Construction is noisy, dusty, hazardous and sometimes the most uninhabitable work place one can ever be exposed to. It is also an industry that contributes persistently to high accident rates; especially fatalities. Everything that is taboo in the safety practitioner’s book can be found in the construction site. For example, employees are easily exposed to hazardous substances such as paints, thinners, glues, varnishes, asbestos, and also to toxic agents mainly from underground work. Sites can easily accumulate debris which can be a fire hazard or a health hazard.
Drilling and excavation work can cause accidental fires or even explosion. Working at height can result in debris falling on workers or even workers falling from heights. Fire, noise and dust are common constituents in construction sites, can be an inconvenience or danger to the neighborhood, especially in built-up areas. The issue of hygiene may also be a problem especially in the demolition of old buildings which may have been a haven for drug addicts. The problems in the construction sector is not limited to the above mentioned areas can range from an unreported little bruise, to the collapse of the Highland Towers.
Even the smallest construction site has the potential to cause a catastrophe. The construction site indeed versatile and accident are increasing both in absolute terms and by percentage. Take for example the statistic on permanent disablement cases in the construction sector, which has risen from 190 in 1991 to 305 in 1993. The appalling safety record is a clear indication that things are not right, and something has to be done about the construction site. Occupational safety and health is becoming a critical area in management as Malaysia accelerated the pace of its industrial programme.
This is evident with the legislation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994. The ministry of Human Resources reported that in 1993, alone there were 128, 621 occupational accidents 728 deaths. The loss to the country in skilled human resources and in economic term is equally staggering; approximately RM 4 billion annually in terms of lost production profit, taxes, wages welfare and related items. The basic components of safety management are: * Policy * Organizing * Planning and Implementation * Evaluation
* Action for Improvement When a new employee starts with an organisation, it is important that they are aware of the occupational health and safety policies and procedures so that they are able to complete their job requirements safely. Areas to be considered: * Briefing all new employees on occupational health and safety policy at induction * Providing a training session to new employees on all safety procedures, including evacuation and other emergency procedures * Making reasonable adjustments if required, e. g.
providing clear markings and colour contrasts on steps or pathways, building a ramp to allow access to a building and providing a parking space close to the place of employment for an employee in a wheelchair. Safe working practices should also be reviewed and emphasised with all employees on a regular and ongoing basis. To ensure that everyone knows the correct health and safety procedures, and that all employees, including new employees, have access to information about safety procedures, you should: * Ensure that employees have access
to information in appropriate formats, for example, screen reading software, enlarged font and audio. * Provide regular information updates and re-training sessions * Provide access to information about safety procedures * Conduct relevant training on any new equipment or machinery. The leading safety hazards on site are falls from height, motor vehicle crashes, excavation accidents, electrocution, machines, and being struck by falling objects. Some of the main health hazards on site are asbestos, solvents, noise, and manual handling activities.
Falls from heights is the leading cause of injury in the construction industry. Fall protection is needed in areas and activities that include, but are not limited to: ramps, runways, and other walkways; excavations; hoist areas; holes; formwork; leading edge work; unprotected sides and edges; overhand bricklaying and related work; roofing; precast erection; wall openings; residential construction; and other walking/working surfaces. The height limit where fall protection is required is not defined. It is any height that may result in injury from a fall.
Protection is also required when the employee is at risk to falling onto dangerous equipment. Fall protection can be provided by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, positioning device systems, and warning line systems. All employees should be trained to understand the proper way to use these systems and to identify hazards. The employee or employer will be responsible for providing fall protection systems and to ensure the use of these systems. Hazard Anticipation and Detection There are few ways to anticipate and detect hazards: Conduct a baseline hazard survey.
A baseline survey is a thorough evaluation of your entire workplace — including work processes, equipment, and facilities — that identifies safety or health hazards. A complete survey will tell you what the hazards are, where they are, and how severe they could be. Have an experienced safety professional survey your workplace with you. Perform regular workplace inspections. Regular workplace inspections tell you whether you’ve eliminated or controlled existing hazards and help you identify new hazards. Quarterly inspections by employees trained in hazard recognition are a good way to get the job done.
Do a job-hazard analysis. A job-hazard analysis (JHA) is a method of identifying, assessing, and controlling hazards associated with specific jobs. A JHA breaks a job down into tasks. You evaluate each task to determine if there is a better, safer way to do it. A job-hazard analysis works well for jobs with difficult-to-control hazards and jobs with histories of accidents or near misses. JHAs for complex jobs can take a considerable amount of time and expertise to develop. You may want to have a safety professional help you. Use material safety data sheets to identify chemical hazards.
Your employees must be able to understand and use material safety data sheets (MSDS). An MSDS has detailed information about a hazardous chemical’s health effects, its physical and chemical characteristics, and safe practices for handling. You must prepare an inventory list of your hazardous chemicals and have a current MSDS for each hazardous chemical used at your workplace. If your employees handle hazardous chemicals or chemical products, you’ll also need to develop a written hazard-communication plan that identifies the chemicals and describes how your employees are informed about chemical hazards.
5 Look for new hazards whenever you change equipment, materials, or work processes. Determine what hazards could result from the changes and how to control them. If your business works at multiple sites — construction contracting, for example — you may need to do a hazard assessment at each site. Investigate accidents to determine root causes. Most accidents are preventable. Each one has a cause — poor supervision, inadequate training, and lax safety policies are examples. When you eliminate the cause, you can prevent another accident.
Develop a procedure that determines who will do the investigation and ensures the investigation will be thorough and accurate. Investigate incidents to determine root causes. An incident is a miss or a “close call. ” One way to investigate near misses is to have a “no-fault” incident reporting system: Employees just fill out a simple incident-report form that describes the incident and how it happened. Investigate the incident as if it were an accident and tell your employees what you will do to prevent it from happening again. Hazard prevention and control The best way to control a hazard is to eliminate it.
If you can’t eliminate it, control it so that it won’t do any harm. The best controls also protect the worker by reducing the risk of human error, such as interlocks on guards and other “fail-safe” mechanisms. Other ways to prevent and control hazards: * Ensure that your employees know when and how to use personal protective equipment (PPE). Personal protective equipment is another way to minimize exposure to a hazard, but it’s only a barrier between the hazard and the user. If PPE fails, your employee risks exposure. Before you purchase PPE, know the specific hazards it protects against and be sure that it fits the user.
When you’re unsure, ask someone who’s familiar with the type of equipment you need — especially when you’re selecting chemical protective clothing or respirators. Always train employees how to wear, use, and maintain their equipment before they use it for the first time. * Maintain equipment on schedule. Preventive maintenance keeps equipment running properly, reduces downtime, and prevents accidents. Maintenance logs that show when the work was done, what was done, and the next scheduled maintenance date are a good idea. And always follow the equipment manufacturers’ maintenance requirements.
• Practice good housekeeping. Keep passageways, storerooms, and work areas clean and sanitary. Keep electrical cords away from areas where people could trip over them. Keep floors clean and dry. Use drains, false floors, platforms, or mats in wet areas. Keep floors and passageways free from protruding nails, electrical cords, splinters, holes, or loose boards. • Enforce workplace safety rules. These include any Oregon OSHA rules that apply to your workplace as well as your own rules. Document them, ensure that employees understand them, and enforce them. • Plan for emergencies.
A well-rehearsed emergency plan can protect people, equipment, and property. You should have well-stocked first-aid kits and a procedure for summoning ambulance or paramedic services. • Document how you control hazards. Keep records that show what you’ve done to eliminate or control hazards. Identify the hazard, describe what you did to correct it, and record the date it was corrected. Planning and evaluation Planning and evaluation give your safety program a long-term focus. Are you achieving your goals? If not, what are the reasons? Were your accident investigations effective?
Did the reports identify causes and recommend how to control or eliminate them? At least once each year, evaluate your safety effort. Use the results of your evaluation to set new goals. Describe what needs to be done to accomplish each goal, determine who’s responsible for accomplishing it, and set a date for achieving it. Other important planning activities include: * A workplace injury-and-illness analysis. * A comprehensive review of your written safety procedures for equipment. * A comprehensive review of your required programs (such as lockout/tagout and hazard communication).
Administration and supervision Administration and supervision are fancy terms for accountability. An effective safety program holds all employees accountable for doing their jobs safely. Ways to strengthen accountability: * Write a disciplinary policy that expresses clear safety expectations for all employees. * Make supervisors accountable for enforcing workplace safety rules and safe practices among those they supervise. * Include your employees’ workplace safety responsibilities in their job descriptions and performance evaluations. * Acknowledge your employees’ contributions to the safety effort.
Safety and health training Your employees need to know their safety responsibilities, what hazards they could be exposed to, and how to control their exposures. New-employee orientations, emergency drills, classroom sessions, and hands-on practice are good ways they can to learn. And don’t forget managers and supervisors. * All employees must know the Oregon OSHA requirements that apply to their jobs. They must be trained to do their jobs safely before they begin, retrained whenever there are changes that create new workplace hazards, and trained periodically to maintain their skills.
* New employees should have orientation training that covers your business’ safety policy, workplace safety rules, hazards, and procedures for responding to emergencies. * Supervisors must know the hazards, hazard-control methods, applicable Oregon OSHA rules, and emergency procedures associated with their jobs. * Managers must understand the importance of leadership in maintaining a safe workplace, the applicable Oregon OSHA rules, and how to comply with them. Employee participation You won’t have a strong safety program without employee participation.
Your employees operate the equipment, use the tools, and do the tasks that expose them to hazards so they need to be involved in the effort to keep your workplace safe. Make sure your employees have a way to report hazards and respond promptly to their concerns. They can also participate by: • Suggesting safety policies, safety-training topics, and ways to allocate safety resources. • Suggesting ways to prevent and control hazards. • Showing coworkers how to work safely. • Helping to evaluate your safety and health program. How to conduct an accident investigation
1. Establish an investigation team: Include employees who have been trained to conduct an effective investigation. A typical team might include: * An employee from the work area where the accident occurred * A supervisor from a work area not involved in the accident * A maintenance supervisor or an employee who understands equipment or processes associated with the accident. * The safety supervisor * A safety committee representative 2. Gather information: Record the facts about the accident. Interview witnesses and others involved. 3.
Analyze the facts: Identify the accident’s causes and contributing factors. Determine how the accident could have been prevented. 4. Report the findings: Prepare a written report that describes who was involved, where the accident occurred, when it happened, and what caused it. Recommend, specifically, how to prevent the accident from happening again. 5. Act on the recommendations: Have management review the report and determine what will be done to prevent the accident. 6. Follow up: Ensure that appropriate corrective action was taken to prevent the accident.
In the construction industry, the safety management system must take into consideration the following issues placing greater emphasis on the human element. Identifying and involving key members: It is vital for all activities in the construction site to be properly coordinated. For example, the job of erecting the scaffolding and sand blasting, or hot work and chemical cleaning must not be carried out at the same time. This would mean that someone is assigned and made responsible for coordinating and conducting the work systematically. The first step here is, identifying who these key people are and then giving them responsibility.
The responsible staff should be aware that they are accountable for their actions and omissions. Effective communication: The key to success in the construction industry is team work, with an in-built mechanism for communication from everyone the construction site. In the structure of the organizational hierarchy, the channel of communication should flow freely from top to bottom, vice-versa and laterally. The channel of communication should not stop with the managers, but it must reach even the shop-floor level workers and the labourers.
For example, employees who carry out works must be informed about the dangers such as the presence of asbestos, explosives, underground sewage, etc. Managing contractors: Management of the contractor should occur when the organization enters into a contract with an external management organization (sub-contractor), which from then on operates as the project’s of the project being undertaken by the works of the work that is being contracted out. Identifying and quantifying hazards: There are numerous hazards in the construction site which cannot be avoided unless they are identified.
Therefore a systematic survey of task must be conducted. A. IDENTIFYING AND INVOLVING KEY MEMBERS Recently the United Kingdom enacted a comprehensive piece of document called “ The Construction (Design and Management ) Regulation” or in short CDM Reg, which came into force on March 31, 1995 ( Williams, 1995 ). This Regulation provides a concrete framework for the whole construction industry in Europe and it rightfully identifies and places special duties on few key personnel. Similarly, in the Malaysian context, it is important to identify and assign duties to the following key people. The Client or the Developer
The starting point for the construction projects is the client, who may include property developers, government agencies or industrial companies. As they are financing the construction project, they have the discretion to exercise considerable control over the projects from inception to completion. They should be responsible for: * Appointing competent personnel to ensure that the project is completed according to the plan, cost, time and quality; * Ensuring that there are sufficient resources, including adequate time for completion; * Drafting a safety Plan with stipulated dates, so that safety issues are systematically carried out.
A safety Plan is putting down in writing the various items and procedures to be undertaken; * Communicating information to the relevant authorities about foreseeable risks. For example, if the client is aware that pipes and electrical cables are running through the site, information must be communicated to the Planning Supervisor; * Ensuring that a safety file is prepared and easily available for future construction work. This will prevent the client from “ reinventing the wheel” ,or redoing the various procedures in future. Planing Supervisor
As identified earlier, communication and co-ordination are vital issues in the construction industry. The appointment of the planing Supervisor is mainly to assign a person with the overall responsibility of co-ordinating and communicating safety and health issues. The responsibilities include: * preparing and monitoring the Safety and Health Plan, taking into consideration the stipulated dates; * advising the client on the satisfactory allocation of resources; * preparing and monitoring the safety and health file. Designer The function of the designer is to sure that proper consideration is given to
safety and health of the project from conception. His responsibilities include: * Introducing methods for eliminating or reducing risks. Priority should be given to incorporate control measures at the source of the problem because it will protect every subsequent employee. For example, access/egress and lighting should be constructed at the design stage and not as an afterthought; * Conveying messages mainly on hazards in the workplace to relevant people at an early stage instead of the employees to find it out for themselves the hard way.
Where risk cannot be avoided, information on the risk must be provided to the Planning Supervisor for inclusion in the Safety and Health Plan. Principal Contractor Basically the principal Contractor and other contractors must ensure that the theme of co-ordination on safety and health is carried out. The main requirements are: * Ensuring that only authorized persons gain access to the site; * Providing information, training and supervision to employees and self-Department of Occupational Safety and Health; * Carrying out the Safety Plan prepared by the Planning Supervisor.
Without enacting laws and enforcing it, employing the above key personnel may not be practical in Malaysia. However, its should be bone in mind that it is sufficient to assign the mentioned responsibilities to key personnel because without it no one will take the initiative or be accountable for occupational safety and health. B. EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION In the context of today’s work relationship, there is overwhelming evidence that one-way communication is factory. Management needs to initiate and maintain a dialogue and not a monologue with people involves information coming into the organization. Looking at each one separately.
In-coming: In any organization, there should be arrangements to keep abreast of the information that is relevant to the industry. The government’s recent proficiency test proposal for engineers, surveyors, architects, is aimed to achieve a high level of efficiency, productivity, quality and safety. The construction industry must keep abreast with the legal developments and technical improvements because it cannot afford to develop through a trial and error method. Out-going: Procedures to inform the authorities on issues such as reporting accidents to DOSH, providing information to the press, emergency service, local resides etc.
Within the organization: This is very important and is mainly divided into two main areas: a) Visible communication; b) Written communication. Visible communication include: * Behavior of managers and supervisors. Management must be seen to be committed and interested in safety because the attitude of the workers is always the supervisors. For example, if managers do not wear safety helmets at the construction site, workers would not do so either. If managers are late or do not turn up for safety meetings, the employees would do the same; * Regular safety tours; * Risk assessment or audits;
* Provision for feedback from anyone interested in OSH; * A senior manager should chair meetings; * Provide training to employees. This is a visible indication that management cares for the staff. Written communication include: * A written Safety Policy which is easily available to anyone; * Performance standards and safety procedure standards that are written down; * Records of risk assessment/audits, technical inspections, etc. In addition, each contractor must introduce a communication channel between his subordinate and his supervisor. For example, the subordinate contractor
should report matters to his contractor and also be informed and be responsible for issues pertaining to subcontractors. To achieve this the contractor must conduct frequent meetings, site audits, inspections, training, etc. Without any doubt an effective and efficient working Safety Committee is vital to the communication channel is open. C. MANAGING CONTRACTORS Having introduced the construction industry and its key members, the next important issue is managing contractor. Acquiring the service of competent contractor with a good safety record is fundamental to the success of a construction industry.
Let us now look at the meaning of a contractor. Legally, anyone involved in any work activity for reward is a contractor. The contractor is therefore contracted to do something for another party and in consideration for what is done, receives a payment. The contractors are subjected to the same guiding rule of OSH Act 1994 and their duties are covered in Part IV of OSH Act, under the heading “General duties of employee and self-employed person’’. Apart from the general duties under OSH Act 1994, there are also specific statutory duties under the Factories and Machinery Act 1967, i.
e. in relation to Building Operation and Works of Engineering Construction, Noise, Mineral dusts, Lead, Welfare, etc. Though there are basic legal requirement for contractors, the client or any managing contractor will encounter problems in the contraction site if additional safety standards are not specified in the contract document at the time of tendering. There is the “escape clause” for new contractors if standards are introduced at a later stage, because any fresh standard would subsequently affect the price and duration of the existing contract.
Therefore, any specific prerequisites of the project of the need for additional manpower must be taken into consideration when preparing and presenting the tender. All occupational safety and health facilities should be identified, quantified, costed and must be included in the contract. Such procedures should be carried out by everyone involved in the construction industry, whether it is the main contractor, sub-contractor or a self employed person. Such meticulous preparation will ensure that occupational safety and health is incorporated from the design stage and
ensues throughout the project rather than just adding it, on a piecemeal basic, at a later stage. In addition to setting standards for contractors, they should also be thoroughly vetted before being selected. Examples of a check-list that will help to screen contractors are available. D. IDENTIFYING RISKS AND QUALIFYING HAZARDS The old maxim of “what cannot be measured, cannot be managed” is very appropriate in this context. For example, if we do not monitor and keep track of our expenses, our expenditure may surpass our income leading to the classic case of mismanagement of funds.
The same goes in the construction industry, where every activity should be measured, evaluated and written down in the form of acceptable procedures. This should even be for little things like workers bringing in equipment into the construction site or purchasing safety supplies. Such scrupulous steps will pay dividends because even the small contractors will be forced to think about how they are going to carry out a particular task. Subsequently they will pay be able to identify the underlying hazard associated with it. Risk assessment is one such tool used to measure all activities in the workplace.
Risk assessment is a proactive measuring tool, based on the principle of fact finding rather than fault finding. The fact finding process of risk assessment would mean that the necessary corrective actions can be taken to improve operations and conditions. Physical inspections, flow charts organizational charts, fault tress, hazard indices, hazard and operability studies (HAZOP), audits, incident recall, checklist, etc. are other tools used for identifying, quantifying and even controlling risk. In addition to quantifying processes there are also benefits in quantifying the performance of contractors.
For example, a huge billboard displayed at the entrance of the contraction site based on the performance of the various contractors may encourage contractors at the bottom of the table to pay greater attention to safety and health. Consequently mean better contracts elsewhere. If the construction industry as a whole in Malaysia could follow a standard rating, it would revolutionize the construction industry. Contractors with poor records will not be given future contracts, which would result in them dying a natural death, whilst those with high standards would strive harder to get more contracts. Conclusion
In terms of occupational safety and health, there are many materials, information and aids available to anyone to make use of. There are now more safety practitioners, advisors and consultants. When it comes to construction industry, a greater effort need to be put to ensure the safety of the employees and the interest of the management are kept at satisfactory level. Reference : Stephen Williams. Construction safety-the team. The Safety and Health Practitioner, Vol. 13, No. 3, March (1995). Maizon Omar. The construction industry a brief overview. The Journal of Insurance and Risk Management, Vol. 2 (1995). OSH Act 1994