SAFETY PROCEDURES AND ACCIDENT PREVENTION METHODS IN CONSTRUCTION SITES
1.1 Background of the study
The importance of the Construction Industry to national economies the world over cannot be over emphasized. According to Mike et al (2011), by 2020 construction will account for 13.2% of world GDP indicating an upward trend. This is seen in the provision of basic infrastructure such as road networks, commercial and residential buildings and facilities to the other sectors of economies. Also construction’s sizeable amount of economic growth is through backward and forward linkages since construction activities utilize goods and services from other industries. Employment creation by construction activities is another important aspect in economic development. In the Nigerian’s economy construction industry accounts for 5% of the country’s GDP and employs about 1 million people with an estimated annual wage bill of K.sh. 3.2 billion according to recent findings of the first quarter of 2011 by Nigeria National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).
Despite the documented positive gains brought by the construction industry, there are negative attributes which are associated with construction work. Construction work is dangerous, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates at least 60,000 fatal accidents a year on construction sites around the world that is one in six of all fatal work related accidents. The global trade union federation puts the figure much higher at 108,000 with construction responsible for 30% of all work related accidents. In Britain for example a study report 2010/11 by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states, the construction industry accounts for 27% of fatal injuries to employees and 9% of reported major injuries. This is illustrated by figure 1 below. Source; http://www.hse.gov .uk (2011)
Figure 1 Comparison of fatalities in construction and other sectors of the economy – UK.
In Nigeria, collapsing buildings while still in construction process trapping construction site workers has become a common occurrence, take for instance the killing of two workers and many injured at Spaki in Mombasa in April 2009 when a storey building in construction curved in burying alive many of the workers in a heap of concrete and steel ruble. (Construction risk management. Construction Review, Vol 18, 2006)
The Internal Labour Organization (ILO) in an effort to improve and maintain safe working environment at work places has held general conferences through the years since 1937 deciding and adopting conventions and recommendations geared towards health and safety in construction works. One such is convention C167 cited as the Safety and Health in Construction Convention, 1988 which revised and adopted the Safety Provisions (Building) Convention of 1937.This Convention carries provisions which apply to all construction activities. Accordingly, each Member Country which ratifies this convention undertakes that it will, on the basis of an assessment of the safety and health hazards involved, adopt and maintain in force laws or regulations which ensure the application of the provisions of the Convention through technical standards or codes of practice, or by other appropriate methods consistent with national conditions and practice. Articles 8 and 10 of the convention require that the principal contractor, or other person or body with actual control over or primary responsibility for overall construction site activities shall be responsible for coordinating the prescribed safety and health measures and, in so far as is compatible with national laws and regulations, for ensuring compliance with such measures.
Further, the national laws or regulations shall provide that workers shall have the right and the duty at any work place to participate in ensuring safe working conditions to the extent of their control over the equipment and methods of work and to express views on the working procedures adopted as they may affect safety and health and comply with the prescribed safety and health measures. Generally, the convention outlines the preventive and protective measures to the effect that appropriate precautions shall be taken to ensure that all workplaces are safe and without risk of injury to the safety and health of workers. Emphasis is also made in so far as information and training is concerned to the effect that workers shall be adequately and suitably informed of potential safety and health hazards to which they may be exposed at their work place and instructed and trained in the measures available for the prevention and control of, and protection against, those hazards. Reporting of accidents and diseases is important, hence national laws or regulations shall provide for the reporting to the competent authority within a prescribed time of occupational accidents and diseases. On implementation the convention directs that each member shall take all necessary measures, including the provision of appropriate penalties and corrective measures, to ensure the effective enforcement of the provisions of the Convention and provide appropriate inspection services to supervise the application of the measures to be taken in pursuance of the Convention and provide these with the resources necessary for the accomplishment of their task, or satisfy itself that appropriate inspection is carried out. (Safety and Health Convention in Construction, 1988)
The importance of these convention provisions is further emphasized by findings of a study carried out by Wilson D.J. et al (2007), ’The Ratification status of ILO conventions Related to Occupational Safety and Health and Its Relationship with Reported Occupational Fatality Rates’ which confirms the fact that non-ratifying countries generally have higher fatality rates than ratifying ones. Therefore all countries should promote ratification of ILO conventions aimed at improving Health and Safety conditions. It is unfortunate to note that although Nigeria is a member country of the International Labour Organization (ILO), to date it has not ratified C167 convention of 1988 and this indication of low commitment to issues of health and safety in the construction industry by the regulating authority resulting to more accidents, injuries and deaths.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
There is a growing interest on Health and Safety in Nigeria following enactment of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, (OSHA, 2007). Most of the business enterprises in Nigeria which were previously operating without institutional and individual capacity for occupational health and safety management now need to develop that capacity in order to improve the quality of the working environment and avoid expensive liabilities.
The occupational Safety and Healthy Act (2007) came into being after several revisions to the Factories Act (1951), amending and extending its scope of application to places of work other than factories. It applies to all work places where any person is at work, whether temporary or permanently. The Act seeks to secure the safety, health and welfare of persons at work and protect persons other than persons at work against risks to safety and health arising out of, or in connection with, the activities of the persons at work. Under the Act the employer has a duty to comply with any safety and health rules, regulations instructions and procedures in the act by taking all necessary precautions to ensure his own safety and health and that of any persons in his work place and at all times use appropriate safe systems of work, preventive and control measures. The employee at work place has a duty to ensure his own safety and health and that of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work place and to comply with the safety and health procedures, requirements and instructions given. The contravention of the provisions thus constitutes an offence. The Act provides for the appointment of a director and occupational safety and health officers to oversee the implementation of the provisions, but this notwithstanding, accident continue to happen in construction sites some with fatal implications. (Occupational Health and Safety Act, 2007).
The suffering caused by such accidents and illnesses to workers and their families is incalculable. In economic terms, the ILO has estimated that 4% of the world’s annual GDP is lost as a consequence of occupational diseases and accidents. Employers face costly early retirements, loss of skilled staff, absenteeism, and high insurance premiums due to work– related accidents and diseases. Yet many of these tragedies are preventable through the implementation of sound prevention, reporting and inspection practices. (Engineers against poverty report, 2008).
1.3 Purpose of the study
The purpose of the study was to examine factors affecting implementation of occupational health and safety measure in the construction sector in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria
1.4 Objectives of the study
The broad objective of the study was to examine the factors affecting implementation of occupational health and safety measures in the construction industry in Nigeria, the case of Akwa Ibom. The specific objectives of the study were:
i. To establish the extent to which health and safety management systems affect implementation of occupational health and safety measures.
ii. To establish the extent to which training and induction affect implementation of occupational health and safety measures in building construction sites.
iii. To investigate whether the cost of risk control measures affect implementation of occupational health and safety procedures.
iv. To assess how a building-project client influences implementation of occupational health and safety measures in a building project.
1.5 Research Questions
The research questions that guided the study were;
i. To what extent does health and safety management systems in a building construction firm affect implementation of occupational health and safety measures?
ii. To what extent does training and induction affect implementation of occupational health and safety measures in building construction sites?
iii. How does cost of risk control measures affect implementation of occupational health and safety procedures?
iv. How does a building-project client influence implementation of occupational health and safety measures in a building project?
1.6 Research Hypotheses
(H₀): Most building contractors do not have health and safety management systems.
(H₁): Most building contractors do health and safety management systems.
(H₀): Training does not affect levels of accidents in building construction sites.
(H₁): If training at work place imparts information and enhances awareness, then providing training and induction will help improve occupational health and safety levels in building construction sites and reduce accidents.
(H₀): Risk control measures are not adhered to in building construction sites.
(H₁): Risk control measures are adhered to in building construction sites.
(H₀): Most project clients do not use formal contract agreements in their building projects.
(H₁): Most project clients use formal contract agreements in their building projects.
1.7 Basic assumptions of the study
The basic assumption of the study was that the respondents would appreciate the purpose of the research exercise and that they would be accessible and corporative in answering the questions.
1.8 Significance of the study
The findings of this study will help bring to the attention of the stakeholders in the building construction industry and more so to the building construction firms the importance of occupational health and safety culture in work places, in this case the construction sites.
The study also brings to light the fact that clients in a project do contribute significantly towards the implementation of occupational health and safety measures in their building projects when such requirements are included the tender documents. The study will generally contribute to the body of knowledge in the subject of health and safety in the building industry sector.
1.9 Limitations of the study
The researcher encountered a number of challenges in the process of carrying out the study;
The spread of respondents identified in the sample over Akwa Ibom Statepresented access problems in terms of transport and communication. This was overcome by use of e-mail communication as much as was practicable.
The costs involved in transport, stationary, communication, typing, photo copying and binding were fairly high. This necessitated borrowing from my employer to offset the high costs.
Time frame for the preparation of the research proposal document was squeezed hence proper time management was essential in order to meet the set time target.
1.10 Delimitations of the study
Though the study was aimed at examining the factors affecting implementation of occupational health and safety measures in the construction industry in Nigeria, the researcher narrowed it down and focused on Akwa Ibom Statehence targeting those building contractors registered with the Ministry of Public Works carrying out building construction business in the county.
1.11 Definition of Terms
Health: is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease. This includes: The promotion and maintenance of physical, mental and social well being of workers, Prevention among workers of ill-health caused by the working conditions, Protection of workers in their employment from risk resulting from factors adverse to health, Placing and maintenance of the worker in an occupational environment adapted to his physical and psychological equipment.
Safety: is identifying, evaluating and controlling workplace hazards and includes measures, methods or techniques or process to prevent human exposure to unsafe work practices, physical or even chemical agents. This may involve: Improving working conditions and safe methods of work, Reasonable hours of work, Provision of personnel protective equipment, Provision of first-aid and medical facilities.
Welfare: is the provision of facilities to maintain the health and well-being of individuals at the workplace.
Accident: is an unexpected, unwanted occurrence which interrupts or interferes with the orderly progress of work in an establishment by causing bodily injury to a person making him unfit to resume duty due to partial or total disablement or even death. It can also cause damage or loss to property, plant, materials or the environment.
Hazards: is a potential condition which might be converted into an accident. It is a state having potential to injure a person or impair ones health.
Risk: is the likelihood of a substance, activity or process to cause harm.
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