Safety by Design: what it is and why it matters

Written and published by the British Safety Council, India on 6 April 2020.

Despite knowing the importance of worker health and safety, most businesses in India don’t take adequate measures to address workplace safety concerns. That is, not until they are faced with a major accident that results in material losses, severe injuries, or fatalities. Or until their negligence of employee safety is pointed out in a government-mandated occupational safety audit, resulting in financial penalties. This approach of waiting for things to go wrong before solving issues is not a sustainable way for businesses to operate in the long run. In addition to its obvious ethical and legal implications, negligence of worker safety and wellbeing can lead to reputational damage and consequently even result in a competitive disadvantage.


To prevent such outcomes, it is important for businesses to take a more proactive and comprehensive approach towards worker safety. And implementing safety by design is among the best ways to achieve that.

What Safety by Design means?

Safety by design -- also known as prevention through design (PtD) -- is the concept of making work processes and systems inherently safe by preemptively eliminating risks and hazards from them. It is a preventive approach towards safety that entails identifying potential risks involved in an existing or proposed work system and eliminating these risks by making necessary changes. These changes can be associated with equipment, structures, tools, as well as work methods. The resulting work system, be it a factory or a front office, is free of all recognized health and safety risks, thereby minimizing the likelihood of harm to human health and life.


Put simply, safety by design follows the popular axiom, "Get it right the first time". Businesses have conventionally adhered to this phrase from a quality and performance perspective. Most business leaders’ attention and resources have always been directed towards increasing the efficiency of their processes and quality of their offerings. All the processes are designed to maximize those attributes while deprioritizing things like health and safety. Safety by design, for a change, extends the application of the aforementioned principle to safety. It makes safety a part of the guiding criteria along with effectiveness and efficiency in work system design.

Why organizations should adopt Safety by Design

As mentioned above, the way most organizations deal with employee safety makes them susceptible to hazardous incidents that can lead to potentially irreparable losses. By incorporating safety into the system design process, employers can make safety an automatic part of their process, offering them numerous benefits. By incorporating safety by design in their work processes, businesses can:

  • keep all employees healthy and safe by minimizing work-related illnesses and injuries,
  • avoid excessive expenditure on safety training and personal protective equipment,
  • ensure business continuity to minimize operational disruptions and maximize overall productivity,
  • avoid costs of lawsuits, repair work, and medical care that result from workplace accidents,
  • maintain compliance with safety laws and regulations without investing time and effort in checking for compliance, and
  • minimize the risk of heavy penalization by always being prepared for occupational safety audits by regulators.

How Safety by Design is implemented

Safety by design as a process does not have a fixed and standardized set of steps, and can change from organization to organization. The general prevention through design process follows involves a thorough occupational risk audit and assessment that involves the following tasks:

  • analyzing the entire work system and breaking it down into components or subsystems
  • assessing the need for and significance of each of these subsystems
  • listing the people involved in these processes and their role in the processes, including the tasks and actions they are required to perform as well as the equipment and tools they use
  • identifying the potential risks associated with these tasks and tools,
  • assessing each of these risks and assigning them ratings for severity and probability of occurrence
  • devising measures to eliminate these risks. If elimination is not possible, then measures for controlling these risks as well as responding to them are created.
  • Implementing these controls and measures, performing periodic occupational health and safety audits, and assessing the effectiveness of safety controls to plan further improvements.


Ideally, this process should be repeated whenever any changes to the system are proposed so that safety is never compromised through iterations of process improvement. These tasks can be performed by your in-house safety team. However, to make your safety by design initiative truly effective, it is best to enlist the services of qualified safety professionals to carry out occupational safety audits and suggest improvements in work systems.

How occupational safety audits by safety experts can help

Safety organizations like the British Safety Council perform occupational safety audits through teams of certified and experienced safety professionals. These professionals are certified by the internationally recognized safety bodies like the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and National Examination Board for Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH), which equips them with the best practices in performing health and safety audits. Moreover, a safety audit by British Safety Council also allows organizations to benefit from our decades worth of experience providing safety audit services in India as well as numerous other countries. Having worked with hundreds of businesses from different industries and of different sizes, we possess an extensive body of knowledge in the form of case studies, observations, as well as tried-and-tested safety solutions that have helped numerous organizations make their operations safe by design.


If you are looking to get started with your Safety by Design journey, you can request a callback from us at British Safety Council right away. Our hands-on safety guidance, detailed safety deep dives, and comprehensive safety solutions will ensure that you transition to a safer and more healthful way of operating as quickly, conveniently, and effectively as possible.

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