Managing risks

Safe design is an important step in making sure a product is without risks to health and safety. Find out ways to design buildings, structures and plant with minimal or no risk. 

As a PCBU, you have duties under WHS laws if you manage, control or change a product’s design.  

Part of those duties is to identify hazards and manage risks in the design, from concept and throughout the product’s lifecycle.  

The model Code of Practice: Safe design of structures has more information on managing risks in design.  

Managing risks in designing plant 

When designing plant, consider:  

  • all the phases in its lifecycle, including manufacture, use, dismantling and disposal 

  • how someone can erect and install it safely 

  • how someone should use it, or how they might misuse it 

  • maintaining and repairing it 

  • if it fails, how it might do this safely. 

To make sure plant is safe to use, also consider: 

  • users’ physical abilities 

  • how many tasks the user can perform at a time 

  • the layout of the area where the plant will be used. 

Manage risks from the start 

As a PCBU you will make a safer product if you think about the hazards and risks that could impact anyone across the product’s lifecycle. 

Identify, assess and control hazards from the start. It’s better to design a product: 

  • without hazards 

  • with the right risk control measures included, if the product might need them at any stage – for example, safety equipment like seatbelts or fall protection. 

Changing a design 

If a product changes or someone uses it in a different way or place, there may be new risks. 

To make sure it stays safe, everyone involved with the product should: 

  • be proactive with health and safety 

  • review the design and check it meets safety standards. 

If those in control haven’t approved the reviews, the product should not continue to the next stage of its lifecycle. 

Managing risks with buildings 

WHS laws cover worker health and safety in design. If you design or make decisions on buildings and structures, you should also check: 

  • the Building Code of Australia – which has minimum standards on ensuring occupants’ health and safety 

  • Standards Australia, government agencies and relevant professional bodies who produce technical design standards and guidelines. 

Controlling risks with safe design examples 

Placement of air conditioning and split systems 

Air conditioners are often installed high up, making them risky to access. Putting the unit at ground level: 

  • provides easier access to repair and maintain them 

  • reduces risks of falls and difficult manual handling 

  • reduces maintenance costs. 

If that’s not possible, you can protect workers with a guard railing. 

The person with control over this decision could be the architect, building owner, builder or air conditioning installer.  

Air-conditioning systems example of safe design

Access for lighting maintenance 

Cleaning, installing and maintaining lights in a building can be dangerous. Installing lighting on sliding tracks could help with access and reduce: 

  • risk of falls from heights 

  • maintenance costs, such as cleaning and changing bulbs and tubes. 

Putting a notice up will help people know how to access and use the system. 

The person with control over this decision could be the architect, building owner, builder or electrical installer.  

sliding lighting systems example of safe design

Protecting tractor users 

Rollover protection (ROPS) protect tractor operators if the vehicle rolls, as long as they stay within the vehicle.  

The tractor designer and manufacturer decide which ROPS to fit. A user can also decide to add ROPS to a tractor. 

Seat belts and a cabin are also important to manage this risk. Falling object protection can also help if falling objects are a risk, for example in construction, forestry and mining

ROPS don’t protect the tractor from rolling over. 

To let users know about the safety features, you could: 

  • put a notice on the tractor about using the seat belts and other safety features 

  • install ignition or motion interlocks on the seatbelts or other forms of restraint. 

Rollover protection example of safe design