The Future of Design for Construction Safety

1 Overview of The Future of Design for Construction Safety
2 U.S. Construction Accident Statistics
3 Designing for Safety Pays
4 Example: Parapet Walls
5 The Erector Friendly Column
6 Avoid tripping hazards
7 Other DfCS Design Examples
8 Barriers to DfCS
9 Example Construction Site Accident #1 (Fall from Elevation)
10 Example Construction Site Accident
11 Safety Considerations in Design”Implementing DfCS in Practice

Safety Considerations in Design”Implementing DfCS in Practice

How it Started
Content started in “Constructability” reviews by Project Management Teams working with engineering.

Educational Limitations
Limited amount of safety training required in engineering educational activities.

Presented to:

  • Engineers
  • Designers
  • Estimators
  • Contract Administrators
  • Procurement Professionals
  • Over 2,000 Over the Last Year

Involvement in Design Build Activities with our own employees increased the awareness.

Example Construction Site Accident

Additional information:

  • The grating fastener system was not part of the original design. The fastener system was proposed by Heart Construction as a change, and accepted by the Engineer.
  • Special wrenches are required to install and remove the grating fasteners. Two wrenches, owned by Heart, were available on the jobsite. The wrenches were sometimes lost or misplaced and not available.
  • Heart Construction held weekly project safety meetings. Jerry attended only one meeting.
  • During previous safety meetings, concerns were brought up about lack of support for the grating sections at locations where portions of the sections were modified. Occasionally wood was placed across the grating to provide additional support.
  • A temporary ladder between the upper and lower levels which was located several yards from the accident site was removed before the accident.


  • How could the accident have been prevented?
  • What could have been done in the design and/or the design phase to prevent the accident?

Example Construction Site Accident #1 (Fall from Elevation)

  • Example Construction Site Accident

McNairy Dam Fish Facility

Project Description:
Construction of a laboratory visitor center, a large fish collection facility, and power line from the dam to the visitor’s center.

Columbia River, Oregon

  • Example Construction Site Accident

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE)

General Contractor: Heart Construction

Electrical Subcontractor: J&J Electric
Scope of work: Install electrical lines and controls throughout the project.

Company owners (brothers):
Frank Jones (on-site project superintendent)
Jerry Jones (office manager, some work on-site)

Project background:

  • Fish containment area consists of an upper working level and a lower fish collection level.
  • Upper level constructed of steel framing supporting galvanized metal removable grating. (3 feet wide x 4 feet long sections)
  • Mechanical and electrical equipment is located on the upper level.
  • Elevation of lower level is 30 feet below the upper level, except for a concrete ledge along one wall which is 3 feet below the upper level.
  • No permanent access (stairway, ladder, etc.) is available between the upper and lower levels.
  • Lower level is under water during normal operation.

April 23:

  • Fish containment area construction complete.
  • Electrical system testing under way.
  • Frank, Jerry, and several Heart employees enter the upper level of the fish containment area to prepare a test of the equipment controls before opening the facility.
  • Frank and Jerry work on the first control panel.
  • After the first control panel is completed, Jerry proceeds south to the second control panel and begins to work.
  • Frank remains at the first control panel talking to the Heart employees.
  • Heart employee, George, sees an obstruction on the ledge 3 feet below.
  • George walks over next to Jerry and removes a section of metal grating to go down to the lower level. The section of grating was not secured with fasteners.
  • George jumps down to the ledge (3 feet below) and replaces the grating above him, but does not correctly place the grating over the bolts.
  • While sliding the grating back into place, George says to Jerry that he didn’t want anyone to step in the opening.
  • Jerry hears George say something, but does not understand because of the high noise level.
  • After a few minutes of working on the second control panel, Jerry calls to Frank to bring him a wrench.
  • Frank walks over to hand Jerry the wrench.
  • Frank steps on the grating that George replaced and falls through to the lower level 30 feet below.
  • Frank sustains head, back, and neck injuries.
  • Frank now performs only minor office work, rather than on-site work.
  • J&J profits are less since the accident.

Other DfCS Design Examples

Example from:


Designing for Safety Pays

– Reduced workers compensation premiums
– Increased productivity
– Fewer delays due to accidents
        Allows continued focus on quality

– Proactive clients
        Starting to demand safer construction and safer designs

Example of the Need for DfCS

Design spec:

  • Dig groundwater monitoring wells at various locations. 
  • Wells located directly under overhead power lines. 
  • Worker electrocuted when his drill rig got too close to overhead power lines. 
Engineer could have:
  • specified wells be dug away from power lines; and/or better informed the contractor of hazard posed by wells’ proximity to powerlines through the plans, specifications, and bid documents