Hazard-identifying app can help designers create safer buildings

22 Oct 2019

Research shows 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.

New research funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has shown that digital apps can help construction project designers create safer buildings by improving their knowledge of hazards during the design phase.

The study, conducted by researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University, has found that the use of a multimedia app can help to educate designers on typical design-related hazards and assist them in designing safety into construction projects more effectively.

As part of the study, a sample of 40 (20 novices and 20 experienced) designers from two typical industry groups of architects and civil engineers were recruited.

The designers were randomly assigned to groups using the app and groups not using the app, who were instead permitted to use the internet for help. Participants were asked to review a set of computer-aided design drawings in these sessions, identify hazards and make decisions about designing for OSH.

The study tested the app against general internet searches and examined the designers’ ability to foresee OSH hazards in designs by measuring both the quantity of specific hazards identified and the quality of design outcomes.

Using the app, the designers identified hazards a total of 599 times, with architects identifying over three times the number of hazards as those not using the app. For civil engineers the figure was five times as large.

In both cases the scope of hazards identified was double that of the group not using the app, suggesting it was an effective way of improving designers’ knowledge of hazards. This knowledge could help to create safer buildings by factoring a greater number of hazards into the planning and design of construction sites.

“A key factor for this research was the visual nature of the digital tool’s content, which seemed to work best with new graduates,” Professor Billy Hare, Deputy Director of the BEAM Research Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, said. “But its real potential lies in being able to capture tacit knowledge from more experienced designers for the next generation to counter the age-old problem of organisational memory loss and prevent the same old mistakes that cause accidents and ill-health from being repeated.”

“Technology such as this 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,” added Mary Ogungbeje, Research Manager at IOSH,

Worldwide, 60,000 workers die on construction sites every year. IOSH’s world-class courses, Safety, Health and Environment for Construction Managers and Safety, Health and Environment for Construction Workers aim to implement best practice, ensure organisations meet their safety, health and environment obligations, and gives delegates the skills required to create a safe work environment.


These two courses have now been approved by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and Build UK, which means IOSH’s courses are aligned to the BuildUK Training Standard and employers can access the CITB levy.


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