Last edited 25 Jul 2019

Design risk management (DRM)

Design risk management is another name for health and safety risk management in design. Both involve management systems, processes and procedures that ensure all appropriate health and safety issues are identified and tackled during the design process, even if design continues through the construction phase. It is not a separate process and should be part of a holistic approach to design.

On construction projects, managing design risk is about eliminating, reducing and effectively managing health and safety risks. In making structures safer for those working on them or affected by them, achieving these goals will have positive impacts on the project in terms of costs, project delivery and quality.

Project delivery will be more harmonious when Design Risk Management (DRM) is enshrined in the design process right from the outset. DRM involves ensuring that the intended construction work does not involve any hazards or hazardous activities or allied risks, whether these are associated with the building, its use, cleaning or maintenance.

One of the first steps therefore is to identify any such potential risks associated with any aspect of the project, whether that is to do with the site, the intended structure and/or any existing structures on which work will be required. Once potential risks have been identified, designers must amend, revise or change their designs to either eliminate or minimise the identified risks, ensuring that any such design changes do not themselves result in new hazards.

DRM involves providing information for three key activities:

The CDM regulations distinguish between two types of construction projects:

Clients must be aware of their duties and their implications under the CDM regulations and it is the duty of designers to ensure they are aware; design work on a construction project should not begin until the designer is satisfied that this is the case. Furthermore, unless a CDM co-ordinator has been appointed, no design work (other than initial concept work) should take place.

In addition, design work cannot begin if the project is notifiable and the CDM co-ordinator has not been appointed. The APS advises designers ‘not to take on an appointment if the client refuses to accept or comply with their duties’.

Competent and professional DRM ensures that the following aspects are fully considered:

Ensuring the points are in place can help minimise any adverse health and safety impacts affecting those working, using or in the vicinity of the building or structure.

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