Heading for a safety incident? Look out for the Warning Signs

There are a number of hazards associated with construction work and those responsible for a site’s safety need to ensure none of these hazards slip through the cracks. It is easy to become overwhelmed with safety when you consider the sheer quantity of hazards presented by work on a construction site but a systematic and consistent approach to safety issues can mean the difference between a safe site and an unsafe one.

Site safety is everyone’s responsibility, not only employers. By looking out for certain warning signs, employers and employees can avoid an incident before it occurs.

The first thing that usually signals a decline in safety standards is a drop in productivity. Unfortunately many employers incorrectly assume that safety comes at the cost of productivity but this could not be further from the truth. Safety in actual fact enhances productivity, when productivity drops – it may indicate a need for a review of safety standards as well as attention to productivity. This is usually because whenworkers begin to get injured, ill and stressed they will spend more time off work, it will become harder to meet deadlines and eventually productivity will be negatively affected on the site. Ultimately a drop in productivity on a site will result in a financial loss.So it is in everyone’s best interest to address this issue.

Another indication that you need to review your safety is when workers start showing or talking about dissatisfaction with their job. This is often due to them having to risk their health and safety for an employer who clearly does not care about their wellbeing as much as they should. Workers in this situation will most likely become unproductive or less productive and the entire site will suffer and the construction project will suffer.

Also workers will probably seek work elsewhere and the company will suffer from a high attrition rate. High attrition rates are costly because it means replacing, training and supervising new workers.

You start receiving fines and notices. If your business is constantly being issued fines because of safety breaches there is definitely something wrong, even one fine is too many. You need to review your safety procedures and perhaps retrain employees on site specific safety. Also be proactive, do not wait for an incident to occur before correcting work processes.

In my opinion the best way to look out for safety issues is not difficult and doesn’t take reading between the lines, the best and most straight forward way is… to listen to workers.

Employers must communicate effectively about safety to their workers as this will foster a culture of safety on site. Whenever these requirements are neglected or ignored, you will notice safety standards begin to drop and incidents begin to occur, usually starting small and culminating in an incident either resulting in serious injury or a fatality.

Employers need to develop a 2 way communication system, that means not only instructing workers on safety matters but listening to their opinions as well and taking what they say into consideration.


Bridge Collapses Injuring Worker

Another safety incident has occurred on the construction site of a bridge. A worker suffered serious injuries after falling after the bridge collapsed.This incident demonstrates the need to guard against structural collapse in construction work.  In addition to bad weather, ensuring the structural integrity of walls and buildings is crucial. This is because of the damage to property a collapse can have as well as slowing down production in addition to injuring or even killing workers on site.

This highlights the incident on Abc.net.au:

The WorkCover Authority is investigating after a worker fell from a bridge on a section of the Hunter Expressway project.

Emergency crews were called to the Wallis Creek Bridge at Buchannan, near Kurri Kurri just after 4:00pm (AEDT), with initial reports a bridge had collapsed.

A 40-year-old man was flown to Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital in a serious condition with chest and abdominal injuries.

WorkCover says it was notified of the fall and an inspector will be sent to the site today.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-13/workcover-investigates-expressway-accident/4368380

One of the ways principal contractors can manage the risk is by checking the stability of structures at each stage of the construction. They could also install lateral supports which can help the wall or building remain sturdy during construction.

Bridges in particular are susceptible to collapse due to their structure and the fact that they are exposed to vibrations with traffic etc. which can affect even the slightest vulnerable point to cause a structural collapse.

Before constructing buildings, bridges or any structures a strategic erection plan must be coordinated, one which incorporates the construction sequence, rate of building erection and support required for the wall or building. There may be a need for lateral or temporary supports which should be included in the structural drawings of the building.

Also where bridges or other structures are being erected, exclusion zones should be established to exclude unauthorised personnel from a potential collapse. Only workers who are authorised and necessary should operate within these exclusion zones. Passers-by should be protected from injury at all times.

Workers should be consulted when developing a safe work statement for the site and these documents should be available to workers to reference at all times.

Because the building of bridges and structural work is so dangerous, employers should ensure that a qualified and suitably experienced person is available to supervise the work and ensure it is being safely carried out.

It is important to engage a qualified and competent engineer to provide specifications to ensure that the structure is stable and construction workers should stick to this precisely, at the end of each day and at the beginning of every new phase of construction.

Workers should also watch weather reports so they can be aware of strong winds and provide extra support for the structure if necessary. Adverse weather conditions can be inconvenient and even dangerous for workers that is why they need to be prepared for it. Putting safety first is crucial to preventing injuries and deaths from structural collapse.