something that’s going to be mass produced, making decisions later is always going to be more costly and less effective and therefore it’s going to be less popular and harder to justify. get in and do it early while you still can. There’s some good guidance on all this stuff on who is responsible.
There’s the Principles of Good Work Design Handbook, which is created by Safe Work Australia and it’s also on the Safety Artisan Website (I gained permission to reproduce that) and there’s a model Code of Practice for safe design of structures. There was going to be a model Code of Practice for the safe design of plants, but that never became a Code of Practice, that’s just guidance. Nevertheless, there is a lot of good stuff in there. And there’s the Work, Health and Safety Regulations. And incidentally, there’s also a lot of good guidance on Major Hazard Facilities available. Major Hazard Facilities are anywhere where you store large amounts of potentially dangerous chemicals. However, the safety principles that are in the guidance for the MHF is very good and is generally applicable not just for chemical safety, but for any large undertaking where you could hurt a lot of people on that. MHF guidance I believe was originally inspired by the COMAH regulations in the UK, again which came from a major industrial disaster, Piper Alpha platform in the North Sea which caught fire and killed 167 people. It was a big fire. if you’ve got an enterprise where you could see a mass casualty situation, you’ll get a lot more guidance from the MHF stuff that’s really aimed at preventing industrial sized accidents. there’s lots of good stuff available to help us.
So, examples of things that we should consider. We need to, (and I don’t think this will be any great surprise to you) think about all phases of the life cycle, I think we banged on about that enough. Whether it be plant (waste plant in this case), whatever it might be, from design and manufacture or right through to disposal. Can we put the plant together? Can we erect it or what structure and we install it? Can we facilitate safe use again? Again, thinking about the physical characteristics of your users, but not just physical, think about the cognitive thinking of your users. If we’re making control system, can the users use it to practically to exploit the plant for the purpose it was meant for whilst staying safe? What can the operator actually do, what can we expect them to perform successfully and reliably time after time because we want this stuff to keep on working for a long, long time, in order to make money or to do whatever it is we want to do. And we also need to think about the environment in which the plant will be used – very important.
Some more examples. Think about intended use and reasonably foreseeable misuse. If you know that a piece of kit tends to get misused for certain things, then either design against it or give the operator a better way of doing it. A really strange example, apparently the designers of a particular assault rifle knew that the soldiers tended to use a bit of the rifle as a can opener or to do stuff like that or to open beer bottles, so they incorporated a bottle opener in the design so that the soldiers would use that rather than damage the assault rifle opening bottles of beer. A crazy example there but I think it’s memorable. we have to consider by law intended use, if you go to the W.H.S lesson, you’ll see that’s written right through the duties of everybody, reasonably foreseeable misuse I don’t think is a hard requirement in every case, but it’s still a sensible thing to do.
Think about the difficulties that workers might face doing repairs or maintenance? Again, sorry, I banged on about that, I came from a maintenance world originally, so I’m very used to those kinds of challenges. And consider what could go wrong. Again, we’re getting back into classic design safety here. Think about the failure modes of your plant. Well, ideally, we always wanted a fail-safe, but if we can’t do that, well, how can we warn people? How can we make sure we minimise the risk if something goes wrong and if a foreseeable hazard occurs? And by foreseeable, I’m not just saying, well we shut ourselves in a darkened room and we couldn’t think of anything, we need to look at real world examples of similar pieces of kit. Look at real world history, because there’s often an awful lot of learning out there that we can exploit, if only we bother to Google it or look it up in some way. As I think it was Bismarck, the great German leader said only a fool learns from his own mistakes, a wise man learns from other people’s mistakes. that’s what we try and do in safety.
Moving onto life cycle, this is a key concept. Again, we gone on and on and on about this. We need to control risks, not just for use, but during construction and manufacture in transit, when it’s being commissioned and tested and used and operated, when it’s being repaired, maintained, cleaned or modified. And then at the end of, I say the end of life, it may not be end of life when it’s being decommissioned. maybe a decommissioning kit, moving it to a new site or maybe a new owner has bought it. we need to be able to safely take it upon move and put it back together again. And of course, by that stage, we may have lost the original packaging. we may have to think quite carefully about how we do this, or maybe we can’t fully disassemble it as we did during the original installation. maybe we’ve got to move an awkward bit of kit around. And then at the end of life, how are we going to dismantle it or demolish it? Are we going to dispose of it, or ideally recycle it? Hopefully if we haven’t built in anything too nasty or too difficult to recycle, we can do that. that would be a good thing.
It’s worth reminding ourselves, we do get a safer product that is better for downstream users if we eliminate and minimise those hazards as early as we can. as I said before, in these early phases, there’s more scope in order to design out stuff without compromising the design, without putting limitations on what it can do. Whereas often when you’re adding safety in, so often that is achieved only at a cost in terms of it limits what the users can do or maybe you can’t run the plant at full capacity or whatever it might be, which is clearly undesirable. designers must have a good understanding of the lifecycle of their kit and so do those people who will interact with it and the environment in which it’s used. Again, if you’ve listened to me talking about our system safety concepts we hammer this point about it’s not just the plant it’s what you use it for, the people who will use it and the environment in which it is used. especially for complex things, we need to take all those things into account. And it’s not a trivial exercise to do this.
Then thirdly, as we go through the product life cycle, we may discover new risks, and this does happen. People make assumptions during the concept and design phase and fair enough you must make assumptions sometimes in order to get anything done. But those assumptions don’t always turn out to be completely correct or something gets missed, we missed some aspect often. It’s the thing you didn’t anticipate that often gets you. as we go through the lifecycle, we can further improve safety if people who have control over decisions and actions that are taken incorporate health and safety considerations at every stage and actually proactively look at whether we can make things better or whether something has occurred that we didn’t anticipate and therefore that needs to be looked into. Another good principle that doesn’t always happen, we shouldn’t proceed to the next stage in the life cycle until we have completed our design reviews, we have thought about health and safety along with everything else, and those who are control have had a chance to consider everything together. And if they’re happy with it, to approve it and it moves on. it’s a very good illustration. Again, it will come as no surprise to many listeners there are a lot of projects out there that either don’t put in design reviews at all or you see design reviews being rushed. Lip service is paid to them very often because people forget the design reviews are there to review the design and to make sure it’s fit for purpose and safe and all the other good things, and we just get obsessed with getting through those design reviews, whether we’re the purchaser, whether we’re just keen to get on with the job and the schedule must be maintained at all costs. Or if you’re the supplier, you want to get through those reviews because there’s a payment milestone attached to them. there’s a lot of temptation to rush these things. Often, rushing these things just results in more trouble further downstream. I know it takes a lot of guts, particularly early in a project to say, no, we’re not ready for this design review, we need to do some more work so that we can get through this properly. That’s a big call to make, often because not a lot of people are going to like you for making that call, but it does need to.
So, let’s talk about the benefits. These are not my estimates, these are Safe Work Australia’s words, so they feel that from what they’ve seen in Australia and now surveying safety performance elsewhere, I suspect as well, that building safety into a plant can save you up to 10 percent of its cost. Whether it be through, an example here is reductions in holdings of hazardous materials, reduce need for personal protective equipment, reduce need filled testing and maintenance, and that’s a that’s a good point. Very often we see large systems, large enterprises brought in to being without sufficient consideration of these things, and people think only about the capital costs of getting the kit into service. Now, if you’re spending millions or even possibly billions on a large infrastructure project, of course you will focus on the upfront costs for that infrastructure. And of course, you are focused on getting that stuff into service as soon as possible so you can start earning money to pay for the capital costs of it. But it’s also worth thinking about safety upfront. A lot of other design disciplines as well, of course, and making sure that you’re not building yourself a life cycle, a lifetime full of pain, doing maintenance and testing that, to be honest, you really don’t want to be doing, but because you didn’t design something out, you end up with no choice. And so, we can hopefully eliminate or minimise those direct costs with unsafe design, which can be considerable rework, compensation, insurance, environmental clean-up. You can be sued by the government for criminal transgressions and you can be sued by those who’ve been the relatives of the dead, the injured, the inconvenienced, those who’ve been moved off their land. And these things will impact on parties downstream, not the designers. And in fact, often but not always, just the those who bought product and used it. there’s a lot of incentive out there to minimise your liability and to get it right up front and to be able to demonstrate they got it right up front. Particularly if you’re a designer or a manufacturer and you’re worried that some of your users are maybe not as professionals and conscientious using your stuff as you would like because it’s still got your name and your company logo plastered all over it.
I don’t think there’s anything new in here. there’s many benefits or we see the direct benefits. We’ve prevented injury and disease and that’s good. Not just your own, but other peoples. We can improve usability, very often if you improve safety through improving human factors and ergonomics, you’re going to get a more usable product that people like using, it is going to be more popular. Maybe you’ll sell more. You’ll improve productivity. those who are paying for the output are happy. You’ll reduce costs, not only reduce costs, (through life I’m talking about you might have to spend a little bit more money upfront), we can actually better predict and manage operations because we’re not having so many outages due to incidents or accidents. Also, we can demonstrate compliance with legislation which will help you plug the kit in the first place, but also it is necessary if you’re going to get past a regulator or indeed if you don’t want to get sent to jail for contravening the WHS Act. And benefits, well, innovation. I have to say innovation is a double-edged sword because some places love innovation, you’ll be very popular if you innovate. Other industries hate innovation and you will not be popular if you innovate. That last bullet, I’m not so sure it’s about innovation. Safety design, I don’t necessarily think it demands new thinking, it just demands thinking. Because most things that I’ve seen that are preventable, that have gone wrong and could have been stopped, it only required a little bit of thought and a little bit of imagination and a little bit of learning from the past, not just innovating the future.
So that brings us neatly on to think about our legal obligations. In Australia, and in other countries, there will be similar obligations, work, health and safety law impose duties on lots of people from designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers, anybody who puts the stuff together, puts it up, modifies it, disposes of it. These obligations, as it says, will vary dependent on state or territory or whether Commonwealth W.H.S applies. But if it’s WHS, it’s all based on the model WHS from SafeWork Australia, so it will be very similar. In the W.H.S lesson, I talk about what these duties are and what you must do to meet them. You will be pleased to know that the guidance in safe design is in lock step with those requirements. this is all good stuff, not because I’m saying it but because I’m actually showing you what’s come out of the statutory authority.
Yes, these obligations may vary, we talk about that quite a lot and in other sessions. Those who make decisions, and not just technical people, but those who control the finances, have duties under WHS law. Again, go and see the WHS lesson than the talks about the duties, particularly the duties of senior management officers and due diligence. And there are specific safety due diligence requirements in WHS, which are very well written, very easy to read and understand. there’s no excuse for not looking at this stuff, it is very easy to see what you’re supposed to do and how to stay on the right side of the law. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re an employer, self-employed, if you control a workplace or not, there are duties on designers upstream who will never go near the workplace that the kit is actually used in. if a client has some building or structure designed and built for leasing, they become the owner of the building and they may well retain health and safety duties for the lifetime of that building if it’s used as a workplace or to accommodate workers as well.
I just want to briefly recap on what we’ve what we’ve heard. Safe design, I would say the big lesson that I’ve learned in my career is that safe design is not just a technical activity for the designers. I’ve worked in many organisations where the pedigree, the history of the organisation was that you had. technical risks were managed over here, and human or operational risks well managed over here, and there was a great a gulf between them, they never they never interacted very much. There was a sort of handover point where they would chuck the kit over the wall to the users and say, there, get on with it, and if you have an accident, it’s your fault because you’re stupid and you didn’t understand my piece of kit. And similarly got the operator saying all those technical people, they’ve got no idea how we use the kit or what we’re trying to do here, the big picture, they give us kit that is not suitable or that we have to misuse in order to get it to do the job.
So, if you have these two teams, players separately not interacting and not cooperating, it’s a mess. And certainly, in Australia, there is very explicit requirements in the law and regulations and the whole code of practice on consultation, communication and cooperation. these two units have got to come together, these two sides of the operation have got to come together in order to make the whole thing work. And WHS law does not differentiate between different types of risk. There is just risk to people, so you cannot hide behind the fact that, well I do technical risk I don’t think about how people will use it, you’ve just broken the law. you’ve got to think about the big picture, and you know, we can’t keep going on and on in our silence. A little bit of heart to heart, but that really, I think, is the value add from all of this. The great thing about this design guidance is that it encourages you to think through life, it encourages you to think about who is going to use it and it encourages you to think about the environment. And you can quite cheaply and quite quickly, you could make some dramatic improvements in safety by thinking about these things.
I’ve met a lot of technical people, if a risk control measure isn’t technical, if it isn’t highly complicated and involves clever engineering, then some people have got a tendency to look down their nose at it. What we need to be doing is looking at how we reduce risk and what the benefits are in terms of risk reduction, and it might be a really very simple thing that seems almost trivial to a technical expert that actually delivers the safety, and that’s what we’ve got to think about not about having a clever technical solution necessarily. If we must have a clever technical solution to make it safe, well, so be it. But, we’d quite like to avoid that most of the time if we can.
Just to bring this to a close. Australia in the 10 years to 2022 has got certain targets. we’ve got seven national action areas, and safe by design or safe design is one of them. As I’ve said several times, Australian legislation requires us to consult, cooperate and coordinate, so far as is reasonably practicable. And we need to work together rather than chuck problems over the wall to somebody else. You might think you delegated responsibility to somebody else, but actually if you’re an officer of the person or conducting the business or undertaking, then you cannot ditch all of your responsibilities, so you need to think very carefully about what’s being done in your name because legally it can come back to you. you can’t just assume that somebody else is doing it and will do a reasonable job, it’s your duty to ensure that it is done, that you’ve provided the resources and that it is actually happening.
And so, what we want to do, in this 10-year period, is we want to achieve a real reduction, 30% reduction in serious injuries nationwide in that 10-year period and reduce work related fatalities by at least a fifth. these are specific and valuable targets, they’re real-world targets. This is not an academic exercise, it’s about reducing the body count and the number of people who end up in a hospital, blinded or missing limbs or whatever. it’s important stuff. And as it says, SafeWork Australia and all the different regulators have been working together with industry unions and special interest groups in order to make this all happen. that’s all excellent stuff.
And it just remains for me to say that most of the text that I’ve shown you is from the Safe Work Australia website, and that’s been reproduced under license, under Creative Commons license. You can see the full details on the safetyartisan.com website. And just to point out that the words, this presentation itself are copyright of The Safety Artisan and I just realised I drafted this in 2019, it’s copyright 2020, but never mind, I started writing this in 2019.
Now, if you want more videos please subscribe to the Safety Artisan channel on YouTube. And that is the end of the presentation, so thank you very much for listening and watching and from the safety artisan, I just say, I wish you a successful and safe 2020, goodbye.
The content of this post is taken from the ‘Principles of Good Work Design’ handbook from Safe Work Australia. The handbook is © Commonwealth of Australia, 2019; this document is covered by a Creative Commons licence (CCBY 4.0) – for full details see here.
Some changes have been made to the guidance in order to improve Search Engine Optimisation and correct minor problems with Figure numbering in the original document. All changes are indicated [thus].
The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 is underpinned by the principle that well-designed healthy and safe work will allow workers to have more productive lives. This can be more efficiently achieved if hazards and risks are eliminated through good design.
This handbook contains ten principles which demonstrate how to achieve good design of work and work processes. Each is general in nature so they can be successfully applied to any workplace, business or industry.
The ten principles for good work design are structured into three sections:
These principles are shown in the diagram at Figure 1.
This handbook complements a range of existing resources available to businesses and work health and safety professionals including guidance for the safe design of plant and structures see the Safe Work Australia Website.
This handbook provides information on how to apply the good work design principles to work and work processes to protect workers and others who may be affected by the work.
It describes how design can be used to set up the workplace, working environment and work tasks to protect the health and safety of workers, taking into account their range of abilities and vulnerabilities, so far as reasonably practicable.
The handbook does not aim to provide advice on managing situations where individual workers may have special requirements such as those with a disability or on a return to work program following an injury or illness. Contact your regulator for further information.
This handbook should be used by those with a role in designing work and work processes, including:
Good work design optimises work health and safety, human performance, job satisfaction, and business success.
Information: Experts who provide advice on the design of work may include: engineers, architects, ergonomists, information and computer technology professionals, occupational hygienists, organisational psychologists, human resource professionals, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.
‘Good work’ is healthy and safe work where the hazards and risks are eliminated or minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. Good work is also where the work design optimises human performance, job satisfaction and productivity.
Good work contains positive work elements that can:
The most effective design process begins at the earliest opportunity during the conceptual and planning phases. At this early stage there is the greatest chance of finding ways to design-out hazards, incorporate effective risk control measures and design-in efficiencies.
Effective design of good work considers:
Effective design of good work can radically transform the workplace in ways that benefit the business, workers, clients and others in the supply chain.
Failure to consider how work is designed can result in poor risk management and lost opportunities to innovate and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of work.
The principles for good work design support duty holders to meet their obligations under the WHS laws and also help them to achieve better business practice generally.
For the purposes of this handbook a work designer is anyone who makes decisions about the design or redesign of work. This may be driven by the desire to improve productivity as well as the health and safety of people who will be doing the work
Principle 1 refers to the legal duties under the WHS laws. These laws provide the framework to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers and others who might be affected by the work. During the work design process workers and others should be given the highest level of protection against harm that is reasonably practicable.
Well-designed work can prevent work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses. The potential risk of harm from hazards in a workplace should be eliminated through good work design.
Only if that is not reasonably practicable, then the design process should minimise hazards and risks through the selection and use of appropriate control measures.
New hazards may inadvertently be created when changing work processes. If the good work design principles are systematically applied, potential hazards and risks arising from these changes can be eliminated or minimised.
Information: Reducing the speed of an inappropriately fast process line will not only reduce production errors, it can diminish the likelihood of a musculoskeletal injury and mental stress.
Effective design aims to prevent harm, but it can also positively enhance the health and wellbeing of workers for example, satisfying work and positive social interactions can help improve people’s physical and mental health.
As a general guide, the healthiest workers have been found to be three times more productive than the least healthy (PDF file). It therefore makes good business sense for work design to support people’s health and wellbeing.
Information: Recent research has shown long periods of sitting (regardless of exercise regime) can lead to increased risk of preventable musculoskeletal disorders and chronic diseases such as diabetes. In an office environment, prolonged sitting can be reduced by allowing people to alternate between sitting or standing whilst working.
Designing-out problems before they arise is generally cheaper than making changes after the resulting event, for example by avoiding expensive retrofitting of workplace controls.
Good work design can have direct and tangible cost savings by decreasing disruption to work processes and the costs from workplace injuries and illnesses.
Good work design can also lead to productivity improvements and business sustainability by:
Hazards and risks associated with tasks are identified and controlled during good work design processes and they should be considered in combination with all hazards and risks in the workplace. This highlights that it is the combination that is important for good work design.
Workers can also be exposed to a number of different hazards from a single task. For example, meat boning is a common task in a meat-processing workplace. This task has a range of potential hazards and risks that need to be managed, e.g. physical, chemical, biological, biomechanical and psychosocial. Good work design means the hazards and risks arising from this task are considered both individually and collectively to ensure the best control solutions are identified and applied.
Good work design can prevent unintended consequences which might arise if task control measures are implemented in isolation from other job considerations. For example, automation of a process may improve production speed and reduce musculoskeletal injuries but increase risk of hearing loss if effective noise control measures are not also considered.
Workers have different needs and capabilities; good work design takes these into account. This includes designing to accommodate them given the normal range of human cognitive, biomechanical and psychological characteristics of the work.
Information: The Australian workforce is changing. It is typically older with higher educational levels, more inclusive of people with disabilities, and more socially and ethnically diverse. Good work design accommodates and embraces worker diversity. It will also help a business become an employer of choice, able to attract and retain an experienced workforce.
The business organisational structure and culture, decision making processes, work environment and how resources and people are allocated to the work will directly and indirectly impact on work design and how well and safely the work is done.
The work environment includes the physical structures, plant, and technology. Planning for relocations, refurbishments or when introducing new engineering systems are ideal opportunities for businesses to improve their work designs and avoid foreseeable risks.
These are amongst the most common work changes a business undertakes yet good design during these processes is often quite poorly considered and implemented. An effective design following the processes described in this handbook can yield significant business benefits.
Information: Off the shelf solutions can be explored for some common tasks, however usually design solutions need to be tailored to suit a particular workplace.
Good work design is most effective when it addresses the specific business needs of the individual workplace or business. Typically work design solutions will differ between small and large businesses.
However, all businesses must eliminate or minimise their work health and safety risks so far as reasonably practicable. The specific strategies and controls will vary depending on the circumstances.
The table on the next page demonstrates how to step through the good work design process for small and large businesses.
|Good design steps||In a large business that is downsizing||In a small business that is undergoing a refit|
|Management commitment||Senior management make their commitment to good work design explicit ahead of downsizing and may hire external expertise.||The owner tells workers about their commitment to designing-out hazards during the upcoming refit of the store layout to help improve safety and efficiency.|
|Consult||The consequences of downsizing and how these can be managed are discussed in senior management and WHS committee meetings with appropriate representation from affected work areas.||
The owner holds meetings with their
workers to identify possible issues ahead of |
|Identify||A comprehensive workload audit is undertaken to clarify opportunities for improvements.||The owner discusses the proposed refit with the architect and builder and gets ideas for dealing with issues raised by workers.|
|Assess||A cost benefit analysis is undertaken to assess the work design options to manage the downsizing.||The owner, architect and builder jointly discuss the proposed refit and any worker issues directly with workers.|
|Control||A change management plan is developed and implemented to appropriately structure teams and improve systems of work. Training is provided to support the new work arrangements.||The building refit occurs. Workers are given training and supervision to become familiar with new layout and safe equipment use.|
|Review||The work redesign process is reviewed against the project aims by senior managers.||The owner checks with the workers that the refit has improved working conditions and efficiency and there are no new issues.|
|Improve||Following consultation, refinement of the redesign is undertaken if required.||Minor adjustments to the fit out are made if required.|
Information: Supply chains are often made up of complex commercial or business relationships and contracts designed to provide goods or services. These are often designed to provide goods or services to a large, dominant business in a supply chain. The human and operational costs of poor design by a business can be passed up or down the supply chain.
Businesses in the supply chain can have significant influence over their supply chain partners’ work health and safety through the way they design the work.
Businesses may create risks and so they need to be active in working with their supply chains and networks to solve work health and safety problems and share practical solutions for example, for common design and manufacturing problems.
Health and safety risks can be created at any point along the supply chain, for example, loading and unloading causing time pressure for the transport business.
There can be a flow-on effect where the health and safety and business ‘costs’ of poor design may be passed down the supply chain. These can be prevented if businesses work with their supply chain partners to understand how contractual arrangements affect health and safety.
Procurement and contract officers can also positively influence their own organisation and others work health and safety throughout the supply chain by the good design of contracts.
When designing contractual arrangements businesses could consider ways to support good work design safety outcomes by:
Information: The road transport industry is an example of the application of how this principle can help improve drivers’ health and safety and address issues arising from supply chain arrangements. For example, the National Heavy Vehicle Laws ‘chain of responsibility’ requires all participants in the road transport supply chain to take responsibility for driver work health and safety. Contracts must be designed to allow drivers to work reasonable hours, take sufficient breaks from driving and not have to speed to meet deadlines.
The design of products will strongly impact on both health and safety and business productivity throughout their lifecycles. At every stage there are opportunities to eliminate or minimise risks through good work design. The common product lifecycle stages are illustrated in Figure 3 below.
Information: For more information on the design of structures and of plant see ‘Safe design of structures’ and Managing the risks of plant in the workplace and other design guidance on the Safe Work Australia website.
The good work design principles are also relevant at all stages of the business life cycle. Some of these stages present particularly serious and complex work health and safety challenges such as during the rapid expansion or contraction of businesses. Systematic application of good work design principles during these times can achieve positive work health and safety outcomes.
New technology is often a key driver of change in work design. It has the potential to improve the quality of outputs, efficiency and safety of workers, however introducing new technology could also introduce new hazards and unforeseen risks. Good work design considers the impact of the new initiatives and technologies before they are introduced into the workplace and monitors their impact over time.
Information: When designing a machine for safe use, how the maintenance will be undertaken in the future should be considered.
In most workplaces the information and communication technology (ICT) systems are an integral part of all business operations. In practice these are often the main drivers of work changes but are commonly overlooked as sources of workplace risks. Opportunities to improve health and safety should always be considered when new ICT systems are planned and introduced.
Information: Leaders are the key decision makers or those who influence the key decision makers. Leaders can be the owners of a business, directors of boards and senior executives.
Leaders can support good work design by ensuring the principles are appropriately included or applied, for example in:
Good work design, especially for complex issues will require adequate time and resources to consider and appropriately manage organisational and/or technological change. Like all business change, research shows leader commitment to upfront planning helps ensure better outcomes.
Managers and work health and safety advisors can help this process by providing their leaders with appropriate and timely information. This could include for example:
Effective consultation and co-operation of all involved with open lines of communication, will ultimately give the best outcomes. Consulting with those who do the work not only makes good sense, it is required under the WHS laws.
Information: Under the model WHS laws (s47), a business owner must, so far as is reasonably practicable, consult with ‘workers who carry out work for the business or undertaking who are, or are likely to be, directly affected by a matter relating to work health or safety.’ This can include a work design issue.
If more than one person has a duty in relation to the same matter, ‘each person with the duty must, so far as is reasonably practicable, consult, co-operate and co-ordinate activities with all other persons who have a duty in relation to the same matter’ (model WHS laws s46).
Workers have knowledge about their own job and often have suggestions on how to solve a specific problem. Discussing design options with them will help promote their ownership of the changes. See Code of practice on consultation.
Businesses that operate as part of a supply chain should consider whether the work design and changes to the work design might negatively impact on upstream or downstream businesses. The supply chain partners will often have solutions to logistics problems which can benefit all parties.
Good work design should systematically apply the risk management approach to the workplace hazards and risks. See Principle 4 or more details.
Typically good work design will involve ongoing discussions with all stakeholders to keep refining the design options. Each stage in the good work design process should have decision points for review of options and to consult further if these are not acceptable. This allows for flexibility to quickly respond to unanticipated and adverse outcomes.
Figure 5 outlines how the risk management steps can be applied in the design process
Continuous improvements in work health and safety can in part be achieved if the good work design principles are applied at business start up and whenever major organisational changes are contemplated. To be most effective, consideration of health and safety issues should be integrated into normal business risk management.
Most work design processes will require collaboration and cooperation between internal and sometimes external experts. Internal advice can be sought from workers, line managers, technical support and maintenance staff, engineers, ICT systems designers, work health and safety advisors and human resource personnel.
Depending on the design issue, external experts may be required such as architects, engineers, ergonomists, occupational hygienists and psychologists.
Information: If you provide advice on work design options it is important to know and work within the limitations of your discipline’s knowledge and expertise. Where required make sure you seek advice and collaborate with other appropriate design experts.
For complex and high-risk projects, ideally a core group of the same people should remain involved during both the design and implementation phases with other experts brought in as necessary.
The type of expert will always depend on the circumstances. When assessing the suitability of an expert consider their qualifications, skills, relevant knowledge, technical expertise, industry experience, reputation, communication skills and membership of professional associations.
Information: Is the consultant suitably qualified?
A suitably qualified person has the knowledge, skills and experience to provide advice on the specific design issue. You can usually check with the professional association to see if the consultant is certified or otherwise recognised by them to provide work design advice.
The decision to design or redesign work should be based on sound evidence. Typically this evidence will come from many sources such as both proactive and reactive indicators, information about a new technology or the business decisions to downsize, expand or restructure or to meet the requirements of supply chain partners.
Proactive and reactive indicators can also be used to monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of the design solution.
Information: Proactive indicators provide early information about the work system that can be used to prevent accidents or harm. These might include for example: key process variables such as temperature or workplace systems indicators such as the number of safety audits and inspections undertaken.
Reactive indicators are usually based on incidents that have already occurred. Examples include number and type of near misses and worker injury and illness rates.
Useful information about common work design problems and solutions can also often be obtained from:
The ten principles of good work design can be applied to help support better work health and safety outcomes and business productivity. They are deliberately high level and should be broadly applicable across the range of Australian businesses and workplaces. Just as every workplace is unique, so is the way each principle can be applied in practice.
When considering these principles in any work design also ensure you take into account your local jurisdictional work health and safety requirements.
– Safe Work Australia website (see Copyright Statement).
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Safe design is about integrating hazard identification and risk assessment methods early in the design process, to eliminate or minimise risks of injury throughout the life of a product. This applies to buildings, structures, equipment and vehicles.Safe Work Australia website (see Copyright Statement).