Although it is still a requirement for a person to avoid hazards, it is no longer acceptable as the only form of risk control. Current Occupational Health and Safety legislation requires people who carry out activities involving heritage buildings to actively manage health and safety risks from the design stage throughout the life cycle of the building to the end user.
In general, building codes and regulations are for the construction of new buildings and structures, they are also applied to existing buildings when they are subject to significant renovation or a change in use.
Building codes and regulations mainly focus on safety and health in the areas of fire, structural failure, indoor air quality and hygiene, and not necessarily within the traditional realms of Occupational Health and Safety. Building regulations play an important role in protecting the community from catastrophic losses with requirements to mitigate losses resulting from fire, structural collapse and natural hazards. They also address issues associated to the protection of human rights such as access to buildings for persons with physical disabilities. The eight-storey commercial building that collapsed in Bangladesh on April 24 highlights the importance of Building codes and regulations. These, however, do not necessarily aim at mitigating losses or harm from end user hazards (occupational), but direct the majority of their intent at the mitigation of a major hazard (the one-off catastrophic).
Clients, developers, building owners, occupiers, design professionals such as architects, engineers, industrial designers, health and safety professionals, construction workers and users all have a role in the identification and control of the existing latent hazards. A safe work environment and effective safety outcomes do not happen by chance or by guesswork planning but through the effective coordination of all the relevant stakeholders.
Each stakeholder must ensure they are aware which of their activities are likely to harm people. It is important to understand what could go wrong, what the consequences could be and to inform those that could be impacted.
Risks associated with heritage buildings should be identified and addressed following a systematic process including:
- Identifying hazards – what could cause harm?
- Assessing risks – how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening?
- Controlling risks – implement an effective control measure that is reasonably practicable
- Reviewing control measures to ensure they are working as planned.
Areas that pose high risk to all users include:
- Exiting base building electrical wiring
- Walk ways and stair cases
- Indoor air quality
- Use of hazardous material (asbestos, PCBs, Lead Paint etc)
- Manual handling and ergonomics
- Structural failure
There will be no one solution to a problem. Different buildings will have varying levels and items of heritage significance and exist within different settings and environments, and there may well be a range of possible solutions. Each case will need to be assessed on its own merits and the most practicable set of solutions found.
Very little attention is given to this issue in the literature readily available regarding refurbishment of buildings of heritage significance. A multitude of publications and guidelines in preserving heritage buildings, or modifications in this area which address environmental sustainability and access for people with disabilities, however scant consideration to Occupational Health and Safety is generally offered.
Functional Risk Solutions