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Hong Kong is a small city with a very congest urban environment. Construction works inherently require working next to heavy traffic road, temporary structures, using heavy construction plant or working at considerable heights. As a result, the construction environment is filled with lots of potential hazards. Furthermore, no two projects are exactly the same and workers are therefore faced with ever-changing job natures and working environment. That is the reason which makes construction as having a high accident rate with a high fatality ratio.
Sensible government legislation will definitely help to curb down the growth of such statistics. The Factories and Industrial Undertaking Ordinance (FIUO) and the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (OSHO) are the current legislation in Hong Kong with very ambitious objectives of both raising the standards of site safety and health for all persons at work, and protection of the public, whose safety and health are put at risk by the activities of persons at work. Under these two Ordinances, each party including the government, the Client, the professional adviser - the Designer and the Engineer Representative, the main Contractor, the sub-contractor and the employees has their own responsibilities for safety in a construction project.
The Client and the Government (Reasonable Resources and Time, Plans on Safety)
The client, such as the Government initiates and finances the project. The general duty on clients is to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees. Before the implementation of the project, the client should allow adequate time for the planning and the design of the works. Very often, if the program is unreasonably tight, many safety aspects of the works are always overlooked and this should be avoided. The client should realize that expenses on site safety measures are essential and allow a generous budget to safety aspects.
In one of my construction project: Reconstruction and Improvement of Tuen Mun Road Sam Shing Hui Section (TMRSSH), the client, Highways Department, has adopted the "Pay for Safety Scheme" as a commitment to pay for the safety-related items. This scheme is already a conventional tool in a Public Works Project in Hong Kong. With the guidance of the Construction Site Safety Manual and the Construction Site Safety Handbook, it has helped to achieve the goals as to focus a high priority to safety and his professional advisors, the Designer and the Contractor on the importance of safety.
And as a Government, according to the safety performance of the public works project, it has reached a continuous improvement on the numbers of accidents in these years since adopting this scheme. By considering this successful scheme, I suggest to promote this scheme to the private developer, such as the implementation of this scheme inside the Safety Regulation and Ordinance
The Professional Adviser - Engineer (Reasonable Design and Preventation)
The designer, such as Consultants carries out detailed planning and design of the project. His obligation towards the client is to design the works that satisfy the functional requirements, safety requirements and financial commitment of the client. He is responsible for the adequate and safety of his design. He must therefore take safety into account along with costs, schedules and quality in his design. If safety is not planned into the job, it will not be there. The design engineer should not be afraid of negotiating with the client for changes in the original schedule and costs if these changes are required on safety basis.
In preparing contract documents, the design engineer can impose restrictions on the sequence of works and draw the Contractor's attention towards potentially dangerous operations. The specifications can include clauses requiring the use of safety equipment and the adoption of safety working methods.
Furthermore, the tenderers can be asked to submit along with their method statement or temporary work design for evaluation. The working method is particularly important in ensuring safety in slope stabilization projects.
In my experience, as a professional design engineer, he shall always liable to ensuring the construction site safety when adopting his design on to the works. In some of my previous projects, specified preliminary construction methods and temporary works design for a very complex construction work such as bridge construction, shall also be provided in the tender drawings. These kinds of approaches can be promoted as one of the approach for safety during the design stage. As to promote the site safety, actively involvement of the design engineer shall be a good practice to resolve the design problem as to suit the safety need on site.
b. Engineer Representative (ER) - (Inspection of Implementation)
The ER is the client's professional representative during the construction of the project. His principal duty is to ensure that the works are executed in accordance with the Contract. Although hi is not directly responsible for the safety of the operations on the construction site, he is nevertheless responsible to the client for ensuring that the works are being carried out in a safe manner. Moreover, there is always a duty of care that the Engineer owes to all site personnel and the general public in this regard.
Regarding the supervision of construction, the ER should from time to time emphasize to his staff of the importance in checking the contractor's compliance of safety requirements. Under circumstances, he can exercise his power to suspend the progress of a part or the whole of the works. The Contractor can only resume progress after he has taken necessary action to rectify the safety conditions.
As an Assistant Resident Engineer of TMRSSH project and as a Professional Engineer, I believe that action shall always be taken from myself and affect others in the consideration of Site Safety. Due to site condition, the ER shall also consider the safety impact to the public. In TMRSSH project, the ER has adopted the Speed Reduction of Tuen Mun Road as a consideration to the road safety due to the impact of the Works. Promotion to public such as manners on Tuen Mun Road, the Notice to the District Council Members and Residents in Tuen Mun has been adopted. This type of promotion can really warn the road drivers about the impacts during the construction.
The Main Contractor (Implementation & Control of labors)
Upon entering into the Contract, the main contractor undertakes to complete the works in accordance with the requirements f the contract. According to the OSHC, the main contractor has the responsibilities to ensure that his activities do not endanger anybody and to provide information to the public about any potential hazards to health and safety. The main contractor shall take full responsibilities for the safety of all site operations and persons entitled to be on site in accordance to the General Condition of Contract (GCC). Moreover, the contractor should ensure that the work that they are doing will not harm people who are not under their employment. He is also responsible for all third party damages caused by his operations. The main contractor shall provide plants, safety equipments, safety officer and supervise the sub-contractor to carry out the works.
The temporary work designer employed by the Contractor shall ensure that the temporary work is safe when used in accordance with information supplied by him. It is usually the contractor to design and supervise the erection of temporary works.
There is a common practice in Hong Kong that the main contractor shall provide at least one safety officer who must be full-time on site and is responsible for the safety of all site activities. The workface to safety officer ratio shall be kept to a reasonable level and refer to requirement of the FIUO, so that sufficient number of safety officers are available to ensure the safety on site. The safety officers shall keep all work places and access healthy and safe. Safety courses should be arranged to instruct and train the workforce in the safety aspects of working on site.
In my working experiences with different Contractors, the direct promotion of site safety from the Contractor to the workers is very important. Base on the Contractor's safety plan, adequate training to the workers and the pre-works briefings are very useful tools to minimize the accident rates on site.
In the construction, the sub-contractor has to enforce the safety regulations, control his labour and obey the main contractor's instruction. He should pay particular attention to the safety aspects of temporary works design at his own discretion. He should also stress to his staff on the importance of working according to the approved design.
Based on the OSHO, a duty on anybody responsible for places of work to ensure that the premises themselves, as well as plant and machinery in them, do not endanger people using them. Therefore, the sub-contractor shall always maintain his plant in good conditions and employ well trained personnel to operate them. In addition, lighting and guarding must be provided in the site for temporary works.
In general, workers are always the victims as well as contributors of accidents on construction sites. Majority of accidents can actually be attributed to workers not observing the safety rules. The duties on employees are to take reasonable care to ensure that they do not endanger themselves or anyone else who may be affected by their work activities; and to cooperate with employers and others in meeting statutory requirements. Therefore, to protect themselves from danger on site, the workforce shall strictly obey any safety regulations and follow the correct way of using the plant and equipment as specified in the user manuals. He also has to obey the instructions given by safety officers and consult them whenever is necessary.
Promotion on construction site safety and accident prevention are continuous and difficult process which demands commitment form all those involved in the construction industry. If all parties concerned are aware of their own share of responsibilities and discharge their duties properly and cooperatively, the safety on construction sites can be maintained. Effective promotion methods to the site workers and public shall always take action from the management staff of the Contractor, the Engineer, the Client and the Government.