Safer construction this festive season

Safer construction this festive season

As the holiday season approaches, the construction industry is gearing up for a unique set of challenges that demand a special focus on safety.

According to data from the Federated Employers Mutual Assurance company (FEM), an average of 368 claims were recorded over the last three Decembers, highlighting the need for a comprehensive safety approach. Historically, December has been marked by an increased number of incidents in the construction sector, while March and July also see an increase in incidents every year.

The number of claims over December is high, considering that most projects are only operating for the first two weeks of the month, before closing for the builders’ holiday. Craig Laskey, from GVK Siya-Zama – one of the largest privately owned construction companies in South Africa, says that despite the company’s figures being much lower than the industry average, historically it has seen a significant annual spike during November and December, with “fall from height” and “struck by” incidents being the most common.

“Our incident statistics over the past two years showed that more than 80% of accidents were associated with poor employee behaviour. Therefore, our primary focal point over the past year was to address behaviour through practical learning,” Laskey notes.

He says it is important to remain vigilant, especially over this period, by keeping a skeleton crew on duty. He adds that third-party security can help ensure the safety of closed sites and prevent unauthorised access. “Shutting down a site is not about abandoning it, but rather about putting a system in place for frequent monitoring of closed sites,” he says.

“Children are naturally curious and those in communities close to construction sites often try to find ways to explore their surroundings. Measures need to be taken to discourage dangerous behaviour: machinery must be stowed away, infrastructure dismantled, and rubble removed, amongst other precautions,” Laskey stresses.

Communication relating to safety should be foremost during this period. But Laskey notes that it is common for risk and safety training to be too theoretical, highlighting the need for better communication and practical safety awareness drives: “At GVK Siya-Zama, there has been an emphasis on moving away from verbal communication only, to visible leadership and
in-person, demonstration-led learning to create increased awareness of risks on site.”

Management behaviour and employee motivation are closely linked. “There is a proven link between acknowledgement and motivation, which helps employees feel appreciated and empowered while motivating them to end the year on a high note, and stay safe,” Laskey explains. “The company invites teams to get into the year-end spirit by decorating offices and workspaces and hosting social events to encourage employees in the completion of their final tasks for the year.”

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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