Health and safety teaching should be integrated into design projects to be most effective, rather than taught as an abstract set of rules in isolation, according to new research published into the teaching of health and safety to undergraduate students of architecture.
The Healthy design, creative safety report was produced on behalf of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by the University of Sheffield.
The report, which can be freely downloaded from the HSE and RIBA websites, identifies innovative health and safety teaching approaches and promotes the sharing of ideas and teaching materials between schools of architecture to ensure all construction industry graduates have the knowledge of health and safety issues to play their role in reducing construction deaths.
The research found:
- There is a need for schools of architecture to have a more consistent and integrated approach to the teaching of health and safety
- There is evidence of innovative and creative ways of teaching health and safety but knowledge is rarely shared between institutions, resulting in a variability of approach and delivery of the subject
- There is a misconception that health and safety training is purely concerned with applying a set of rules in practice; University teachers agree that there is an academic imperative to health and safety teaching, and that it was not just something that should be dealt with in practice
- 'Live projects' offer an effective context to learn about risk management and issues of health and safety. Students benefit from working with real clients and scenarios, and from an active engagement with the process of making
The report makes the following key recommendations:
- At undergraduate level, students need to understand the principles of health and safety thinking, rather than the details of legislation. Students need to understand that as designers they are responsible for the safety of others, both during construction and in use
- A consideration of 'buildability, maintainability and usability' at all stages of the design process is likely to be more engaging and better understood than using the term 'health and safety'
- Visits to construction sites play an important role in contextualising the students' understanding of health and safety issues. The potential exists for architecture schools to form partnerships with major contractors in order to make site visits more viable. University Estates Departments can also potentially help with this.
- Health and safety should be integrated into design projects where possible, rather than being an abstracted subject.
Daniel Jary, who led the research team from the University of Sheffield, said:
'Working on live projects, building their designs at full-size using real materials, students learn to appreciate the consequences of their design decisions and the practical difficulties involved in construction. Working in the public realm the students gain a real understanding of their responsibilities in terms of public safety.'
Philip White, HSE’s Chief Construction Inspector said:
'This report identifies that there are many positive things schools of architecture are doing to include health and safety as part of their students’ education, and this is heartening. Some very sensible approaches are being taken, and the report provides a useful framework for how this work can be developed.
'While the research looked at how the teaching of health and safety to architecture students can be developed in innovative ways, these approaches are just as relevant to the teaching of other construction professional disciplines.'