Every Laborer knows that a little pre-planning goes a long way in making any job quicker, easier and safer. The same truth applies in general across the full spectrum of American industry.

With this in mind, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) would like to see designers put more planning into the safety prospects of the facilities, materials and equipment that they design. With advance consideration, many things could be built more safely and, in final form, used more safely.

For instance, in their building plans, architects and engineers could require the installation of eye bolts in all building columns at the 42-inch height. Then, once the columns are erected, workers could easily install solid, OSHA-compliant safety railings for use during the remaining construction phases. By planning in advance, the cost of these required railings would be minimized while safety would be greatly improved. Another example might be built-in brackets on top of a building to support suspended platforms for window washing. Through preplanning, the lifetime cost of this building maintenance could be reduced while it is also made safer.

The logic of “prevention through design” (sometimes called “design for safety”) is compelling, but old habits die slowly, particularly when major financial and liability issues may reside behind the changes. As LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck explains, “In the building industry, architects have been most resistant to this concept because, traditionally, they’ve never been responsible for anything related to the actual construction of buildings. That’s left to the engineers and the construction managers. Architects are worried that if they begin considering safety issues at the design stage, they could be sued if they make mistakes. While we understand the concern, we think they’re exaggerating the risk, especially when their efforts could really enhance safety and reduce costs.”

To help overcome such hesitancies and, also, to promote the whole concept more broadly, NIOSH is sponsoring a national Prevention through Design Workshop in Washington, D.C. from July 9 to 11. The program will use industry-centered breakout sessions to investigate and elaborate the research, education, practice and policy implications of prevention through design planning in eight key industries.

This workshop is co-sponsored by the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the National Safety Council, OSHA, the American Society of Safety Engineers, the Centers for Disease Control, the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights, ORC Worldwide and the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. Scott Schneider, the LHSFNA’s Occupational Safety and Health Division Director, will be among those making presentations.

More information is available at the NIOSH website. Online Registration is $300. For help with registration, call Kim McAlpine at 800-621-7619 or email mcalpink@nsc.org.

[Steve Clark]