Removing Construction Hazards at the Design Phase

construction hazards

Hazard perception and the control and mitigation of construction hazards are a huge focus in that industry. Much of this focus and responsibility falls on the construction worker to safely navigate around workplace hazards as they build the project. However, good risk management processes that adhere to the safety hierarchy of controls place a focus on higher level controls such as engineering controls. In that hazards are considered at the design phase to construct projects that are hazard free; thus no longer requiring workers to solely rely on lower level controls such as personal protective equipment.

Recent research shows that construction workers are unable to identify over 55% of construction hazards that are inherent to their work sites. Given the project environment is the natural habitat of construction workers it is likely to be a considerable stretch to assume that architects and engineers have a more complete knowledge of hazards on a construction site when they may seldom enter those environments. If this is the case, how can we move to hazard mitigation that is robust in the design phase and adhere to the safety hierarchy of controls in the manner that good risk management processes advise?

For this post, we take a look at some research that was conducted in the US and published in the Safety Science journal by scholars at the University of Colorado. This paper is behind the journal’s paywall, however there is free access to the thesis that details the underpinning research that investigates how to improve the hazard perception skills of designers to create a safe environment from the outset of the project to design out construction hazards.

Injuries occur from decisions at the design phase

Research confirms that approximately 22% of all construction injuries and 42% of fatalities could have been prevented through adjustments made in the design of a construction project. However, if workers are unable to successfully identify construction hazards, what is the likely level of hazard recognition of architects and engineers during the design phase?  Designer knowledge of construction tasks, sequencing, and coordination between different trades is needed to effectively consider safety in the design phase.

But the lack of education, training and experience in the construction environment is leading to designers who cannot see a future concern and therefore are failing to mitigate construction hazards. More than half of construction hazards are not seen by designers during the design phase, where 75% of them are reasonably able to be identified in the design phase. For hazards that can be seen and foreseen, designers’ hazard perceptions skills are below 50%.  Slightly below the hazard perception skills of the average construction worker. There is a strong need for hazard recognition improvement techniques and robust tools that help designers (and construction workers in general) to increase their skills.

How can we improve designers’ hazard perception skills?

There are tools that can be used to assist designers hazard perception skills including:

  • Recognition checklists – to help designers recognise hazards that are commonly missed and also make suggestions for potential ways to alter the design.
  • Iterative design reviews – where designers incorporate safety reviews during several phases, e.g., conceptual design, design development and drafting of construction documents.
  • Risk and decision analysis – where designers compare the risk of various design options in an effort to select the safest design option for construction workers.
  • Assisted visualisation – through building information modelling (BIM) to assist designers in visualising the spatial and temporal safety risk factors.

Experience with construction sites also plays a significant role in assisting designers to increase their hazard perception skills.

See our post on construction supervisors hazard perception skills.

How can AR improve hazard perception skills?

We include a second piece of research that investigates the effectiveness of augmented reality and interactive training to improve safety knowledge and hazard perceptions skills. This study involved six agri-business firms. We draw on this piece of research to determine how to improve workers’ hazard perception skills. The main value of augmented reality is that it brings components of the digital world into a person’s perception of the real world and does so not as a simple display of data, but through the integration of immersive sensations that are perceived as natural parts of an environment. Through AR solutions, learners can be involved in phenomena that is not possible in the real world to visualise complex spatial relationships and abstract concepts.

This study developed a safety training application and their results showed that the principles of AR were considered useful and informative by the workers for safety purposes. They experienced a positive experience in using the app, with the information it provided and intended to continue to use the app to alert them of workplace hazards and the measures they should use to address them. They rated this type of training as a valued mechanism to improve their behaviour to make their work and workplace safer.

How can Tap Into Safety train hazard perception skills?

Proactive hazard perception learning activities have been shown to embed knowledge and significantly reduce workplace incidents and injuries. Hazard perception training should be a top priority for any company, regardless of the size or the industry. This training should be made available to educate all staff on how to safely work in their daily environment, how to spot a potential hazard, and how to maintain a health and safety culture that will spark awareness and interest in safety among employees. By following up hazard perception training with a robust reporting requirement, you have a recipe that will help to address workplace safety risks.

Research indicates that hazard perception training delivery is important especially around specific workplace hazards, and this is where virtual and interactive training methods make a serious difference [see our post on immersive training methods]. Learners need ownership, an active role in the process and relevance. This will produce a learning interaction that guides and embeds knowledge that will be ingrained during subsequent work practices to help them recognise and recall risk.

Tap Into Safety has interactive hazard perception training modules which can be completed in 15 minutes and can easily be added to your existing safety induction, on-boarding and refresher training modules via a simple URL integration.

The training modules show a 360-degree panoramic scene of typical work areas for a range of industries. They train on a variety of major hazards and risky behaviours that can occur in a work environment. Some of these include:

  • Manual Handling
  • Slips and Trips
  • Working around suspended loads
  • Various plant operation
  • People and plant interaction

We can even customise modules to suit your specific work scenarios. Contact us today to organise your obligation free trial.


Social Media

Contact Information

Phone: 1300 901 849

Opening Hours

Monday – Friday
8:00am – 5:00pm (AWST)
Saturday – Sunday / Public Holidays

Scroll to Top