The contribution of dwelling design in accident prevention

Accidental home-based injuries are a significant health and safety concern worldwide. Each year in the EU approximately 20 million home and leisure accidents occur and more than half of these incidents arise in or around the home. Within the United States, one fifth of fatal unintentional injuries occur within the home environment. The careful design of dwellings can help minimise the risk of injury or ill-health and this has been recognised in the development of building control in a number of countries. This research examined the interaction between dwelling design and occupier behaviour in the safety of new dwellings. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with individuals recently inhabiting a new home. Participants reported unsafe behaviours which arose through their interaction with building features. These findings were presented to architects responsible for dwelling design within the UK. The architects placed responsibility for health and safety with the occupiers themselves. In terms of preventing unintentional injury through design, architects reported that they were limited in what they could do. The results from this study identify a need for a multi-disciplinary approach to home accident prevention with a need for clear communication of research findings to those in commercial practice.