Construction industry representative association Master Builders Association (MBA) North launched the September for Safety road safety campaign this month to promote the safe use of vehicles regarding construction procedures when transporting either personnel or materials, on site or off-site.
A large number of fatal construction industry-related accidents involve vehicle collisions, says MBA North construction health and safety manager Doug Michell.
“If we manage to control vehicle collisions, industry accidents could be reduced by about 50%,” he says, adding that reducing fatal incidents, however, is a considerably more difficult task.
Michell says most safety aspects of designated construction vehicles are beyond construction companies’ control, adding that drivers of construction vehicles are at the mercy of actions of other road users, who might drive recklessly.
The health and safety management personnel of construction companies can also not be present in person every time a driver uses a construction vehicle, resulting in the responsibility for safely operating construction vehicles being solely that of the drivers who operate them.
Michell says the frequent practice of hypocrisy further hampers the application of adequate control over health and safety practices. For example, a contractor who subcontracts work to smaller companies will specify that personnel may not be transported in an unprotected vehicle, such as a bakkie without a canopy, to the construction site. However, the personnel will be transported from a collection point several kilometres away to the site in an unprotected vehicle, only for the driver to drop personnel off a short distance away from the site and then drive to the site while the passengers walk in.
He advises construction companies to invest in enclosed vehicles – such as double-cab bakkies, microbuses and buses, which are designed to carry a specified number of passengers – and not to exceed the designated capacity of the vehicle.
Training on the Move
MBA North introduced its Training on the Move initiative in July during the association’s National Safety Awards, which was held at Bytes Conference Centre, in Midrand.
Michell tells Engineering News that, although a similar concept is employed in the mining industry using mobile safety points, the initiative is unique to the construction industry.
For the initiative, MBA North uses a light-duty vehicle (LDV), the Nissan NP200 bakkie – cosponsored by mutual-insurer association Federated Employers Mutual – to conduct health and safety presentations using a mobile platform that offers flexibility to clients who require health and safety training on site.
MBA North construction health and safety specialist Paul Adams says the LDV has been fitted with a television set, other modern audiovisual equipment, including loudspeakers, and a range of tools and equipment for practical demonstrations. It will be used to train contractors’ personnel, either on site or at the contractors’ offices.
The Training on the Move initiative enables the association to take training not only to sites or offices in Gauteng but also to the Mpumalanga, North West and Limpopo provinces, which MBA North serves.
“We also intend targeting smaller and emerging contractors for whom the distance to our offices in Midrand and the cost of sending employees for training sessions there could be prohibitive.
“The training to be provided from the LDV is comprehensive and covers not only construction health and safety but also the wide-ranging training offered by MBA North’s education, training and transformation department.”
Adams adds that the company also intends using the vehicle for membership promotion, besides other potential applications.
One of MBA North’s main missions is to disseminate information to train smaller contractors, particularly those from previously disadvantaged communities, says MBA North executive director Mohau Mhomela.
“Being able to take training in various vital aspects of construction right to such contractors’ doorsteps is a pioneering achievement for any MBA in South Africa. We are proud to lead the way in this regard,” he adds.
The services of the initiative are offered free of charge to MBA North members, but nonmembers will be charged a fee.
State of the Industry
At face value, the construction industry in South Africa exhibits world-class health and safety practices; however, in-depth analysis indicates a lot of room for improvement, Michell notes.
“The construction industry has lost touch with reality . . . and . . . needs to get back to basics, which involves all personnel communicating with one other. It is no use having a lengthy safety file and risk assessment in place if the workers do not know what those documents entail,” he says.
In the age of technology and information, Michell finds it surprising that on-site personnel still engage in dangerous activities such as climbing on the outside of scaffolding and throwing bricks from different levels of buildings, Michell points out.
Further, induction processes have become meaningless activities, which are hastily conducted to reduce the time during which personnel are not working, he says. “We have noticed many induction processes being conducted by a safety officer, quickly stating a few rules and regulations, pointing at some diagrams that illustrate the do’s and don’ts, and then the construction personnel go to work.”
Many of the important health and safety protocols are not acknowledged during the induction process, as the process is rushed, says Michell.
“The short timeframe for construction is another major concern, as South African construction companies are renowned for rapid construction, which are often perceived as suspicious, as shortcuts are used to ensure work is not behind schedule,” he concludes.