Improvements of Safety Conditions in the Construction Industry
-Authored by Shruti Choudhari, Deputy Director, B.L. Kashyap& Sons Limited
The second largest employer after agriculture, the construction industry, is likely to grow to $1 trillion and the key driving force for this growth will be the employees or the workforce. The construction industry employs around 35 million people and this number is expected to rise to over 75 million by 2022.
According to the Economic survey of 2017 – 18, nearly 90 per cent of the workforce employed in the real estate and construction sector is engaged in the construction of buildings while the other 10 per cent is involved in building completion, finishing, electrical, plumbing, other installation services, demolition and site preparation.
With the sheer number of people working in this labour intensive industry, there has been a need for an equally important parallel development – Safety. At an overall perspective, workplace deaths in India account for more than 20% as compared to the United Kingdom. It is imperative for companies to work towards the safety and well-being of their employees, which in turn will foster the health of their organization. Despite the unorganized nature of the construction industry in India, there is a sizeable and tangible presence of organized players, who pride themselves on complying with the global standards of safety.
There is a need for construction companies to not only develop guidelines on paper but also walk the talk when it comes to implementing these policies. Over and above implementing these policies, it is equally important to ensure regular audits and checks are undertaken with checks and balances in place.
Workers at construction sites are exposed to various risks, occupational diseases and health hazards. Gone are the days, when a workers uniform and helmet would suffice for their safety, and the criteria for the same has expanded all thanks to technology and awareness. The goal of these construction companies is not only to ensure the safety of their employee but also to increase the safety awareness of the workforce and the supervisory staffs through continuous training and motivation towards safe practices.
There are multiple reasons for accidents to happen at sites and to mitigate these risks, companies are investing in risk assessment at construction sites, which ensures that a proper survey of the site is undertaken to recognize the potential risks to safety and the necessary measures that can be taken to minimise them. This practice reflects the basic tenet of prevention being better than cure. Further to risk assessment at the site are the factors of regular monitoring, inspections and safety audits, which are integral parts of safety programs at large. Some safety measures which are undertaken are; equipment check, waste disposal, medical facilities and a resting place for workers.
In essence, all the safety measures being implemented are part of a well-thought plan where every step is penned down, verified and audited. It is a documented principle which is put into practice as the construction industry has to comply with internal standards and external regulatory bodies.
The key to proper safety execution is not necessarily through strict guidelines and standards, but through an effective and holistic safety management initiative which needs to be first supported by an organization’s senior management, then integrated via specific safety management implementation tools/ systems, and finally by continuous follow-up and monitoring to ensure quality and continuous improvement.
Today, technology plays a big role in the evolution of safety. The foremost is the use of drones, which can be used to conduct inspections, identify potential hazards, and monitor workers throughout the day to ensure everyone is working safely. Drones are also being used to take photos of work progress and create models of job sites which keep everyone informed of the dynamic work conditions.
Other technological aspects like exoskeletons, use of virtual reality, sophisticated wearables, smart clothing have just entered the market and are likely to become mainstream. Apart from the above-mentioned utilities, the deployment of sensors at construction sites to monitor temperature, noise levels, dust particulates, also help create and maintain a safer environment.
To sum, the most critical aspect of safety in the construction industry is that it should be culturally ingrained across the organization that ensures each employee is safe and healthy.