Poor Management

Poor management and workmanship lead to
injuries and fatalities

The International Labour Organization (ILO) celebrates the 2017 World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April 2017. It is an annual international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work.

According to ILO estimates, a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease every 15 seconds. Every day, some 6 300 workers die from occupational accidents or work-related diseases, amounting to more than 2,3 million deaths a year. Furthermore, over 313 million workers suffer non-fatal occupational injuries each year, or in other words 860 000 people are injured on the job every day.

In addition to the tremendous human cost, estimates have identified the significant economic impact of inadequate occupational safety and health: 4% of total global gross domestic product is lost annually (equivalent to US$ 2.8 trillion) by costs related to lost working time, interruptions in production, treatment of occupational injuries and diseases, rehabilitation and compensation.

Poor management and workmanship were some of the biggest causes of incidents that lead to injuries and fatalities in the South African construction industry, Lennie Samuel, a senior inspector and forensic investigator at the Department of Labour (DOL), told a recent construction seminar in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal.

Delivering his presentation on Collective Responsibility for Construction Health and Safety, Samuel urged delegates, especially employers and managers in the construction sector, to comply with health and safety regulations in order to save lives.

“The lack of supervision and failures by management, in my view, is the biggest factor to the cause of incidents. Most of the incidents investigated find its root cause in the upper streams of management. The majority of our investigations reveal there is lack of management controls and lack of supervision.

They (management) identify and correct only the immediate causes or symptoms and not the root causes. The consequences, unfortunately, often lead to disablement, disfigurement, injury and fatalities and collapses,” a concerned Samuel said.

“When you (employers) start to comply with health and safety legislations, you will save workers’ lives . The health and safety legislation is not a problem; it is the behaviour, attitude and perception of certain employers that is the problem because some employers say they have been doing things in a certain way and nothing has happened,” said Samuel.

He told delegates that there are a limited number of safety officers – who are essential to ensuring safety at the site - in construction sites. In other instances, he said, his investigations had found that health and safety at all the different phases of construction work (design phase, construction phase and handing over) was done by incompetent persons.

Samuel added that some construction sites also failed to produce risk assessments and used inappropriate material and designs – all of which should not happen under the watch of management.

Samuel acknowledged that while the construction sector contributed 12% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the previous financial year, the sector had between 2 and 3 fatalities per week.

He revealed that in the previous financial year, there was an average of 12 500 construction sites in the country and the sector employed at least 1,4 million people as of June 2016.

He said that while the health and safety regulations in the country were of high standards, they had not had the desired effect, as fatalities and injuries continue in the construction sector.

Samuel stressed that fatalities and injuries in the sector could be stopped if all the stakeholders worked together but it starts with employers complying.

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