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Beast of burden


I was very disturbed by the article 'Designs for life' (NCE last week). Of course it is of paramount importance to save lives on site. However, structural designers are already acutely aware of their responsibility to design so that their completed structures are safe, and this is a heavy burden on young men and women.

To attempt to further burden them with the safety of the construction process is not only unfair, but completely misguided, and will not improve safety.

It is stated in the article that 60% of site accidents can be traced to poor design. If this means design of the permanent works, it is completely unbelievable. It is astonishing that in the article there is no appreciation of the difference between the design of permanent works and the design of temporary works carried out by contractors.

Also, the questionnaire presumes that designers are responsible for site safety. It would be a very complacent designer who would say that there is nothing he can do to improve the safety of his designs. However, this does not address the fact that designers of the permanent works can have only a marginal effect on the statistics of site accidents.

In the great majority of instances, it is the contractor's responsibility to decide how to build a design safely. There are some, rare, instances when the risks of construction are hidden, when it would be unreasonable for the contractor to spot them, and when the designer must appreciate this and annotate his drawings.

It is right that designers should be aware of the problems involved in the construction of their designs.

However, these problems only become risks in the hands of the contractors.

Robert Benaim, 16 Stanhope Gardens, London N6 5TS

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