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Safety in design

One of the five national priorities in the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-22 addresses healthy and safe work by design. Safety in design aims to prevent injuries and disease by considering hazards as early as possible in the planning and design process, which includes design of plant, structures, substance as well as the work itself.

Safe design refers to the integration of hazard identification and risk assessment methods early in the design process to eliminate or minimise the risks of injury throughout the life of a product being designed. It encompasses all design including facilities, hardware, systems, equipment, products, layout and configuration.

Comcare and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland are leading the Good Work through Effective Design project. Together we have already produced a set of principles for good work design leading to the publication of the Handbook - Principles of Good Work Design. Subsequent phases of the project will provide for better practice examples through the development of case studies and other supporting materials.

What do I need to consider?

In order to manage work health and safety risks during the design stage, designers should consider

  • Physical design of a product.
  • Work layout to reduce the possibility of hazards occurring in the workplace.
  • Applying risk management principles to the design process to eliminate hazards that may occur during operation.
  • Designing work to minimise the risks to workers. Creating healthy and safe work requires jobs and tasks be designed to accommodate the abilities, diversity and vulnerabilities of workers, including those returning to work following injury or illness.

Within the Work Health and Safety Regulations there are a number of design duties in which several offences apply specifically to a person in control of design.

There are offences for designers who fail to eliminate or minimise risks (within the design process) in relation to:

  • noise (section 59)
  • hazardous manual tasks (section 61)
  • confined spaces (section 64)
  • plant (division 5.1.2, division 5.2.2)
  • construction work (section 295).


Making sure that work, work processes and systems are designed to reduce the risk to workers is an important part of a work health and safety management system. One of the best ways to prevent and control workplace injuries is to design out or minimise hazards early in the design process.


Information source Contents
Code of Practice—How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks This code provides practical guidance for those who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety.
Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-22 The Strategy provides a framework to drive improvements in work health and safety in Australia.
Handbook - Principles of Good Work Design This guidance contains information about the ten principles and how they might be successfully applied.
Department of Employment—Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner The webpage provides safe design guidance.
Professor Sharon Parker –full evidence report [PDF,597KB]This report informs best practice to help those with design responsibilities or have a role in designing work, to create good work through effective design.
Good work through effective design case studyThe Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recently implemented a flexible work environment in their Adelaide office, applying the principles of good work design throughout the project. This case study is the result of a collaboration between Safe Work Australia, Comcare, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

We are interested in your thoughts

We would like your thoughts or examples on how the principles of work design could or have been applied. To provide input or get more information about the project, please contact:

Richard Dawson
02 6112 9684

Page last updated: 07 Apr 2016