Health Safety & Welfare- Where’s the Beef?


The primary tenet of interior design regulation is that we (certified Interior Designers) are qualified to protect the health safety and welfare (HS&W) of the public. We are qualified by education, training and examination to do this and the general public needs to be protected from those that are not.  It is our professional mantra.  This is the basis by which all state level legislative efforts are justified.  For instance from the Texas Association for Interior Design (that states ID legislative coalition);

“Every decision an interior designer makes in one way or another affects the health, safety and welfare of the public. Those decisions include specifying furniture, fabrics and carpeting that comply with fire codes and space planning that provides proper means of egress. Additionally, interior designers deal with accessibility issues, ergonomics, lighting, acoustics and design solutions for those with special needs.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Unfortunately the evidence, or proven legal precedent, of the public’s need for us to protect their HS&W is not as obvious as it should be.  And the wily legal minds behind the anti-regulation effort have made this fact one of their primary tactics for blocking proposed legislation and deregulating existing legislation.  Their reasoning, as stated by the IDPC goes like this;  

“In the 30 years that ASID has been pushing for regulation, not one shred of evidence has ever been presented to support their claim that the unregulated practice of interior design places the public in any form of jeopardy.   According to data compiled by the Better Business Bureau and other sources, since 1907 only 52 lawsuits have been filed against interior designers in the entire country, and most of these were concerned with contract disputes, not safety issues”                                                                                                                                                                                                               

So what we have is a classic case of somebody making claims that do not necessarily hold up under reasonable scrutiny, much like Clara Peller wondering why her burger is not as big as the bun.

So yes where is our beef? Of course we all know that it is there. We live it every day of our careers. NCIDQ has recently launched a website that tries to explain it graphically;

This is a start but I wonder if it is compelling enough to overcome the IJ/IDPC campaign to obfuscate our real skills and knowledge in this regard. Certainly it does not provide unquestionable legal evidence that the IJ/IDPC claims is lacking.  I tell my students that our obligation to design spaces that meet all applicable building, life safety and accessibility codes is as important as any aspect of the design process. Like death and taxes we cannot escape it and even if we could we, as professionals and humans, are ethically and morally obligated to create spaces that are safe, accessible to all and enhance the welfare of the occupants. But how do we prove it? How can we make every policy maker in the United States understand that the general public must be protected from unqualified interior designers that may actually put everybody’s HS&W at risk? Until that occurs the road to full practice regulation in all 50 states is going to be seemingly endless.

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