Designers must comply with the Work Health and Safety Act and make sure, so far as reasonably practicable, that the design is without risks to health and safety.
Construction work and designers of structures
Designers have a duty to comply with s.22 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) and ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the design is without risks to health and safety.
This fact sheet provides guidance about the duties arising from s.295 (Designer must give safety report to person who commissions design) of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (WHS Regulation).
Who is a designer?
A designer is a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) whose profession, trade or business involves them in:
- preparing sketches, plans or drawings for a structure, including variations to a plan or changes to a structure
- making decisions for incorporation into a design that may affect the health or safety of people who construct, use or carry out other activities in relation to the structure.
A PCBU who alters or modifies a design without consulting the original or subsequent designer will assume the duties of a designer.
When is a written design report required?
Section 295 of the WHS Regulation requires a designer of a structure or part of a structure that is to be constructed to give the PCBU who commissioned the design (the design client) a written report. This report must specify the hazards relating to the design of the structure that, so far as the designer is reasonably aware:
- create a risk to the health or safety of persons who are to carry out any construction work on the structure or part
- are associated only with the particular design and not with other designs of the same type of structure.
Written design report only applies to certain kinds of designs
The written report is only required for designs of structures that have unusual or atypical features which present hazards and risks during the construction phase that are unique to the particular design.
Examples of unusual or atypical design features may include those relevant to the:
- structure (e.g. a warehouse designed to be built with a cable-stayed roof instead of a portal framed building)
- location (e.g. a house designed to be built on a bridge instead of on flat land)
- materials (e.g. a structure designed to be built entirely of recycled material instead of new material)
- technique (e.g. a telecommunication tower is designed to be transported and erected using a helicopter instead of being trucked into location and erected with a crane).
A written report is not required for designs of structures that have typical features such as a single storey, timber framed, slab-on-ground house constructed in a new housing estate using typical housing materials designed to be built by housing industry tradespeople and workers.
What should be included in the written report?
The written report should include information about:
- any identified hazardous materials or structural features and the designer's assessment of the risk of injury or illness to construction workers arising from those hazards
- any conditions to ensure that the structure may be safely constructed (e.g. recommendations for a re-design).
This information can form part of the information required to be provided by the designer under s.22 of the WHS Act.
Is a written report required for designs of homes?
The designer must provide a written report only if the design client is a PCBU, for example:
- a corporation
- an individual or business invoicing using an ABN
- an 'owner builder' carrying out the work under a permit issued by the Building Services Authority.
If the design client is not a PCBU, then the designer has no duty to prepare a written report for that person. For example a design client is not a PCBU if they are:
- a home buyer, owner or occupier commissioning work on their home
- an individual undertaking DIY maintenance, refurbishment or renovations of their own home or helping a friend.
The design client should provide the designer with any site-specific information they have that could reasonably be expected to affect the safety of construction workers during the construction phase. For a larger business this could be in the form of a project brief that includes the safety requirements and objectives for the project. This will enable a shared understanding of safety expectations between the design client and designer.
So far as is reasonably practicable, the duty holders involved must consult each other on the hazards and risks associated with the structure and work together on appropriate design solutions. This would include a design client co-operating with a designer in changing a design to address a health and safety risk identified during the design phase.
Designing out risks at this phase is often the most effective way of eliminating risks to the health and safety of construction workers and also other workers who may carry out work in or on the structure after completion.
The duties required of a designer under s.295 of the WHS Regulation are applicable for designs commissioned by a PCBU since 1 January 2012.
All designs commissioned prior to 1 January 2012 must comply with the obligation imposed by the repealed Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995.