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An effective design process creates ‘good work’ that can:

  • protect workers from harm to their health, safety and welfare
  • improve workers health and wellbeing
  • improve business success through higher worker productivity.

Good work design

The most effective design process considers health and safety issues during the conceptual and planning phases. At this early stage you have the best chance of finding ways to design out hazards, incorporate effective risk control measures and design-in efficiencies.

For example, it could involve the design of the work, workstations as well as work systems including operational procedures, computer systems or manufacturing processes.

  • Effective design of good work considers four things: the work, work systems, the physical working environment and the workers and people within the organisation.

The work:

  • how work and individual tasks are performed including their physical, mental and emotional demands
  • duration, frequency and complexity
  • context.

The work systems support the organisational processes and activities including:

  • information
  • technology
  • business management processes
  • products and services
  • supply chains
  • people including customers and clients and other resources.

The physical working environment:

  • plant, equipment, materials and substances used
  • vehicles, buildings and structures that are workplaces.

The workers:

  • physical, emotional and mental capacities, needs and experience.

Effective work design can radically transform the workplace in ways that benefit the business, workers, clients and others in the supply chain. Failure to consider how work is designed can result in poor risk management and lost opportunities to innovate and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of work. It can also be a breach of WHS law

Experts who can provide advice on the different aspects of the design of work include: engineers, architects, ergonomists, information and computer technology professionals, occupational hygienists, organisational psychologists, human resource professionals, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

Ten principles of good work design

There are ten principles of good work design that can be applied to support better WHS outcomes as well as business productivity. They are deliberately general in nature so they can be successfully applied across the range of Australian businesses and workplaces.

Just as every workplace is unique, so is the way each principle can be applied in practice. When considering these principles make sure you take into account your local jurisdictional WHS requirements.

  • The principles for good work design help duty holders meet their obligations under the model WHS laws and achieve better business practice generally.
  • The principles can be applied to the design of structures, plant and substances and also to work, work processes and systems in general.

Ten good work design principles

image showing the ten good work design principles

For more information on the ten good work design principles see the Principles of good work design: A work health and safety handbook.

Our national approach

The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 has identified healthy and safe by design as one of the seven national action areas.

Good work design is the most effective process for eliminating hazards, incorporating effective risk control measures and designing-in efficiencies. It’s one of our most effective ways of reaching our targets of reducing the:

  • incidence of serious injury by at least 30% nationwide by 2022
  • number of work-related fatalities due to injury by at least 20%.

Since the Strategy launched, Safe Work Australia and all jurisdictions have been working collaboratively with the industry, unions, relevant organisations and the community to influence and promote improvements in how work is designed to: protect workers from harm to their health, safety and welfare; improve worker health and wellbeing; and improve business success through higher worker productivity.

Safe Work Australia Award for Good Design

Safe Work Australia partnered with Good Design Australia in 2016 and 2017 to support consideration of safety in the design of products, structures, equipment and substances, work processes and systems.
The annual Good Design Awards promote excellence in design and innovation. The Safe Work Australia Award for Good Design is judged against specific criteria including safety in construction, use and maintenance, safety innovation and health and safety impact.
2016 winner announcement
2017 winner announcement

Further advice

SWA is not a regulator and cannot advise you about work health and safety compliance. If you need help, please contact your state or territory work health and safety authority.



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