What is Safety by Design?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 January 2020
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Safety by design describes a process used to help weed potential health and safety risks out of operating procedures. The theory of safety by design insists that risks can often be minimized through proper analysis and action, and that many sources of potential safety hazards can be “designed out” through innovation. The concept of safety by design can be applied to many different types of commercial and industrial enterprises, from construction work to oil drilling.

In general, safety by design stresses the importance of removing safety hazards during the planning and design stages of a job, factory, or operation. By doing intensive research on the potential risks beforehand, companies can work to stop hazards before they begin. Understanding the inherent risks can allow a company to properly prepare before any possibility of danger occurs, such as through providing safety training to workers, ensuring that proper safety equipment is on hand, and researching alternate technologies and methods that allow certain risks to be avoided.

Most safety by design programs also help ensure that the business is meeting any union or federal safety regulations. This can be greatly beneficial to many businesses, as discovery of regulation violations can lead to fines, loss of union or government contracts, and poor public relations. Some governments help facilitate this process by providing access to regulation professionals who can be hired to work in the design or planning stages, in order to help build the system to function in accordance with regulations.


Safety by design principles can also be incorporated to projects or businesses already in operation. New technologies, stricter regulations, or a high occurrence of injuries and accidents may prompt a business to try to design out safety risks for both compliance and worker safety. Applying safety by design to an already-operating business involves the careful assessment of the current system, an analysis of potential dangers, and the creation and implementation of a plan to reduce safety risks by altering practices.

Though often used by industrial and manufacturing businesses, safety by design can be applied to nearly any type of project where safety risks exist. If a state plans to revamp its highway system, for instance, it may undergo a safety planning phase that takes accident data and uses it to create a safer, more efficient highway system. A high school track coach, noticing that his runners are experiencing a lot of ankle injuries, may reorganize training to include more strength and flexibility training. Though safety risks cannot always be totally eliminated, proper planning, data gathering, and analysis techniques can help reduce risks, thereby improving performance and avoiding compliance issues.



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