H. L. Chawla, Former Consultant, The World Bank, New Delhi.

What is Construction?

As per ILO the term "Construction refers to the building and civil engineering activities.
Following types of works are included in the scope of the construction activities:
  1. Construction, repair, alteration, maintenance or demolition of a building. This would further include the following:
    Scaffolding, centring & shuttering, Bar bending, Masonry, Plastering, Carpentry work, Tile flooring, Roofing, Concrete work, Jali work, Joinery work, Painting, Welding, Smithy work, Electrical work, & Plumbing etc.
  2. Construction of any railway line or siding
  3. Construction, structural alteration, repair, maintenance and laying of any foundations or demolition of Dock or harbor, Canals, Dams, Embankments including river valley projects including tanks and water courses, Inland navigation, Roads & highways, Tunnels, Bridges, Viaducts, Water works, Reservoirs, Oil, gas, water, sewerage pipelines, Aqueducts, Airfields, Sea protection works, Steel or reinforced concrete structures other than a building, Any other civil or constructional engineering work of a nature similar to any of the above or, Construction operations connected with the installation of machinery in any of the above activities.

What is Safety?

Theoretically Safety means the absence of danger at work which is made possible by eliminating hazards that create danger. ILO, in one of their documents, state "A thing is provisionally categorized as safe if the risks are deemed known, and in the light of that knowledge, judged to be acceptable.
However, generally, safety is adjudged in terms of an inverse relationship with the accident rate. Higher the rate of accidents, the lower the safety. The converse is also true-lower the rate of accidents, the higher the safety.
The following are some of the reasons for low safety at construction sites:
  • Bad or indifferent work environment at site
  • Lack of proper safety equipment at the work site.
  • Faulty design of the structure
  • Use of faulty equipment at site.
  • Long working hours causing fatigue
  • Physical conditions at the work site-heat, light & humidity etc. may not be proper at the site.
  • Improper living conditions
  • Social habits
  • Inexperience
  • Indifferent attitude
  • Absence of motivation
No work site can be perfectly safe. There is always a risk of accidents. However ways and means can be found to reduce the accidents and create an almost SAFE work site.

Site Safety & House Keeping

  • It is false that safety & productivity cannot go together.
  • Construction is the 2nd largest human activity in India after agriculture. About 31 million workers are employed in the construction sector.
  • The total volume of the global construction is approximately $3.5 trillion per annum.
  • In India the money spent on construction by the government itself is about Rs.250,000 crores per annum.
  • Statistically Speaking, the Rate of Accidents in the Construction Sector is About 4 Times the Corresponding Figure for the Manufacturing Sector
  • Safety is a common concern of both employees & the management.
  • Site conditions generally reflect the type and quality of contributions of the management & the labor force at the project.
  • Top management should emphasise that problem solving is an integral part of everybodys’ job. In Japan, everybody who is affected by a decision is involved in it. Therefore, all are committed to the collective outcome.

Safe House-keeping

  • There has to be a mindset for a safe environment and a sound work culture to achieve this objective.
  • There is a need to cultivate a good living or good housekeeping habit. A sense of involvement & participation has to be created.
  • To attain a safe and eco-friendly environment, the following are required:

    • Training
    • Persuasion
    • Discipline
    • Daily cleaning
    • Proper house keeping
    In addition to the above, incentive or punishment schemes are required to be used for changing the attitude towards a better housekeeping environment. The following will help in achieving this objective:

  • Fully secured & enclosed worksite with controlled entry & exit gates
  • Safe passages/pathways on the ground & elsewhere
  • Segregation & orderly storage of various materials & scrap
  • Proper demarcation of work areas
  • Proper parking of the machinery & equipments after working hours
  • Proper & orderly parking of vehicles, earmarking separate slots of visitors’ vehicles.
  • Establishing a sick bay/first aid room
  • It has been seen that a clean, hygienic & environment-friendly construction site is a very safe site which motivates work force for a faster & better work input.
  • On the other hand, ignorance of safe house keeping practices leads to accidents & injuries.
  • The unsafe practices can be controlled and a better safe working environment is possible to be created if everybody cares & feels for his co-workers.
  • There should be a sense of belongingness. This creates a very healthy & safe environment at the work site. The increase in productivity is directly proportional to the decrease in the accident rate.
  • It is an established fact that safety is a condition of the mind of the top management.
  • This is also true that profitability increases by providing a safe working environment and that expense on achieving a safe working environment is not a loss to the entrepreneur but is an investment to achieve better profitability.

Eco-friendly Attitude

The following are the requirements for an environmental protection:
  • Motivation to have a safe & environment-friendly site.
  • To have a noise control to bring the noise level within tolerable limits.
  • To have regular water sprinkling for controlling the dust.
  • To have proper discharge outlets for the waste water.
  • Cleaning of tyres & washing of vehicles etc
  • Waste segregation & disposal, to take care of the spill over of used lube oil, grease, bitumen etc. Also proper labelling of the containers containing waste products
  • Proper display of all information & emergency signs with correct terminology.
  • Un-interruppeted accessibility to the safety apparatus.
  • Avoidance of any stagnant water, loose or waste chemicals, constant dust & smells, continuous high noise levels.
  • Special care to be taken for any live electric cables or wires.
  • Emphasis on workers’ general attire incl. dress, safety accessories & general appearance.
  • Safety precautions such as correct shoring, floor penetration, barricades etc
Safety Policy for Major Construction Companies
  • Announcement of Safety Policy
  • Regular department for Safety
  • Regular Statistical records
  • All Safety gadgets at work site
  • Complete first aid facility
  • Safety and productivity are interlinked

Safety In Construction

  • Attitude
  • The players

    • The Government
    • The Client
    • The Contractor
    • The Consultant / The Architect
    • The Worker
    Who is affected most?

  • The Worker
  • The Worker’s family
  • The Contractor
  • The Client
  • Society at large
    Various ways to ensure safety

  • Legislation
  • Regulation
    Firm Frame - Work of Law Is Essential

  • Education and Training
  • No quick or easy answers
  • People at every level in the Industry need continuous reminding.
  • Safety Engineering Education is not complete without learning the safety.
  • Every employer must draw up Safety Policy & operate too
  • Contractors associations have vital role.

  • As no stringent laws can change the attitude, educate all concerned on Safety.
  • Start Safety as a compulsory subject in Engineering Colleges and Polytechnics.
  • Include Safety as item to be paid in the Bill of Quantity.
  • Make the Project Manager responsible for any mishap at the site.
    Lessons learnt during study tour "Safety in Construction in UK, USA & Japan – as a fellow of ILO, Turin Centre

  • In UK construction regulations coming up from 1961.
  • Main Basic Act - Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
  • In USA - Occupational Safety and Health Act 1970.
  • NIOSH regulate and educate various states.
  • Every state enacts its own law and controls.
  • Some states want Federal Government to take care.
  • Rigid implementation is major problem.
  • Prosecution for safety offences is under statute - mostly fine.
    Some of the Acts in operation in UK

  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • The Construction (Working Regulation) Act 1966.
  • The Construction (Lifting Provision) Act 1961.
  • The Construction (Health & Welfare Regulation) Act 1966
  • Control of Pollution Act, 1974
  • Fire precaution Act, 1971
  • Health and Safety (First Aid), Act 1981

    • The regulations are quite old but the consciousness in Safety & Health practices is comparatively recent.
    • British Construction Industry has a Deplorable Safety record.
    Individuals are now being prosecuted and fined

    Salient points of Safety Policy of Construction Companies

  • Safety Directors
  • Resident Safety Officers
  • Visits by Safety Officers
  • Safety Memorandum Index
  • Safety Tool meetings
  • Pocket hand book highlighting site safety measures, duties and responsibilities
  • Project Managers trained about reporting procedure and distribution in case of accidents
  • Each person has specific area of responsibility
  • Advance planning on equipment, locations.
  • Safety refresher training course.
  • Incentive for "no accident at project site - safety rating and award.
  • Reporting system and updating.
  • Health hazards due to construction materials and chemicals.
  • "Right to Know
  • Safety audit.
    Managing Safety - Our Policy (One Major U.S. Company)

  • All Injuries Can Be Prevented
  • Management is Dedicated to Preventing Injuries And Illnesses
  • All Hazards Can Be Controlled
  • Safety Is A Condition of Employment
  • Employees Will Be Trained To Work Safely
  • People Are The Most Important Element of Our Safety Program
  • Remember Off - The Job Safety
  • Preventing Injuries Is Good Business

No Stone Unturned in Quest for Safety

The technology of a process or an operation is considered incomplete until every possible element of danger has been mastered or eliminated. This rule applies equally to the addition of a new plant facility that will cost millions dollars as it does to the construction of a single project.

Process Considered Incomplete Until Every Possible Danger Is Eliminated

The construction safety professional and his staff will be concerned with the development, implementation and daily administration of total loss control programs covering:
  1. Safety and Health
  2. First prevention and protection
  3. First-Aid and Medical
  4. Security and Assets Protection
  5. Environmental/ Pollution Control
  6. Emergency/ Disaster Planning

General Comments

By providing Safety Measures
  • Profitability increases
  • Insurance cost gets reduced
  • Employer and Workers are happy
  • Company gets good name and awards
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