The construction industry is recognized as one of the most hazardous industry. The International Labour Organisation estimates that worldwide, there are approximately 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses with the construction industry recording a disproportionately high rate of accidents.
Over the past couple of years, construction site accidents and fatalities have been recorded around the country with the majority being in Nairobi. As with most developing countries, Kenya consists of a labour intensive workforce compared to that of developed countries, typically involving unskilled workers.
This introduces a certain level of safety risk into the project by virtue of the nature of the activities that take place on site. Data from the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health (Dosh) in 2017 estimated that more than 70% of the injured or workers killed in accidents at construction sites in Nairobi were aged below 40 years.
The Study revealed that the majority of construction companies in Nairobi, even with a budget of over half a billion shillings, allocate less than 1% to health and safety per year. This is the state of the matter, in Nairobi only.
They say prevention is better than cure. It is one of the most pedestrian of sayings; with good reason because in many aspects of life that statement holds true. It is more applicable in day to day life than we give it credit for. It makes perfect sense to prevent a catastrophe than to deal with the ramifications or possible damage control thereafter.
On active construction sites, there are various safety practices encountered such as language barrier, lack of safety knowledge, improper wear or use of Personal Protective Equipment(PPE), lack of financial allocation for safety management, lack of experience by the workers, ignorance and lack of awareness among workers, use of defective equipment or tools, lack of staff responsible for safety, and poor managerial commitment to upholding safety.
All these components have to be mitigated to ensure that the project is on track. A good project team will ensure that the construction safety risks are well mitigated to enable the client to save on extra costs, to minimize time lose due to work stoppages, to ensure staff retention, to facilitate positive growth of company reputation, increased return on investment on the project, as well as prevention of loss or damage to materials, machinery and property.
These are the aspects of the project that enhance the delivery of the project within the set parameters and contribute to the satisfaction of the client in the long run. The only way to ensure the safety of workers on site is to implement the appropriate controls in day to day operations.
This is not new to professionals; many have a provision for health and safety in their project plans but fail to successfully implement them on site. The implementation of safety practices boils down to awareness of workers, allocation of resources and the commitment of top management.
To effectively manage safety on site it is good practice to ensure to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and effective safety training, motivate good safe practices by giving incentives, impose penalties on workers who do not uphold safety standards, allocate a budget to safety management initiatives and include it in the bill of quantities, conduct frequent safety and health training to workers, undertake pre-qualification of contractors and subcontractors with high safety performance and secure the commitment of top management. All in a bid to ensure that the expectations of the client are met and better yet, exceeded.
Management leadership in construction site safety and health is vital as it assures that the management and supervisors are stewards of safety and fully commit to eliminating hazards, protecting workers, and continuously improving safety and health on sites, therefore, providing the resources to implement and maintain safety and health programs.
This is made possible through visibly demonstrating and communicating their safety and health commitment to workers and interested parties thus setting an example through their actions.
Let us all, as professionals in the built environment, be stewards of construction site safety and champion it all through our projects. Like everyone, even the workers, have the right to return home from work uninjured at the end of each day, just like you.