Every year hundreds of operatives are killed in the course of their employment and thousands are injured and maimed. These are not only accidents but loss to families and friends. They are also a loss to the industry as a whole.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act make a valuable reduction in accidents if observed by operatives and management at the site level. In addition, a Health and Safety Audit which is a legal requirement for every factory or place of work at least once in every twelve months would go a long way in enhancing the safety, health and welfare of operatives.
The occupational health and safety act, 2007
It is an act of Parliament to provide for safety, health and welfare of workers and all persons lawfully at workplaces. Sections of this Act include general duties, enforcement, registration of workplaces, safety, offences, penalties etc. The Act has enlisted schedules covering special occurrences, registrations, special provisions and particulars to be submitted on registration.
Safety and health in project management
It is the responsibility of the main contractor to formulate a safety policy for the site, to be adhered to by all contractors, and to reach agreement on relevant specific standards and performance targets. Ideally Contractors are required, as part of their tender submission, to provide copies of their safety policy statements which outlines safe working methods.
Construction health and safety requirements
The employers’ duties include the following: ensure health safety and welfare at work for their employees, ensure that their activities do not endanger anybody, prepare and publicize a safety policy and implement it, provide any necessary training and consult employee’s representatives on joint action.
The employee duties are as follows: take care of health and safety of themselves and anyone else that may be affected by their actions, cooperate with employers to meet the statutory requirements, make use of safeguards provided, report any defective equipment immediately to supervisor, safety officer or employer and comply with the regulations.
Other construction regulations are applied to areas including: lead paint, woodworking machines, abrasive wheels, ladders scaffolds, platforms, pitch roofs, fragile Roofs e.g. Asbestos, Plastics, lifting operations, gear and appliances, electricity, overhead lines, underground cables, lighting (adequate), handling materials and tools, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), fire fighting storage, painting, demolition and excavation.
Safety and health management programme.
No person shall be required to work in surroundings which are unsafe or dangerous to their health and that of others. The Employer is responsible for maintaining safety and health requirements in the work place. Safety and health signs shall be communicated in a language which the employee can understand. Job hazard analysis shall be carried out and the accident prevention plan put in place before initiation of work. Frequent inspections should be carried out during the course of project implementation and corrective safety issues addressed.
Prior to beginning of each major phase of work or activity, hazard analysis should be done for that part of the work. A major phase means that there is new crew, sub-contractor or new operations. No work should proceed before this is accepted by authorizing persons.
The steps to be taken should be as follows:
• Define the activity to be performed.
• Identify the sequence of work activities.
• Analyze each step as a potential hazard.
• List control measures to be implemented to reduce or control the hazards to an acceptable level.
• List the equipment to be used in conducting the activities.
• List the inspection requirements for the equipment of machinery.
• Determine the requirements for worker training including hazard communication
Indoctrination and training
Workers require indoctrination and training to enable them to carry out their work safely. Safety meetings should be conducted and documented. Training on handling of emergency situations should be conducted regularly to keep the workforce informed. Persons qualified to use emergency equipment should be familiar with the location of the equipments like fire extinguishers.
Workers should be trained to take up tasks based on ability. They should be dissuaded from the use of alcohol, narcotics or mind altering substances at all times. When operating equipments the workers should be able to read signs and follow instructions.
All accidents in the work place should be reported, analyzed and investigated.
Employees should be trained to report to their supervisors and employers in their turn should report to authorities. A record should be kept for daily first aid treatments, exposures and accidents.
Accident prevention plans
The accident prevention plan should provide for and clearly highlight the following: statement of safety and health policy, responsibility of implementation, co-ordination and controlling activities of main contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers, safety training and indoctrination, frequent safety inspections, emergency response, handling of severe weather, flooding etc, clean up and safe access, fencing and signs (Public safety), local requirements, prevention of alcohol and drug abuse on site and plans for communication in case of hazards.
Emergency plans and action
Emergency plans to ensure employee safety in case of an accident or other emergency shall be prepared in writing and reviewed by all employees. Emergency plans shall be tested to ensure effectiveness before the occurrence of a fatal event.
The planning should include escape routes and procedures to be followed in case of an emergency. It should have a total response to avoid disasters that may arise.
When planning, on site planning should be integrated with offsite support. It should be considered that the number of persons in any location should be limited to rescue or escape capability. Emergency alert system should be put in place and tested to ensure a swift response when the emergency happens.
Provisions of the constitution
Article 41 (2) (b) Every worker has a right to reasonable working conditions.
• Article 42 Every person has a right to a clean environment
• Article 70 (1) If a person alleges that a right to a clean healthy environment recognized and protected under article 42 has been, is being or is likely to be denied
He may apply to court to seek legal redress.
Provisions of the Engineer’s act 2012
• Article 7 (1) Functions and powers of the board
(g) (i) to enter and inspect sites to verify that works are carried out by registered engineers and (ii) relevant health standards are observed.
(k) and (m) setting and enforcing standards.
• Article (24) the board may register a peson as an Accredited Checker to review the work of a professional engineer to ensure it is adequate and is meets requirements safety.
Engineers should be in the forefront of pushing for health and safety in workplaces, this can be done through: pushing for implementation of regulations covering health and safety, creating awareness, ensuring that their designs meet safety requirements, implementation of their designs according to acceptable health and safety standards.