Nic Rigby, the HSE construction inspector who led the initiative, said that it indicated how far many designers were from the standard required by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations.
He said: "HSE inspectors found that where design risk assessments had been prepared, many were of poor quality and added little if anything to the safety of the construction process."
He added that inspectors reported that designers often showed no interest in reducing the risk of falls, on the assumption that this was a matter for the main contractor. Rigby said that many designers viewed the safety harness as a cure-all, and gave no thought to the possibility of eliminating the need for work at height.
Construction inspectors in Scotland and the north of England met 131 designers and planning supervisors on site in the course of compiling the report.
HSE chief construction inspector Kevin Myers said that it was of serious concern that designers were failing to fulfil their responsibilities.