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USVA 2010-2011

USVA - Roles and liabilities of external designers for the safety of process plants


This page presents the result of a research project in 2010 – 2011 called Roles and liabilities of external designers for the safety of process plants.

In Finland, most of the obligations of EU’s “OSH Framework Directive” can be found in the current Occupational Safety and Health Act (738/2002). According to this Act employers are required to manage the safety and health of their employees while at work by taking the necessary measures. However, according to the Act, the responsibility for safety and health of the employees does not entirely lie with the employer. Chapter 7 entitled “Obligations of other persons who affect safety and health at work” imposes obligations on, amongst others, product manufacturers and suppliers, installers of machinery, work equipment or other devices, and on external designers. Section 57 of the Act reads:

“Anyone who by commission provides a design concerning a structure in the working environment, working premises, a working or production method, machinery, work equipment or other device shall ensure that the provisions of this Act have been taken into consideration in the design of the item in question according to its intended use as stated by the designer.”

When it comes to safety problems associated with substandard design at Finnish industrial plants, one needs to distinguish between two types of liabilities. On the one hand the engineering firm will have to rectify any breeches to the design contract, and on the other individual engineers may be charged for an occupational safety crime.

The Guidebook (in Finnish) developed during the project discusses the obligations and various roles of the so called “external designers” taking part in designing Finnish process plants. Also the role of the companies hiring external designers is covered.

The Guidebook initially explains in general terms the designers’ role regarding safety at a process plant and gives an insight into process safety principles, i.e. inherently safer design principles, passive and active safety measures, and operational safety options.

Secondly, key points in the Finnish legislation are covered and explained from an external engineering company’s and individual designer’s viewpoint. The relevance of some non-technical standards is also discussed.

Thirdly, domestic and international databases including accident reports are briefly introduced.

The next two sections of the Guidebook cover issues to be borne in mind at the stages before the design starts and during the design stage itself. Safety-related risk assessments have been given a section of their own as has safety-related information in the deliverables of a design project.