The construction and design professionals promoting the design for construction safety initiative are keenly aware that several fundamental barriers exist. By acknowledging and discussing these barriers with other industry professionals, long-term solutions can be identified and implemented. Some of the most critical barriers are discussed below.
Designers’ Concern about Increased Liability
Barrier: The concern about being exposed to additional undeserved liability for worker safety is typically voiced by designers when discussing designing for construction safety. The promoters of the design for safety initiative are NOT suggesting that designers can or should be held partially responsible for construction accidents. (Indeed, the desire to avoid undeserved liability underlies the paragraphs in most model contracts that explicitly state the design professional is not responsible for means and methods or for any safety programs.)
Solution: Revised model contract language and perhaps legislation is needed to facilitate designing for construction safety without inappropriately shifting safety duties onto designers.
Designers’ Lack of Safety Expertise
Barrier: If design professionals are to effectively contribute to worker safety it is essential that they possess at least a limited degree of expertise in construction safety. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the majority of architects and engineers. A 2003 article in the International ejournal of Construction (Gambatese 2003) reported that very few civil engineering programs included construction safety in their curriculum. Only 20% of the 75 US design engineering firms surveyed in 2002 by a Bucknell University graduate student indicated that over half of their employees had received safety training while nearly 70% indicated that less than a quarter of their employees had received safety training. The same study also found that less than one-quarter of the US participants believed that employees in their firm were often capable of identifying site hazards to which workers are exposed (Toole and Marquis 2003).
Solution: Construction, engineering and architectural curricula must include construction safety. Most curricula are already so full that a full course in safety is not feasible. Perhaps requiring at least a 10-hour OSHA course would be a good start.
Increased Costs Associated with DfCS
Barrier: Performing each of the safety-related actions will increase both direct and overhead costs for designers. Direct costs will increase because each task will require more time to accomplish?time that could otherwise be spent on other billable tasks or projects. Overhead costs would increase in two ways. First, designers would have to receive safety training as part of their professional development. Time spent in this additional training would be time that could otherwise be billable. Second, the costs of insurance premiums would rise. If designers begin explicitly attempting to contribute to worker safety insurance carriers providing designers with general liability and errors and omissions insurance will legitimately increase their premiums to cover increased costs associated with for defending lawsuits against designers.
Solution: Given that design fees will need to increase, owners must be recognize that the increased design fees associated with designing for construction safety will result in a net savings in total design and construction costs. In other words, owners must be willing to pay slightly higher design fees to save themselves money in the long run.