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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Promoting health and safety on construction sites

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In the wake of a recent construction site tragedy in George where a building collapse resulted in injuries and loss of life, the imperative of prioritising health and safety protocols on construction sites has come sharply into focus.

Such incidents underscore the paramount importance of adhering to rigorous health and safety procedures to safeguard workers, mitigate risks, and ensure the wellbeing of all involved, says Seipati Leboko Head of the Occupational Health, Safety and Environment (OHSE) Division at Afroteq Advisory.

Leboko stresses that health and safety procedures are not merely a checklist; they are a commitment to providing a safe and healthy workplace environment. They form the foundation of a culture of care and wellbeing that protects workers and enhances productivity.

“Prioritising health and safety through implementing rigorous procedures flow out of the commitment made by the employer to look after their workers’ wellbeing in the form of the OHS Policy.

This plan is indicative of how the company’s commitment will become a way of life, part of the corporate culture and is adhered to on the construction site.

Implementing and following through on these procedures shows employees and construction workers the way and guides them on how to support the commitment made and what to do to reach the goal of a safe, risk-free environment that not only safeguards workers and employees, but promotes their wellbeing and improves productivity in the workplace,” she says.

Some of the key protocols that construction workers (and other people on site) need to follow to prevent injuries include following safe work procedures and practices for tasks like lifting heavy objects and working at heights, conducting regular safety inspections, and adhering to emergency response procedures.

Although it is often referred to as a “last resort”, wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as helmets, gloves and safety harnesses is essential.

In addition, warning notices and barricading of  overhead work and deep excavations will assist in creating awareness and mitigate the potential for workers and visitors alike to be exposed to serious harm or injury.

“Crucially, as construction is deadline driven, all those involved in the development and construction process need to ensure that the correct timeframes are adhered to, while ensuring no undue pressure is placed on getting the job done, which could result in corners being cut, risking tragedies as witnessed recently in George,” Leboko warns.

Leboko also highlights the necessity of comprehensive training to educate workers. “Proper training is essential as it educates workers about safety protocols, equipment usage, hazard recognition and emergency procedures.

It empowers workers to take ownership of their safety and that of their colleagues by identifying and reporting concerns, and following established safety guidelines.

Skilled and experienced workers create a safer environment taking care not only of themselves, but also their co-workers.

Training increases accuracy of incident data and reports, places greater focus on mitigating risk exposure and ensures a heightened sense of responsibility of all in their respective tasks on construction sites or within workplaces.

Effective supervision and oversight play a crucial role in ensuring consistent adherence to safety standards.

Regular safety meetings, site inspections, and safety audits help identify and address potential hazards promptly, reinforcing a culture of safety and accountability among all stakeholders.

While cost, quality, and time are significant considerations in construction projects, health and safety should never be compromised.

Balancing these factors with a steadfast commitment to health and safety measures is key to achieving successful and sustainable construction projects.

Companies cannot undervalue the importance of excellent health and safety management carried out by committed individuals and supporters of workplace health and safety.

Enforcing, monitoring, and adhering to the provisions of Sections 8 and 9 of the Act has the advantage of guaranteeing that workers possess the requisite training and background to safely carry out their daily responsibilities and are more informed, driven, and ideally enthusiastic about occupational health and safety in the workplace.

“One of the most effective strategies to ensure compliance and ownership will be to implement Planned Task Observations (PTOs) or Job Safety Analysis (JSAs) on a regular basis.

This will highlight activities with potential non-compliance or inherent risks timeously,  and prevent them from becoming habitual or leading to injury.

By prioritising health and safety from the initial phases of a project and involving stakeholders at every step, we can minimise incidents and strive for zero harm.

Together, we can create a culture where the wellbeing  of workers is paramount, and construction projects thrive in an environment of safety and accountability,” Leboko concludes.

*Seipati Leboko is Head of the Occupational Health, Safety and Environment (OHSE) Division at Afroteq Advisory

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