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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:
- Information that allows other design team members (including the contractor) to design and prepare;
- Information to facilitate health and safety throughout the project’s duration, and
- Information that allows risk management to be accounted for in tenders and pricing.
- Notifiable projects: these must be notified to the HSE if their duration is 30 days or more of construction work, or 500 normal working days. Such projects will normally have a CDM co-ordinator – usually the lead designer – to advise the client and make them aware of their duties, explain management arrangements and other important H&S advice.
- Non notifiable projects: those projects that fall below the above-mentioned limits. There is no CDM-coordinator as such on this type of project, advising the client may fall to the designer – further adding to their workload – or it may be somebody else, perhaps less capable of fulfilling the advisory role. If it is the designer, they may be expected to advise the client of their duties, something that will be reflected in the designer’s fees.
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:
- The right competences are in place for the design work;
- The structure can be safely maintained;
- Questions concerning cleaning, access, alterations, refurbishments, removal and demolition are answerable;
- Those undertaking the above works are competent, and
- The information is available to allow all the above to do their jobs safely and efficiently.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Access to construction sites.
- As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP).
- Construction management statement.
- Conflict avoidance.
- Construction health risks.
- Construction phase plan.
- Deleterious materials.
- Engineers and hurricanes.
- Health and safety.
- How to write a method statement.
- Interface risk in construction.
- Manual handling assessment chart.
- Method statements.
- Near miss.
- Permit to work.
- Pre-construction information.
- Principal contractor.
- Principal designer.
- Principles of prevention.
- Project risk.
- Risk assessment for construction.
- Risk assessments and method statements.
- Risk management.
- Safety audit.
- Temporary works.
- What is a hazard?
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