SFPE Discussions

Health and Safety By Design

CEAS has issued its guidance on Health and Safety in Design to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

One point it notes is that the HSWA imposes a positive and potentially open-ended duty on designers to ensure the safety of persons ‘so far as is reasonably practicable.’ during the full lifecycle of the product, or structure being designed and that this differs from other regulations such as the Building Act 2004 which legislates minimum standards of performance.

This creates an interesting liability conundrum in that as a designer, injury or illness of building occupants from the effects of fire or smoke are a potential risk that needs to be mitigated. Applying the Building Code might not mitigate the risk sufficiently to discharge our responsibilities in the eyes of the court. If we are recommending more onerous requirements to discharge our obligations, at what point have we expended sufficient effort to discharge our obligations to a client that only wants to meet the minimum requirements of the Building Act?

If you firm is a member of CEAS then ask someone to download the guidance so you can read it. Other links are:

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

IPENZ PN1.219 ­ Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

Code of Practice ­ Safe Design of Structures (Safe Work Australia)


Michael James

Hi Michael,

Just saw this post now, as I was about to start my own topic! We’ve recently added a section to our fire report template discussing these issues and our obligations under s39 of the Act and was looking for some more feedback/wise words from some more experienced colleagues. I’m on the committee for NZ Society of Safety Engineering (An ENZ TIG) and was looking to put together a webinar for Safety in Design for Fire Engineers. Would be keen for some more ideas/comments from other SFPE members. For example, how many of us insist on beam detectors in high ceiling spaces to reduce H&S risk during regular testing/maintenance? How many of us insist on type 5 alarm systems in residential apartments even though C/AS2 would require only type 2 + 1 for ‘permanent’ accommodation…

Hi Michael,
The “PN1.219 ­ Health and Safety at Work” link doesn’t work for me so I searched on EngNZ site but it isn’t there either.
Please would you point us again on where it is.

Ive had a HSAW section in my fire reports since before the Act came into force. Section 39 states “so far as is reasonably practicable”, which is a defined term and process in Section 22 of the HSAW Act, but should include all reasonable steps within the designers ability to control, direct and influence the construction and use of the building during its intended life. Such matters should include Owners Ongoing Obligations, Hazards During Construction, Normal Maintenance of fire safety features that are not specified systems, and of course how to maintain Specified Systems. Anything less would not be considered “all reasonable steps to reduce or eliminate risk” setout in Secton 22( c). Reasonable Practicable solutions are plagued with risk as they appear the designer is advocating for a level of compliance less than that proposed by C/AS2 or C/VM2. With regard to risk, there are more matters to be concerned about than just compliance with the Building Act 2004. A good fire report should also bring to the attention of the audience the requirements of the FENZ Act and Regulations, Education Act, HSNO Act and Regs to name only a few. Is your client expecting a report that tells them how their risk due to fire is eliminated or minimised, or are they expecting a report only to obtain building consent? Are they aware of the difference?