Work Health Safety in Design

Work health and safety (WHS) in design research projects.

This project evaluates the role of participants in shaping work health and safety outcomes in the design of buildings and other structures.

Grants and funding: Subcontracted to Virginia Tech USA

The research provides greater understanding to develop realistic and appropriate guidelines for implementing WHS in design in the construction industry. The guidelines should reflect the nature of design, the roles of multiple professional and technical contributors and the relationships between them.


The benefits of research will be:

  • a greater understanding of how WHS is currently integrated into design decisions in construction projects, including the identification of critical decision points, interfaces and information exchanges
  • the development of strategies for embedding WHS into design decision processes in a way that realistically reflects the role and ability of each contributor/stakeholder to influence OHS outcomes
  • achieve design WHS policy and practice that reflects the inherent complexity of design work in the construction industry.

Download the information sheets:

An analysis of design decision-making in the construction industry (PDF 199 KB)

WHS Risk perception information sheet (PDF 157KB)

Key people

Wakefield, Lingard, Blismas and Cooke.

This research illustrated why statutory WHS responsibilities placed upon construction designers in several Australian jurisdictions are unworkable in the context of industry practice.

Grants and funding: The Australian Research Council—Discovery Grant Scheme

The significance of the research lay in:

  • the importance of the design WHS debate
  • a unique combination of design and WHS perspectives
  • the ability to inform policy development and legislative review processes.


The research:

  • highlighted conceptual problems inherent in the existing legislation
  • developed alternative mechanisms for allocating design WHS responsibility in the construction sector
  • provided the basis for policy development in the national priority area of hazard elimination in design
  • improved the WHS performance in the construction and property sectors.

Key people

Lingard and Blismas (with the University of Melbourne).

This research evaluates the extent to which ’design for safety’ knowledge can be captured from a diverse group of experts.

Grants and funding: Australian Research Council (Linkage Project), Hyder Engineering

The research will:

  • expand the WHS decision-making of construction design professionals
  • develop design WHS capability, especially in novices.

The results will support the implementation of WHS policy in the construction industry.


An innovative knowledge-intensive ’safety in design’ tool will be developed and evaluated.

The research will:

  • determine how the tool can best be used to improve ’safety in design’ outcomes in the construction industry
  • measure the potential benefits of using the tool in practical design decision-making in construction projects and also in the education/training of design professionals.

Further reading: Design for safety knowledge sheet (PDF 67.7 KB)

Key people

Blismas, Lingard and Stranieri.

This research developed a prototype knowledge-based web tool to provide work health and safety decision support to building/construction designers.

Grants and funding: 

Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts under the Information Technology Online Program (ITOL), Crozier Scott & Associates (Architects) and JustSys.

The significance of the research lay in the use of innovative methods for modelling knowledge, based upon argumentation theory. The tool provided decision support to construction professionals, who are sometimes ill-prepared to cope with statutory requirements for work health and safety in design.


The team produced and extensively trialed a prototype decision support tool designed to prevent falls from height. Further funding has been requested to expand the tool to cover other areas of work health and safety risk and/or lifecycle stages of a building/structure.

Further reading: Tools to help designers with WHS (PDF 217 KB)

Key people

Blismas, Lingard, Stranieri and Cooke.

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Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.