Saturday, 27 February, 2021

Ensuring Safety Of Construction Workers

Dr. Shyam P Lohani


More than 6,000 deaths occur every single day due to work-related accidents or diseases according to an ILO estimate. Every year about 2.3 million people around the world succumb to work-related accidents or diseases. Around 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses occur annually worldwide. The construction industry is one of the most significant industries in relation to the contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) in developing as well as in developed countries. Correspondingly, it is having a significant impact on the health and safety of people working in the industry.

Often termed as high-risk, the construction industry has a significant impact on the health and safety of workers. It is common to see a construction worker working at heights with equipment and building materials. Such scenarios are overwhelmed by potentially dangerous situations and often workers performing tasks in poor working conditions. Different job sites have different procedures and conditions and present different hazards to the workers. Potential hazards for workers in construction site include falls from heights, scaffold collapse, trench collapse, electric shock, failure to use proper personal protective equipment, and repetitive motion injuries. Far too often, construction workers are not provided with safety equipment and training for carrying out their jobs safely. Unskilled workers are particularly at a higher risk.
Workers perform a great diversity of activities in construction, each one with a specific associated risk. The worker carrying out a task is directly exposed to its associated risks and other harms produced by nearby co-workers. However, the performance of the industry in occupational health and safety is found to be poor and the situation is even worse in developing countries.
Every construction worker is likely to be temporarily unfit for work at some time due to a minor injury or a health problem after working on a construction site for some time. Owing to the exposure to occupational health and safety hazards, the working life of construction workers is reduced by several years that affect not only their immediate family financially but also the overall economy. Apart from fatalities, workers suffer from work-related health hazards and non-fatal injuries. The scale and severity call for the stakeholders to ensure the safety and health of their workforce. Ensuring health and safety is a multilevel process that includes the workers at the site, people nearby, supervisors, managers, contractors, etc. Therefore, effective management of activities and competent site supervision is mandatory in maintaining healthy and safe conditions.
Now a day, the construction industry is one of the most common and remarkably growing worldwide. The construction industry in Nepal is also growing rapidly with the increase of population, economic development, and urbanisation. Therefore, worldwide construction management is of great concern. However, lack of proper safety in construction sites injuries even death to workers are also very common. Ensuring a safe and healthy work environment calls for the full co-operation of contractors, subcontractors, workers, managers, designers, engineers, and employers and workers.
Moreover, the construction industry has a poor track record in relation to the health and safety of its worker. It is a known fact that workplace accidents are linked basically with unsafe conditions and behaviour. There is a positive correlation between the safe environment on construction sites and worker’s safe practices. It has been found that the attitudes, behaviour, and practice of workers on construction sites to health and safety are widely influenced by their perception towards risk, health, and safety rules, and procedures.
Occupational health and safety is a highly important area of concern particularly in developing countries where acts related to safety infrequently exist with weak regulatory oversight making it difficult to implement effectively. Another area of concern is awareness of occupational hazards which is not well perceived. Occupational health and safety in developing countries are also affected by the lack of statutory regulations and legislation to protect workers in the construction sector. The standards maintained in corporate and government systems are also poor with insufficient infrastructure and construction work is usually labour-intensive.

Every year millions of accidents take place on construction sites resulting in morbidities and mortalities. It is a matter of great concern that the same type of work-related deaths, injuries, and illnesses occur in the construction industries all over the world. Occupational safety and health is an area of concern along with the development, promotion, and maintenance of the workplace environment, policies, and programs. These policies should ensure the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of employees, as well as making the workplace environment relatively free from actual or potential hazards that could injure workers.
Reducing workplace accidents, injuries, and deaths to zero should be the ultimate goal for the construction industry. The fewer the number of accidents, the more popular the construction industry will be. Therefore, in order to reduce the number of accidents, it is important to keep workers aware of safety issues, train them on these issues, communicate and discuss ways to improve these safety programmes and concerns. In addition to these steps, workers must have the right equipment and proper supervision and must be innovative in finding ways to solve the problem. Even though there is no set technique to reduce the number of accidents to zero, following the construction site safety procedure and practices will help reach the goal.

(Professor Lohani is the founder and academic director at Nobel College.

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