Consult, Collaborate and Co-ordinate… Was Vanilla Ice a WHS prodigy?


For Designers, a key element of ensuring you discharge your WHS obligations as beautifully as you pulled that building/ widget/ process/ walkway or public space together, is implementing a Safety in Design process that works for you. Though some tend to think of WHS and design as a sometimes difficult marriage between your ideas and someone else’s list of do’s and dont’s (expression and restriction), your safe design obligations now go well beyond ticking off a list of boxes and pronouncing your schematic nuptials safe.

 You don’t know what you don’t know

No matter the size of your practice or the relative risk level of what you’re creating, the basic nature of you assessing against a list or your own imaginings of what could conceivably go wrong are no longer a sufficient basis on which to demonstrate management of safety risks. Any “how could I know” (and therefore be responsible for the myriad possible outcomes) argument has been irreversibly stripped of its powers of protection in a regulatory environment that acknowledges a fundamental truth – ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.   You’re not expected to predict or know everything, but you are expected to demonstrate you’ve consulted, collaborated and co-ordinated with others who may know, across a range of skill sets, experience and disciplines. For example, you’ve designed plenty of small shopping centres… but did you ever physically demolish one? Little hard to design out end of life hazards when the only demolishing you’re experienced with involves a dessert.

So where does Vanilla Ice come into this?

Remember when he asked us to “Stop, collaborate and listen” …? I, for one, didn’t know that I didn’t know Vanilla was a sage and predicted the outcome of  a recent court case , which became the first significant test for the new WHS Act in an Australian Court. The case highlights an example of the model WHS Act’s obligation for organisations to ‘consult , collaborate and co-ordinate’ in order to reasonably predict and manage safety risks.  It also shows regulators are willing to pursue organisations that don’t do this effectively.

So –  how do you do this effectively?

One of the biggest challenges for any designer is working out when, how, and to what extend you need to ‘consult , collaborate and co-ordinate‘ with others. In our experience, the key move in weaving Safe Design into the very fabric of your design process is to talk to the right people early, as it’s one of the most critical steps in identifying and eliminating safety hazards in the design process. How you do this has no cookie cutter answer – each practice or organisation needs to tailor a Safe Design system to its particular situation and output requirements. Similarly, the extent to which you need to go to ensure you can demonstrate you’ve followed a Safe Design process in the course of your work is unique to your industry, its hazard potentialities and your organisations exposure.

Find out what you need to know

To what extent does a Designer need to make like a 90’s rapper and consult , collaborate and co-ordinate’ ? While avoiding the Courts big stick is desirable, the well established fact that good planning = cost savings should be at the forefront in a Designer’s mind.  Be it practitioners in Australia or New Zealand or international organisations our experienced team can advise and assist. Get in contact with us to flesh out how to know what you need to know!