The state of health and safety in global construction
By Nigel Crunden
The significant increase in major construction projects throughout the likes of India and China is becoming more apparent than ever. The International Monetary Fund has predicted that 70 per cent of global growth will come from emerging markets in the next ten years, with construction playing a major part in driving this forward.
Whilst both exciting and a sign of economic recovery, this increase has also highlighted a lack of standardised health and safety policies to protect workers. Of course, implementing a global set of health and safety policies is unrealistic, but there is certainly some potential in reaching a consensus around key aspects of health and safety in construction, such as PPE.
The burgeoning building opportunities in emerging markets signify the need to take protective steps around worker safety within areas such as PPE. Simply advocating the wearing of helmets at all times when on site demonstrates that teams need to organise construction work in a way that minimises the risk of head injury; for example, there are numerous ‘bump’ hazards on construction sites, where workers could walk into structures or machinery (especially in confined areas).
Throughout many emerging markets, although health and safety policies include guidelines on PPE, sometimes these are not strongly enforced.
Regardless of the health and safety policy of a specific nation, it is vital for individual companies and contractors operating there to drive best practice when it comes to site safety. In 2013 alone, India experienced over 11, 000 falls from height, many of which could have been prevented through stipulating the constant use of structural protection and, in some cases, PPE.
Working at height is a core component of almost any construction project, so there simply isn’t any excuse for not adhering to something that is common sense, if not actually enshrined in the law of a specific country. Simple measures such as site managers wearing helmets (in order to lead by example) and due diligence checks to ensure the rule is being adhered to, should be second nature.
Falling objects are a key hazard on any construction site and as well as ensuring protective headwear is worn, it is important to guard the feet through advocating the wearing of robust footwear with steel toecaps.
Visibility is crucial within any environment where ongoing construction is taking place, simply due to the high amount of personnel performing different tasks. Hi-vis clothing protects against the risks of not being seen by, for example, an oncoming vehicle. Drivers need to see hazards from further away in order for them to have enough time to react.
Introducing measures around the wearing of PPE certainly isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to completely standardising a formal, global approach to safety. However, it does help address basic health and safety requirements, which, if followed consistently throughout nations that don’t have stipulations within the law, should help in protecting workers to a greater extent than they are at present.
Nigel Crunden is a business specialist at Office Depot