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Construction work is hazardous work, safety and protection of the construction workers against injury arising out of their employment is quite evident and it is of a social concern. The safety performance of a company is often expressed and evaluated in terms of its records of safety incidents or ill health.
Millennium Construction Limited is a small and medium size enterprise providing civil engineering and construction services. From the small beginnings the company has achieved year on year growth. Company's highly committed and well equipped workforce and their strivings for improvements in health and safety, training and quality has enhanced the company's ability to deliver safe and efficient service.
The working culture of the company is quite diversified employing people of different age groups and coming from various cultural background and ethnicity. It has always been proud to retain its value and assuring health and safety benefits to the people working in the company. Company recognises its responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all the employees, sub-contractors, visitors to site and other members of the public.
Company's civil engineering and construction services engage workers to work in different conditions and perform various activities such as scaffoldings, manual handling, excavations, work in confined spaces, transportation of materials, use of plants and equipments, use of hazardous substances etc. which affects the health and safety of the people working. Health and safety risks/issues arising from work place activities and actions or initiatives to be taken to dealt with these issues is a major concern of the company. However, legislative, administrative or educational measures can be taken to translate this social concern into a concrete program of actions to bring desired results.
Safety culture within an organization can be considered as a sphere with three layers. The centre of the sphere is the basic assumptions associated with culture held by the organisation. These assumptions are the common perceptions and behaviour of the employees about health and safety working at different levels. The middle layer is related to the safety climate, including factors like policies, training approaches, procedures and formal communications. Management of an organisation and their attitudes is responsible for creating and strengthening this layer. Final layer is the outcome of layer two, which holds artefacts including factors such as incidents, equipments provided to the workers, presence of all the necessary facilities and overall commitment for safety (Guldenmund, 2000). Hence, the combination of right perception, assertive behaviour, positive management attitude can create safe working environment.
Construction activities have the capability of causing human tragedies, de-motivating workers, disrupting site activities, delaying project progress and affecting the overall cost and productivity, hence harming the reputation of the company. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 (MHSWR) it is the duty of employer to give importance to actual management of health and safety procedures and systems, but legislation alone cannot guarantee zero-accident culture (Mohamed, 1999). In addition to legislation it is necessary to change safety culture within the company by effectively managing health and safety programmes, conducting health and safety meetings, carrying out safety inspections, investigate near miss accidents and reviewing safety performance at all levels.
Company carry out works in different locations and have several projects progressing at same time, therefore workforce of the company is widely dispersed. Communication from the centre with the team working at different location is a core challenge. Therefore, it is necessary to standardise the organisation and health & safety provision as much as possible and to spread good working practice.
Workers engagement and communication is a major initiative undertaken by the company under the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2007. Since communication with various sites is a key priority, a communications co-ordinator is appointed to improve, co-ordinate and manage passage of communication more effectively from the project centre out to various sites and workforce. The mission is to secure involvement of everyone on site by improving communication, underpin safe working on site and improve performance. For involving workers, a workforce representative is appointed which is one of the field workers bridging the gap between management and workers in monthly meetings discussing safety issues. The minutes of the meetings are presented in a new way to get workers read on site. Minutes were presented in tabloid style, with picture and photographs of the issues and objects under discussion.
According to CDM Regulations 2007, involving workforce in identifying and controlling risks is crucial to reducing the high accident rates. The workforce has first-hand experience of site conditions and often first to identify potential problems. However, participation by workers in decisions made by those in control of construction activities can manage risks on site in the most effective way (HSE, 2007).
Frequency of risk of fatal accidents in the construction industry is five times more likely than in other industries (Sawacha, 1999). Safety programs and proactive approach can help in tackling such problems. Some issues or problems that risk the health and safety of worker can be outlined as:
Work in deep excavations, confined spaces and contaminated sites
Working at height
Use of hazardous substances like thinner, bleach etc.
Vehicles in workplace
Noise at work
Use of machinery
Effective safety programs by taking new initiatives can help management to build up safer means of operations and create safe working environment for workers. For improving safety environment on site and to improve safety, health and welfare record of the company few initiatives should be taken.
Behavioural safety and Motivation of workers
Modifying behaviour is one weapon in the safety arsenal, but it is not the answer to all safety problems, nor is it something that should be used in isolation from other programmes. Most people are fairly focused on self-preservation and few take risks on construction sites just for the hell of it. Risky behaviour usually results from people trying to save time or effort. They may take shortcuts, for example, rather than using the prescribed walkways to save time in getting from place to place on site. But if the site is designed so that the quickest route is also the safest one, the risk will be removed (Curry, 2006).
A standard behavioural safety programme involves:
identifying key safe and unsafe behaviours
measuring the frequency of these behaviours
setting improvement objectives
giving workers feedback on the results of the measurements
The first step in behavioural management programme is to pinpoint and remove whatever workers feel is the positive benefit of being unsafe. This can produce quick wins in accident reduction. Workers should be encouraged to intervene directly by stopping those who are involved in unsafe acts or report any unsafe actions they see in "no name, no blame" environment. Based on the Operant Conditioning Theory, Weiss (1990) developed four tools which can be used to motivate, to prevent workers from engaging in unsafe acts and to foster safe working behaviours. These tools are as follows:-
Positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcement gives workers outcomes (positive reinforcers) they desire when they perform organisationally functional behaviours. Incentives such as monetary rewards, bonuses and job promotions should be offered to motivate workers to perform their jobs in a safe manner.
Negative reinforcement: In negative reinforcement, undesired outcomes (negative reinforcers) are eliminated or removed once the functional behaviour is performed. In order to motivate worker to work in a safe manner, they may be criticised or threatened. Whenever possible, positive reinforcement should be used, as negative reinforcement make the workplace unpleasant.
Extinction: It involves curtailing the performance of dysfunctional behaviours by eliminating whatever is reinforcing the workers. If there is worker who does not follow site safety and constantly flouts the rules and if the co-workers regard him as a hero, to curtail unsafe practice is to terminate the worker from the site.
Punishment: As regards to job safety, punishments can include pay cuts, temporary suspension, demotions and firings. However, punishments may lead to resentment, loss of self-respect, a desire for retaliation and should be used only when necessary. Punishment can also be carried out in private, so as not hurt the worker's self-respect, lower esteem in the eyes of co-workers (Hamner, 1990).
Punishments and negative reinforcements are different. Negative reinforcement is used to promote workers to work in a safe manner, while punishment is used to stop unsafe work behaviour.
This initiative is more likely to succeed if there is good communication between management and workers and workers themselves and by giving feedback to workers by telling them their good or bad practices which have been observed, and finding out the motivation behind such unsafe actions.
Consultation with workforce at different levels
By law, it is the duty of employer to consult all the employees on health and safety matters. These requirements are contained in the following Regulations (CECA, 2010):
The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 - these Regulations are relevant where an employer recognises a Trade Union
The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 - these Regulations extend consultation to any employees who are not members of a group covered by Trade Union safety representatives
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 - these Regulations are relevant where the employer is the principal contractor for a project as defined under the Regulations
The consultation can be done at three levels:-
Project Level Consultation
Workgang Level Consultation
Individual Level Consultation
Project Level Consultation
Site or project meetings should be arranged where anyone can raise health and safety issues which will be discussed openly. Format of the meeting should be consistent so that everyone has the opportunity to speak and should have a feedback system ensuring issues raised are dealt with and information is fed back to workforce. This meeting can be a short informal exchange of information or a formal pre-arranged meeting. Site meetings can be useful, it ensures that all the parties are aware of what will happen and provides opportunity to ask queries and discuss the issues before commencing the work.
Workgang level Consultation
Toolbox talks are safety lectures to educate workers about creating and maintaining safe work conditions. Toolbox talks are safety briefings related to the task to be undertaken it should be a key feature in day-to-day work instruction.
Safety Task Analysis
Safety task analysis helps in planning ahead for an activity or task enabling the workforce to contribute their views on how the work should be carried and identify health and safety issues relevant to the task. The safety task analysis should be carried out before each new task and when circumstances change or in case of long-term repetitive tasks at the beginning of each week.
Method Statement briefings
Method statement briefings should be given to specific workforce working on a particular project at a particular time and who will follow the method of working. Such briefings enable members of the workforce to give their views, raise any issues or concerns, contribute their previous experiences, identify areas that are in appropriate on a particular site and suggest improved methods of working.
Individual Level Consultation
Feedback/suggestion boxes and helpline
Many people on a site wish to raise a health and safety issue but not want to speak in open meeting or face to face with site management. Feedback or suggestion should be kept, which enables member of the worker to write down there concerns on an anonymous form and drop it in that box and a telephone line will enable worker raise the concern anonymously with a company representative. The feedback on the issue can be given by displaying it on site notice board.
Open Door Policy
Many members of the workforce want to raise their concerns directly with the management but may find that it will not be taken seriously or may be labelled as a "troublemaker". An open door policy should be initiated where members of the workforce should be invited to speak directly with the management.
According to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 section 2(1), "It shall be the duty of the employee to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees. The point is not what the act requires as all its sections are related to protection of persons. The major concern should be is not what must be done, but how it can be done in practice (Alcock, 1982). It is suggested that effective safety inspections of both workplaces and work-processes should be carried out in order to detect any hazards which might be present there or which may arise because of particular conditions existing therein.
The inspection must be carried out in steps with respect to each topic (Alcock, 1982):-
Systems of work
Structural Inspection- The inspection should start at one end of the workplace and inspect only structures (e.g floor, walls, ceiling, ventilation etc.).
Equipment inspection- Once the structural inspection is completed, equipment within the workplace must be inspected regarding the type, their use, operational details, statutory inspections etc.
Special Hazards- Inspection of special hazards which might evident at work place may be carried out. Special hazards can be "major" or "minor"
"Major" special hazards: This includes chemicals which might be seen to be stored or to be used in an area. Such chemicals may consist of solids, powders, liquids or even gases. Anything which might increase the fire-hazard of the work area may be noted major items.
"Minor" special hazards: This includes overcrowding in workplace, few trailing cables in area where people do not normally go, poor housekeeping etc.
Common considerations- This includes electrical mains circuit tests, first-aid, fire escape and facilities such as sanitary conveniences should be inspected.
Systems of work- This consists of examination of the systems of work actually employed on site and it is possibly the most important stage of inspection programme.
Third-party risks- Finally, the special hazards to third-parties such as neighbours, visitors, passer-by etc. who might be affected by any work activities.
Each step of an inspection has its own inspection sheet and each of the six steps must be treated as separate entities.
Accident investigation by Accident Root causes Tracing Model (ARCTM)
After preliminary investigation using the organisation's accident investigation and reporting tools, accidents should be investigated further using ARCTM. According to ARCTM, accident occurs due to three root causes: (1) Failures in identifying unsafe condition existing before activity was started or developed after activity was started; (2) proceeding with the activity even after identifying the unsafe conditions; and (3) deciding to act unsafe regardless of initial conditions of the work environment (Abdelhamid and Everett, 2000). Using ARCTM consists of the following steps:
Step 1: Firstly, unsafe conditions faced by the worker in the accident and how these unsafe conditions existed and developed need to be determined. Existing and developing unsafe conditions are due to four causes: management actions/inactions; worker unsafe acts; non-human-related events; and pre-existing unsafe conditions on the site.
Management actions/inactions: The investigator must determine as to why unsafe condition was not identified and removed and who is responsible for such task.
Worker unsafe acts: The investigator must determine causes of unsafe acts that may be caused by social, peer, or management pressure. If it is due to social or peer pressure, this points out a worker attitude problem. If it is due to management pressure, this points out a problem with management procedures
Non-human-related events or pre-existing unsafe conditions on site: If the investigator believes that it was possible for management or workers to identify unsafe act but did not identify, this will point out to be problem with both management procedures and workers training.
Step 2: If a worker faced an unsafe conditions, it should be determined whether the worker had identified the unsafe condition.
If the worker did not identify the unsafe conditions, the reasons behind it must be determined
Reasons may be worker made wrong assumptions, unable to assess the condition because the task was new, insufficient knowledge. These reasons indicate a problem with worker training.
Worker was informed that condition was safe. Who informed the worker has to be found out. If it is a co-worker, depending on why co-worker regarded as safe condition, it could be a problem with training or attitude of worker. If the management informed the worker, there may be problem with management procedures.
The investigator should also determine reasons if the worker did not follow the correct procedures
The investigator should also determine reasons if the worker always/occasionally used the same incorrect procedures
If the worker decide to proceed with the work even after unsafe condition was identified and reasons behind it need to be found out
The investigator should determine reasons for taking risk, whether it was necessary or forced on him or her by social, peer or management pressure.
Worker failed to identify all attributes to the situation should be determined
Whether the worker knew the correct work procedures or no
Step 3: If there were no unsafe conditions that faced the worker involved in the accident, the investigator should determine whether the worker acted unsafe or not.
If there was no unsafe act on worker's part unsafe conditions surrounding the accident should be reconsider from step 1
If the worker acted, the investigator must determine the reasons behind it
ARCTM will help in better explanation of accidents on sites and in identifying effective measures for preventing accident occurrence.
Site induction sessions must be conducted to explain the inductees the requirement to observe site specific elements appropriate to their own work activities and site wide hazards. These may include open excavations, work at height, overhead power lines, confined spaces etc. Nature of the site should be outlined and access and egress routes and storage areas must be clearly marked. Inform workers about available welfare facilities such as toilets, canteens, first aid. Details about the site safety rules must be given. Inductees are made aware of the different types of signage, their colour codings and meanings.
Red Prohibitive (Must not do)
No Smoking, No unauthorised entry, Do not touch, No vehicles, etc.
Blue Mandatory (Must do)
Wear hard hat, Wear eye protection, Wear hearing protection, Sound horn, etc.
Yellow Caution (Hazard warning)
Fragile roof, High voltage, Asbestos, Fork lift trucks, Low headroom, etc.
Green Safe Condition (The Safe Way)
First aid, Escape route, Assembly Point, Eye wash, Emergency phone, etc.
Workers should be made aware of use of Personal Protective Equipments (e.g hand gloves, safety shoes, safety helmets, ear muffs, safety goggles etc.) and ensure that they wear PPE appropriately. Procedures for reporting on-site injury or accident should be outlined in induction sessions.
Barriers in implementing initiatives
Barriers in implementing initiatives are as follows:
Unsure returns: Amount of money to be invested in training and outcome cannot be guaranteed
Linguistic differences: Many workers come from different cultural background and ethnicity conveying all the messages efficiently may be difficult and may result in difference in understanding of instructions
Difference in education level: Difference in level of education workers may affect their ability to understand instructions clearly
Fear of change: The new working techniques and method may create confusion among the worker and they may find it difficult to understand and adopt new technique
Workers attitude and behaviour
Completion deadline and financial targets
As discussed in the report, safety programs and proactive approach can help in tackling health and safety problems. To improve safety, health and welfare record of the company management should revitalise safety policy and strategy. The suggested initiatives must be implemented effectively to build up safer means of operations and to create safe working environment for workers.