The Role of Health and Safety on Construction Sites
Health and safety will always play a vital role on any construction site. It influences everything from plans and ideas to the way you think and act when you are working. Abiding by all the health and safety guidelines is not something that is done just to satisfy the law it is done to reduce risks and ultimately prevent accidents both before and after work. The building sector is full of intrinsic dangers that can be greatly reduced when managed properly. This is achieved not only by closely following industry-standard guidelines, but by paying close attention to a number of factors that are vital to the smooth running of any construction project:
- Collaboration and teamwork
- Relevant policies and procedures
- Accurate risk management
- Leadership and governance
- Flexible management
- Auditing, monitoring and evaluations
These factors are essential to a well-organised and effective health and safety management system. Without these, high standards of construction and risk prevention could not be maintained throughout any project. Here, we will explore a bit more about the points above.
Collaboration and Teamwork
Health and safety is ultimately about keeping people protected. Everyone’s efforts, skills and work are highly valued in order to achieve success when it comes to health and safety. With regards to individual safety, an effective management system will supply training, resources and construction advice at all times. This is then employed in the workplace.
Relevant Policies and Procedures
The relevant policies and procedures are closely followed at all times. Doing this ensures safety and risk prevention, and it also encourages consistency. These will be monitored and enforced by regular risk assessments and effective risk management procedures. All of these policies have the following characteristics:
- Clear, simple and concise
- Based on real world knowledge and experience
- Practical and easy to read
- Updated frequently with review dates
- Clearly identify mandatory training requirements
- Easy to follow and well defined course of action
The characteristics above relate to the health and safety policies that are regulated and enforced by all site managers. Any individual in a managerial role will have successfully completed both a SMSTS course and will have a valid GE 700 certificate as well.
Accurate Risk Management
Proactive site managers ensure that health and safety guidelines are implemented where necessary. This guarantees a high level of risk prevention on every site. All site managers will have the following attributes:
• Capability, competence and experience
• The ability to identify all potential hazards
• The ability to comply with all of the relevant guidelines and regulations
• Effective communication through discussions, meetings and decisions
Leadership and Governance
Health and safety is a top priority for everyone involved, and as a result it becomes an integral part of all work that is carried out. Specialised leadership teams constantly make sure that everybody is thinking about health and safety. They may do this by rewarding good practice or simply by refusing to tolerate poor standards. Leaders are expected to have the following attributes:
• They must be able to communicate effectively
• They must be able to give clear instructions at all times
• They must be proactive and be able to enforce all health and safety aspects
• They must be able to lead specialised teams in all areas of construction
• They must be able to make effective leadership decisions
Plans often change in the construction industry due to a number of circumstances. Funding, personnel, equipment and the weather are just a few variables that can frequently change. This will of course affect the health and safety guidelines, and so it is paramount to reduce any potential risk that is caused by a change of plans:
• When tasks change - individuals may be required to work on areas that they are not contracted to deal with. This means workers may be ill-equipped or not trained correctly. To rectify this issue, site managers will use effective risk assessment techniques to ensure that this work can go ahead safely and legally.
• When personnel changes - in any industry, circumstances can lead to a change of personnel. This means that duties will have to be fulfilled by a new contractor, which in itself can carry a number of risks. A senior team member in a managerial role will ensure that any additional personnel abide by all the relevant health and safety guidelines. Recently updated and site specific QHSE information will be used.
• When the program changes - numerous factors can lead to changes in the work schedule; one example being the discovery of asbestos if there was no hint that it would be found. If something like this happens, re-planning needs to be undertaken in order to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Site managers will support the two-week notification period in which work must cease. Of course, under no circumstances can the employees be exposed to asbestos.
• When the time scale changes - some clients may request a shorter time scale or over a longer period of time. In this scenario schedules will need to be re-organized, while staffing and control measures will probably need to be increased or decreased. Even when this happens, it is imperative that health and safety continues to remain an absolute priority.
• When equipment changes - when materials do not meet the required specifications, individuals may be exposed to a series of risks. For example, a crane may have difficulty hoisting materials if they weigh more than expected. When scenarios like this arise, site-plans are analysed to make sure health and safety guidelines are being followed before any alterations are made.
Auditing, Monitoring and Evaluations
Maintaining high standards of health and safety is always a collective effort. Issues in this sector can affect everyone, and this is why it becomes an integral part of everybody’s daily routine. However, to get the best out of all health and safety guidelines, continuous monitoring and reviews need to be implicated where necessary. Learning from the past and preparing for the future is often the way to keep any working environment safe. To achieve this people need to lead by example:
- Safety managers – can do this by recognising areas that do not meet the health and safety guidelines
- Site teams – can carry out regular inspections and provide detailed information in their findings. Proposals for solutions should also be offered
- Everyone has a role to play to prevent risk. Hazards and potential dangers are to be reported so that risk can be removed
There is always room for improvement, no matter how high health and safety standards are. To continue to make progress, a variety of procedures need to be implemented. Some of these are highlighted here:
- Investigations – all reported incidents or potential hazards need to be investigated
- Checks – performance checks need to be carried out regularly. New information needs to be checked against information from the past to analyse levels of current progress
- Compliance – industry-standard rules and regulations are to be abided by under all circumstances
- Monitoring – planned and structured. To be carried out regularly
- Communication – needs to be clear and concise between everybody
- Performance – to be measured regularly. Realistic targets should be set
- Transparency – accurate appraisals, feedback and reporting are vital
- Control – all reports and documentation needs to be controlled and distributed wherever necessary