The growth of the construction industry in Zambia is clear for everyone to see. What’s not clear for everyone to see is the growth of occupational accidents and illness happening the construction industry. Many accidents are happening at construction sites every day. There is urgent need to improve the standards of construction safety.
Safety is law. All contractors in construction have a legal and moral obligation to provide safety to their workers. Safety at the construction site is more than just providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). As a contractor, you need to be aware of the various health and safety hazards found at the construction site. To identify the various health and safety hazards, you need to perform Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) process. The following are some of the basics of safety you need to put in place to ensure that your construction site is safe.
Firstly you must provide access control to the construction site. Leaving the construction site open promotes not only trespassing of the general public but also stealing of the construction materials, tools and equipment. Access control enhances security and monitoring the number of workers on site. This is important to account for the workforce in case of an accident. Access control also helps to prevent conflict between workers and moving construction equipment on site. Depending on the nature of construction, you can provide access control by completely enclosing the construction site with suitable materials like iron sheets. In certain instances, you can just provide barricade tapes. Whatever the case, the point is control traffic at the construction site by providing access control.
Secondly provide adequate PPE to all workers including casual workers or temporal workers. Every worker deserves safety protection regardless of their salary level, job position or duration of their job contract. Suitable PPE is required even if the job will take a short period. No matter how short the duration to perform a task is, safety protection is must. Protect the workers. Ensure that PPE is both suitable and adequate.
Most contractors only provide work suites, safety boots and helmets to workers. This is insufficient at construction site because workers need additional protection such as hearing protection and protection from inhaling dust especially cement powder which is a health hazard. Furthermore, the compliance to wearing PPE at most construction sites is usually poor. Contractors should provide correct PPE and ensure that it is used properly.
PPE has many benefits besides protecting workers. PPE boosts confidence and morale of employees. Workers feel motivated and valued when they are given PPE. Even the general public tends to trust workers in PPE than the workers who are not wearing PPE. In fact a worker in PPE can easily borrow money! Just being in PPE is collateral enough. Self-employed workers like bricklayers who wear PPE are more respected than their counterparts who do not wear PPE.
Thirdly provide welfare facilities for workers such as toilets, eating rooms, First-Aid facilities, drinking water and, where possible, food. Some road constructions take place in the bush, far away from medical facilities such as clinics and hospitals. Therefore, providing First Aid facilities at a construction is essential to manage any injuries and illnesses that may occur. Accidents can occur any time. So be prepared. Injuries can happen unexpectedly. At construction sites, workers may accidentally step on a nail or scrap metal. They may also experience snake or insect bites. All these and many other injuries will require quick lifesaving response to save the life of an employee. Ensure that your construction site is equipped with First Aid facilities and that workers are trained in first aid.
Fourthly ensure that you employee a safety officer or appoint a Safety Representative. As contractors usually you employee casual workers from the local community because of the nature of your work which involves projects. Such people have little or no safety knowledge. As a result, accidents are likely to occur if there is no safety specialist onsite. Having a Safety Representative on site is very important to ensure adherence to safety requirements such as giving safety talks to workers, conducting risk assessment and safety inspections.
Lastly but not the least you must provide fire safety equipment. Large amounts of flammable materials such as diesel, petrol and gas are stored and used at construction sites especially road construction site. Don’t be negligent in providing fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers. Put measures in place to respond to emergencies such as fire or chemical spill.
We appreciate the great constructions taking place around the country. But this infrastructure development shouldn’t be at the expense of people’s lives. Provide safety so that no injuries or deaths of workers happen. Safety in the construction sector is very poor in our country. Most contractors take advantage of our weak safety laws and subject workers to safety hazards and risks. Be a different contractor. Be responsible and provide safety at the construction site. Safety is more than providing PPE. Don’t just construct, construct safely. Until next week, stay safe. Zambia needs you alive and safe.
The author is the founder and CEO of Safety Focus, a safety company committed to providing safety training, consultancy and supplying of safety products.