This year, November 14 will mark World Usability Day, created to promote the value of usability engineering, user-centered design and the right of every user to ask for things that work better.

For the LHSFNA, it is an opportunity to promote designing for safety in construction, an effort to encourage building architects and engineers to account for safety before structures are built.

Traditionally, buildings are designed with the ease and interests of their future occupants in mind. While this orientation is understandable, other interests – those of construction, maintenance and demolition workers – are also important. Design-stage planning to ensure the safety of workers can save lives as well as time and money down the road.

For instance, if steel columns were designed with holes in the web at 20.86 and 42.13 inches above floor level, built-in support locations for guardrails and lifelines would make the installation of these vital and required safety devices much easier and safer.

Unfortunately, architects and engineers are much more familiar with occupant needs than they are with those of the construction, maintenance and demolition workforces. While more design professionals are interested in design for safety initiatives than ever before, it is imperative that construction workers and their company supervisors join the effort to identify specific things that designers do (or could do) that either complicate or enhance safety in construction.

When workers or contractors look at plans for a project, the first thought is often, “How are we supposed to build that and do it safely?” Of course, it is the industry’s job to find the best way. Improving this prospect is the whole purpose of the design-for-safety movement.

One way to help is to send recommendations for design improvements to Mike Toole who is gathering ideas from various sources. Construction companies can get involved by joining the Design for Construction Safety program of the OSHA Construction Roundtable. The Design for Construction Safety website provides useful information on a number of design-for-safety issues.

While World Usability Day touts striving for improvements in everything we use, enhancing safety in the design of buildings will not only ease work and save money, it also will save lives.