Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Safety at Site!








“The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” …Tacitus.

A Roman Senator & historian by himself above words of the Greek writer should be an eye opener for all the enterprises in our country where value of human life is far below than many other commodities is a bitter truth! Open any news paper & you will find death & destruction on all pages, may it be road accidents or landslides or a blast of boiler in any factory or falling of a labor from height; people die or get handicapped for their life every day here! Especially in construction industry where safety norms are there but rarely followed percentage of accidents is much more. One such incident at my own site triggered me to share my thoughts as my own engineer ordered few unskilled labors to remove some roofing sheets from a shade & one of the labor fall down & got his leg fractured. Fortunately the damage wasn’t much & a leg in plaster with minor operation the guy will be back on his feet is what doctor said though taking this as a lesson I called the concerned engineer for in depth investigation of what has happened actually as this is failure for our system & every failure has to be analyzed if you want to avoid one in future, is what I always think!

When I summoned the engineer to office & asked then some really surprising things came in light! First the labors were not skilled one whom he instructed to do the job i.e. they were ground workers used to do excavation & material shifting type works & not to climb on roof, though the shed was hardly ten feet height! Second, as they are never used to safety belts so they didn’t used the safety belts neither the engineer insisted considering its lesser height. Third  thing the engineer forget that asbestos sheets are never removed from top but from bottom as they are not supposed to take any load & surely not point load like a person standing on them! Fourth is he should have used the fabricator contractor's people who are trained for this type of job which would have avoided the accident which fortunately wasn’t fatal!

But the incident made me think about the scene in our industry as one single negligent act can bring death & all the unhappy things along with it & yet many of us doesn’t realize it & the show is going on sheer luck! It’s important that any accident which is fatal for life or cause any permanent damage to the person involved, is not only disaster for the victim’s family but it attracts lots of unpleasant things towards the project which includes financial damage as well work delays. Right from negative publicity too attracting agencies like police & labor welfare & self declared labor union leaders too, all get behind the builder & we all know their motive & outcome of such involvement. So it’s high time that as an owner or builder whatever you call but the top bosses in real estate must take the accident thing seriously. And for that let’s understand the scene as well what kind of accidents happens usually & the reasons behind them!

First & foremost is data of all these accidents which really is a difficult task as most of the time each involved party tries to hush up the incidence & I can understand very well the reason behind hushing up. Yet whatever comes in day light can be recorded & used as case study, here developer's associations like CREDAI & MBVA can work in hand with Govt agencies for data collection provided it’s not being used for wrong purpose! Most of the time its negligence or over confidence of the supervisory staff so first & foremost is an ongoing training to all site technical as well engineering staff is a must. As happened in my case the engineers or supervisors need to understand importance of using skilled personnel for particular jobs & they themselves should know what safety in first place is! As safety doesn’t mean just wearing helmet or wearing safety belts around; but safety means understanding the way to do a job with proper workmanship! So first step is utilizing right men & right equipments for each job which will avoid accidents by unskilled personnel’s, as you can’t blame a excavation worker if he fail down from top if you make him work at heights as he is not used to heights! Same way if you use a carpenter to dig drainage lines or for foundation excavation, then he won’t be able to do it & will end up falling himself in the pit or injure someone around while using his digging equipments! Similarly one major cause of accidents is poor maintenance of site equipments right from tile cutter too temporary lifts too cranes. For every instrument there has to be a maintenance contract & all the electrical connections should be regularly checked for the same!

One more cause of accidents is wrong way of erecting scaffolding for plaster from outside or weak support structure for casting slabs. This has to be done by trained people & under proper supervision only. Here is where a safety manual plays very vital role as the person supervising the wok may change but the norms should remain same!
Then comes the training every single person at work site for making the staff aware of individual’s role in safety & make them understand safety is not in any single persons control but we all together only can achieve it! As no person should move around without helmet & safety belts are a must for any height above average human height i.e. 7 ft! And these thing need not required to be told by your site supervisors but you should demand it on site before start of work every day, such should be the training! And it doesn’t end to just helmets of safety belts but right from safety shoes to proper clothing everything matters as loose clothes are major clause of accidents at many places as they can get caught fire or get in any moving part of the site machinery. Same way those who are working on scaffolding shouldn’t wear safety shoes as the shoes tends to slip from the pipes or wooden supports & these things should be impregnated in the minds of every person on site! Another major cause of site accidents is consumption of alcohol at work which surely leads to accident as a person under influence of alcohol doesn’t have control on his physical moments! So the supervisors should ensure that any person entering in work area isn’t drunk or under influence of any kind of intake. Best way we have used at site is we have trained our security watchmen & they search every person for tobacco or that type material & it has to be deposited at entrance & the worker can take it along while leaving the site. While working at higher floors barricading any external edge is a must as well having safety nets in proper place along.

Site labors accommodation is one more zone where accidents frequently happen & few points’ needs to be checked up while building the labor hutments. It should not be abutting any compound wall as many incidences have been there where the wall has collapsed on the hutments & taking lives of workers. Second is it should not be near any natural water flow path or in low laying area to avoid causalities in rainy season by flooding. Then the wiring needs to be properly done for electric supply as most of these hutments are of GI sheets & electric current immediately flows through the same causing fire as well short circuit. Also the children must be kept away from the work area & a creche is a must on any site however small it may be. As small children are very much susceptible to accidents on site i.e. falling from heights or falling some object over them are some common reasons of accidents where children are involved. Even their parents can work with free mind if they know that their kids are safe at work place!  The basic first aid kit as well fire fighting equipments must be stored in a separate shade near labor camp & board displaying all emergency numbers also must be there, so in case anything goes wrong the people should know whom to contact!

Another neglected aspect is labor toilets & their drinking water arrangements. Many might wonder what this has related to safety but do mind safety doesn’t mean just protecting the site staff from accidents but good hygiene is equally important & most of the diseases or epidemic spread via water only. So a clean & healthy water supply for the site workers is very much important in this context. We can also arrange routine health checkups for the site labors & if the site is small then we can ask surrounding ongoing project developers to join the hands for this cause. In Dubai there is surveillance from air via Helicopters to check the site conditions of working labors & arrangements made for them & if found guilty heavy penalties are charged! The local authorities also should have a check list mutually made with help of developers & can check the same periodically! And group labor insurance is also advisable as in case something goes wrong then there is financial aid available via insurance.

On the top of all this, there has to be a periodical safety audit of the site & in spite taking all precautions somewhere in routine people become over confident & which leads to negligence; so a surprise cross checking of the safety systems by third party does help! Last but not least all these efforts perspective clients do notice is my experience & can be a marketing tool also! Because, a developer who is taking proper care of his labors, imagine what he will do for his clients; is a smart aspect of these good deeds from the eyes of a customer. And needless to say a safe work environment always gives more yields because the workers also can work with free mind without worrying for their safety! And all this has to be filter from top to bottom as remember safety starts from head & travel downwards because safety is an attitude & not just action! 

--
Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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