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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Health by design

Health by design
Article Type:
Publication Date:
New Zealand

Potential health risks facing construction and maintenance workers will be highlighted as essential considerations during the design stage of all NZ Transport Agency projects when the agency’s Zero Harm group releases new safety in design minimum standards for roading works later this year.

NZTA first introduced a safety in design standard for its projects almost two years ago, but a recent review, conducted in consultation with industry, identified health-related design issues as an area where more guidance was needed.

Review coordinator Nick Gluyas, technical development lead for engineering and design company MHW, told Safeguard it can be easy for design teams to focus on high-frequency or high-impact safety issues at the expense of health concerns.

“We recognised that [the existing minimum standard] was a little bit light on occupational health hazards,” he says. “Things like silica dust may not present a problem in the short term, but are not going to result in good health outcomes in future years, so we want people to look beyond the business-as-usual construction methods that have always been used and see if there are better ways of managing those sorts of issues.”

The review process has turned up some good international guidance on health-related design options, including work done on the London Olympics project and by UK rail provider Crossrail, and this will be included with the revised standard.

As well as the new emphasis on health, the guide will include more detailed information about the steps required for an effective safety in design process, and about the roles and responsibilities of the various participants.

“We sought feedback from the industry as to what’s good [in the original standard], what’s not so good, what gaps there are, and where we should look to provide a bit more advice, and have incorporated a lot of that information into this revision,” Gluyas says. “As a result we’ve beefed up our guidance in some areas and put in a few more cross references so people will be able to get assistance when they’re doing this sort of work.”

The minimum standard was originally drafted by a working group from the Association of Consulting Engineers (ACENZ) in late 2014, when NZTA recognised that safety in design was soon to become a legislative requirement.

“Version one was put out before the HSW Act came in, so the other thing we’ve had to do as part of the review is update some references to the applicable sections of the new act, to ensure they reflect exactly what is in the law.”

In accordance with the minimum standard, safety in design assessments should be done as early as possible during the design process, and be carried out by a team that includes designers, construction and maintenance contractors, and the PCBU.

“The PCBU’s role is to rule on what is reasonably practical when it comes to designing out, or designing around, hazards.

“If you come up with a solution that has cost or programme limitations, it’s their call as to whether it is reasonable because they’re the ones that have to own the outcome.”

From his own experience as a facilitator of safety in design workshops, Gluyas says, participants generally find the process valuable.

“There was an initial feeling that this was going to be another layer which would add to the costs of a project, but the reality, in many cases, is the opposite. A safer way to do it is often a cheaper way too.”

Cost savings are not always realised during the construction phase itself, he says, but one solution that NZTA is now considering – using Astroturf instead of grass on highway medians – is a good example of how some initial expense can result in significant savings over time.

“It will cost you to put the Astroturf in, but once it’s done there will be zero maintenance. However if you use grass, mowing on busy roads is not only a safety issue for the individuals involved, but with all the extras needed to be sure it’s done safely,  it can be up to a $1000 an hour operation.”

The new minimum standard is expected to be ratified at the next meeting of NZTA’s Zero Harm team in early December, after which anyone contracting to work for the agency will be expected to meet or exceed its requirements.



People Mentioned:
Nick Gluyas
Organisations Mentioned:
NZ Transport Agency
Reference No:

From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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