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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

The design factor

The design factor
Article Type:
Publications and Consultations
Publication Date:

Research conducted by Safe Work Australia shows unsafe design is likely to be a factor in more than one in three work-related fatalities.

The study looked at 523 fatalities between 2006 and 2011 for which sufficient information was available to enable a judgment to be made on the contribution of unsafe design to the incident. The incidents were selected from a wider group of 639 work-related deaths which involved machinery, plant or powered tools.

Researchers found 63 fatalities (12%) which were caused by unsafe design, or where design factors clearly contributed. A further 125 deaths (24%) were considered to be possibly related to design - that is, where unsafe design played a role, or where the incident might have been prevented had existing safety technology been used. Design was assessed not to have been a factor in the remaining 64% of fatalities.

Of the 36% of fatalities where design was a factor, the most common circumstances were found to be:

  • 21% - inadequate guarding;
  • 15% - lack of roll-over protective structures or seat belts;
  • 12% - lack of residual current device;
  • 8% - lack of interlock; and
  • 8% - driver obstructed vision.

The report finds that of the 28 fatalities where the design issue was lack of ROPS or seat belts, most involved roll-overs of tractors or quad bikes. As the report notes, these issues have been known for a long time. However seven fatalities in this group involved users of elevated work platforms being crushed against roofs or beams.

"Some manufacturers," notes the report, "are responding to this risk with caged platforms with anti-entrapment devices such as a frame fitted to the basket that provides a 'safe zone' within the platform and sensor bars or pads that stop the movement of the basket should the operator be pushed onto them."

The results of the study are broadly in line with the results of a similar study conducted by the Australian Safety Compensation Council in 2005, leading the researchers to conclude that design is a significant factor in workplace fatalities, that there are many common factors at play, and that there are existing solutions for most of the design-related problems identified.

Organisations Mentioned:
Safe Work Australia
Reference No:

From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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