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The Construction Regulations were promulgated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993, on 18 July 2003 in order to comprehensively address safety in the construction industry. These regulations place the onus on various parties with the client being made primarily responsible for construction occupational health and safety.
This responsibility shift came as a shock to many but there is no doubt that these Regulations are intended to assist with the unacceptable high accident rate which is currently being experienced in the construction industry.
Clients will now be required to provide contractors with detailed health and safety specifications at tendering stage. Clients may not appoint a contractor unless they are satisfied that the contractor has all the necessary resources and expertise to do the work safely and must further ensure that the contractor implement and maintain a health and safety plan for the whole duration of the contract by conducting regular site inspections.
The department of Labour in co-operation with the industry took over four years to develop these Regulations which are believed to be in line with world best practices. Designers may no longer design structures which are unsafe to construct nor may they specify any unsafe substances or material to be used in the building process. Designers are also responsible for the method and sequence of the construction work.
The contractor is responsible to ensure that all construction work is supervised by a competent person and that all plant and equipment are checked and inspected and that all employees are trained with regards to the site specific hazards.
1.2 Research Statement
Health and safety may apply to all types of organizations, however there appears to be no formal studies relating to the development from the implementation to effectiveness of the standards, hence this study has been conducted.
The construction industry stands out from other industries as having one of the highest worker injury and fatality rates. Although construction comprises a very small percentage, the incidence rate for non-fatal injuries and illnesses exceeds that of many other industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004, the construction industry has the most fatalities of any other industry sector. Some studies have shown that a fairly large percentage of construction accidents could have been eliminated, reduced, or avoided by making better choices in the design and planning stages of a project (Hecker 2005). Addressing construction safety in the design and planning phase, therefore, can have a substantial impact on reducing injuries and the cost associated with safety related project delays.
Construction safety should be a priority to employers, employees, government and those working on a project. This includes the client, main contractor, regulatory agencies and employees as tabulated below.
Table 1 Roles of parties in ensuring health and safety
Client Contractor Regulatory Agencies Employees
Appoint the right people Provide safe access on site Guidance notes Wearing of PPE
Allow adequate time Provide welfare facilities Safety alerts Take care of equipment
Provide information to building team Working at height safety precautions Health and safety education Report any defects
Ensure the team communicates and co-operates Safe scaffolds Enforcement
Ensure suitable management arrangements are in place Safe ladders Health and safety law
Ensure adequate welfare facilities on site Roof work safety precautions
Ensure workplaces are adequately designed Safe excavations
Appoint a principle contractor Safe manual handling
Ensure a health and safety plan is in place Safe loading and unloading of goods
Keep a health and safety file Safe traffic, vehicles and plant
Protecting the public Safe tools and machinery
Safe hoist and cranes
Safe emergency procedures
Safe storage, handling and disposal of hazardous substances
Managing of noise levels
Hand-arm vibration safety procedures
Safety in use of electricity and other services
Protecting the public
Source: HSE (2009)
The main requirements for site health and safety relate to tidy sites, decent welfare, falls from height, manual handling and transport on site. Safety officers, who are competent in identifying special risks of their trade, are usually employed on site to plan and organize operations, train staff and raise any problems with the site supervisor (HSE, 2009). Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including clothing are worn are held by a person to protect him against one or more risks to his health or safety but when considering control measures PPE is considered as a last resort. A typical construction site may require workers to use a hard hat, reflective vest, eye protection, ear protection, overalls, safety boots and gloves.
2.2 South African Legislation and the Construction Regulations
With the increase in legislation and the drive for ever-greater efficiency and accountability, health and safety in construction is becoming an increasingly important subject.
3 Research Methodology
After determining the problem chosen for research, a review of literature, pertaining to construction health and safety was conducted. This was done in order to obtain information on what other researchers have done in this particular field of study and to also ensure I understood my research topic well. It was ensured that the material researched was related to my research study. Items reviewed included, the history, requirements, benefits, advantages, disadvantages and findings of others on this topic. The literature review was obtained from relevant books, magazines, journal articles and internet sources. This helped to broaden my perspective and set the research efforts in context. All information was carefully referenced using the Harvard Referencing System. The literature review was done thoroughly and diligently which helped me achieve my objectives of this study.
The ultimate aim of this research study is to identify the barriers, motivating factors and effectiveness of implementing a health and safety plan on a construction site in South Africa. Due to time constraints, this study was just limited to 5 organizations.
3.1 Research Approach
The research study followed a mixed method approach. According to Creswell (2003), the mixed method research is formally designed as the class of research where the research mixes or combines qualitative and quantitative research techniques, methods, approaches, concepts or language into a single study. Quantitative and qualitative methods were used in this study as the both methods complements the result obtained and it is also highly unlikely to overlook any available data.
The qualitative component uses qualitative information and this approach was considered to be the major means of the information collected for this study. This information was collected by way of a survey design; I sought responses on the different views associated with the implementation process of effective health and safety systems on a construction site.
The qualitative data collected, used the mixed model approach to be easily analyzed. According to Creswell (2003), a mixed model approach is research in which the researcher mixes both qualitative and quantitative research approaches within a stage of the study or across two stages of the research process. In this study, the qualitative data collected was quantified.
Surveys were the tools used to form part of the quantitative component of the study. These unstructured discussions were also used to gain additional insights and anecdotal information about the experience of health and safety and the results of the implementation were analyzed.
3.2 Population and Sample
Five organizations participated in the research study. These organizations were chosen in the study on the basis that they are registered companies. The identities of the five companies will remain hidden throughout this research and will be merely referred to as Organization 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Samples of employees were identified from the organizations by means of applying purposive sampling techniques, a form of non-probability sampling. The sample was handpicked as the participant of this study must have certain experiences and knowledge regarding health and safety. This is usually the health and safety representative of the company.
3.3 Research Instrument
Two types of research instruments were employed for collecting data in this dissertation. This includes a standardized research instrument in the form of a questionnaire and a brief survey.
In order to gain an understanding about the problems and difficulties encountered by companies seeking a successful health and safety system, they were asked to identify the obstacles encountered during their efforts. This question allowed the organization to point out problems that they faced during the implementation.
The survey that was completed using a five point Likert scale, with 1 representing ï¿½strongly agreeï¿½ and 5 ï¿½strongly disagreeï¿½. Aspects that were identified during the research included
- Health and Safety Plan & Specifications
- Risk Assessments
- Employee Training
3.4 Data Collection
Fifteen registered organizations from the construction industry, in South Africa were telephonically approached. The Health and Safety Representatives of all the organizations were contacted. They were briefly informed on the study been conducted and were made aware of the aim of this study.
The questionnaire and survey was electronically mailed to all fifteen companies but only five companies responded. The five companies returned the completed documents via email. These questionnaires were not accessible to any other persons other than the participants, once they were completed. The five Health and Safety Representatives were the participants of the research study. Requests for the names and any other sort of identification were prohibited as any part of the data collection.
This process took six weeks to complete. Three weeks after the initial research data had been collected, the data analysis process began.
3.5 Data Analysis
The aim of this process was to assemble the data in a meaningful way and this was achieved by the common theme identification technique which is one of the most fundamental tasks in qualitative research. The qualitative raw data collected in the form of a questionnaire in this study was carefully analyzed and the common themes were highlighted, that is, the common barriers, benefits and motivating factors within the different companies.
After identifying the common factors, a frequency table was developed. The most appropriate graphical representations that can be used to illustrate the frequency of themes are a bar diagram and pie chart. A pie chart was chosen to represent the results per common factor. Results are expressed in percentages. As mentioned earlier, the mixed model approach was used in which the qualitative data was quantified.
The quantitative data obtained by means of the survey, in which the participants had the rate on how the health and safety system has impacted the organization, was reviewed. The average ratings of the organizations were determined for each question and the results tabulated. Results are expressed in percentages.
3.6 Data Validity
By using the mixed method approach in this study helped to focus on a single process and confirmed accuracy as it is highly unlikely to overlook available data.
Also, purposive sampling techniques were used which ensured the information I collected was from the correct person of the organizations, the person with the knowledge and experience.
Data collected was emailed so there was no error that could have occurred as opposed to telephonic interviews where the researcher may misunderstand the interviewee and jot down incorrect information.
4. Results and Discussion
This study presents the results of questionnaire responses on the obstacles encountered during implementing a successful health and safety system on a construction site.
The following table summarizes the Barriers Encountered during the Implementation of a successful health and safety system and the frequency amongst the organization.
Table 2: Barriers Encountered During H&S Implementation Process.
Lack of training of employees 4
Time and effort to implement the system 3
Negative attitude from employees 3
Lack of expertise 2
Figure 1: Graphical representation of the Barriers Encountered during the Implementation of a successful health and safety system.
The main challenges organizations faced during the implementation, according to the participants were focused on the costs involved and employee training. The majority of the participants consider as the most important barrier of H&S implementation was the costs that is, cost of PPE, cost of training and cost of technical expertise.
The next important parameter was the lack of employee training. They agreed that employees are not interested in implementing the rules of health and safety. Employees also had a negative attitude towards health and safety programs, there is lack of motivation.
The following table summarizes the Motives of a successful health and safety system and the frequency amongst the organization.
Table 3: Motives of H&S Implementation
To improve H&S 6
To enhance the companyï¿½s reputation 2
Improve operations 2
To achieve customer satisfaction 4
A graphical representation of the above data is illustrated below.
Figure 2: Graphical representation of the Motivating factors of H&S Implementation.
The vast majority of the participants indicated that the main reason for a better H&S system was to improve and control the level of H&S on site.
There was a general agreement that H&S played a vital role affecting company reputation and customer satisfaction. Companies wanted to meet legal requirements.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Safety is not only the responsibility of the company but also of the employee. Workers should be trained and should also take the initiative and adhere to the safety rules and regulations implemented on site. Safety can be very expensive for all the parties concerned. If any incidents occur, the investigations can be a long tedious process which could hold up the progress on site. Most companies need to be properly insured as even when the correct procedures are followed and an incident takes place, there needs to be surety that workers are safe guarded against any injuries, disabilities and even death.
Researchers can use the results as a basis for future research with a representative sample of construction companies. Also they can use the results as an input for questionnaire development.
Companies need to acquire new knowledge and a greater understanding of the environment, in which they operate. Without this knowledge and understanding, they will have great difficulty meeting the various challenges, which lie ahead.