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Designing out risk

CONFLICTING MESSAGES relating to implementation of Construction (Design & Management) regulations were presented at Cardiff's BIET conference last week.

Planning supervisor, Stuart Summerhayes, lamented the poor risk assessment of many designers; while director of Ove Arup & Partners Chris Jofeh explained how the 1994 safety regulations had been successfully applied on the Millennium Dome project.

Summerhayes of University of Glamorgan Commercial Services cited the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Structural Safety, last year, as providing 'a sharp focus on failures attributable to design and construction'. Designers were not fulfilling their obligations set out in the 13th CDM regulation. Fulfilment of risk assessments using the sequence of risk elimination, reduction and transfer, was still being ignored by many designers.

'A lot of risk assessments are a waste of time,' he said. 'Commercialism and lack of vision ensure that lip service and superficiality continue to dominate strategic decisions.'

As an antidote to prevailing attitudes, he urged engineers to devote continuing professional development time to health and safety. 'You cannot care unless you are aware,' he said.

Arup's Jofeh, cited early identification of hazards and co-ordination of risk across the whole dome project. 'We devised a CDM protocol,' he said Charts in the safety trailer on site, clearly mark companies involved against their specific safety responsibilities. 'Ove Arup, as planning supervisor, is responsible for the safety co-ordination of all parties, setting out where design responsibility lay between the client and main contractors and subcontractors. Orderly communication was very important for a project involving so many companies.'

Among strategic safety decisions to have contributed to a project on course to reach deadline were the choice of a lightweight structure, use of only 12 masts instead of the originally planned 36; piling techniques to minimise contaminated soil brought up and a large percentage of prefabrication.

The results said Jofeh speak for themselves. 'We have achieved high installation efficiency, yet since May 500,000 man hours have been worked without an accident.'

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