The role of a design engineer in safety of building projects

Vermeulen, Bernard (2014-04)

Thesis (MEng)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.


One of the causes for money to be wasted on construction sites is accidents. The reason is that an accident on site is an unplanned event typically relating to the loss of production or the loss of life. Many industry stakeholders and role players have focused on construction health and safety and to improve this area of concern; however, construction health and safety are not significantly improving. Construction still continues to contribute a large number of fatalities and injuries relative to other industry sectors. During the construction phase, poor construction health and safety performance is attributable to a lack of management commitment, inadequate supervision, and a lack of health and safety training and - systems. Health and safety systems do not only include excellent health and safety management on site, but rather an integrated approach on health and safety issues from the conceptual design phase by all stakeholders participating. This integrated approach includes the design done by the engineer. The inspiration behind this research is the question of whether South African Engineers design buildings safe for construction. The lack of knowledge by engineers with regard to construction processes, the lack of health and safety enforcement in the engineering offices and construction sites, and whether engineers adhere to safe design principles is the subject of investigation in this research. Therefore, this research aims to investigate the role of the design engineer in the safety of building projects. Specifically, it investigates to what extent the design engineer can contribute to site safety, and to what extent this is actually taking place. The Construction Regulations states the engineer can be appointed to act on behalf of a client and should share any information that might affect the health and safety of construction employees with the contractor. By means of a literature study, the investigation of case studies and the investigation of questionnaires to which a percentage of South African engineers responded, this research identified the information that should be shared by the design engineer with the contractor. The information can be shared by indicating hazardous activities or - locations on the actual drawings. Information can also be shared by specifying and reminding the contractor of certain health and safety hazards in the health and safety specifications of the building project. Although the Construction Regulations state that the safety hazards associated with most construction processes are the responsibility of the contractor, it will be beneficial for the safety of the employees if the engineer also consults the contractor on the hazards identified by him or her during the early design stages. Early collaboration between the engineer and contractor is also beneficial for the safety of construction employees. The result is an integrated approach towards safety hazard identification and mitigation. Having adequate knowledge with regard to construction processes allows the engineer to be aware of possible safety hazards. This will result in the correct information to be shared with the contractor and incorporated into the early design phases of the project to ensure a healthy and safe working environment. The study shows that a percentage of South African engineers have a lack of site experience, a lack of safety training, a lack of knowledge with regard to the content of the Construction Regulations, and a lack of knowledge with regard to construction processes. These shortcomings can be detrimental to site safety.

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