Safety is a concern for everyone, particularly in the UK construction industry which chronically suffers from an exceptionally high number of fatalities compared with other UK industries. Button (1999) says of all business sectors, construction has the worst reputation for accidents at work. Serious injury and death remain common phenomenon in the UK construction industry despite all regulations put in place to minimize injury and death in the sector. In one of Health and Safety Executive report, “2.2millions people work in Britain’s construction industry making it the country’s biggest industry. It is also one of the most dangerous. In the last 25years, over 2,800 people have died from injuries they received as a result of construction work. Many more have been injured or made ill”.
From the statistical report of HSE 1999/2000 on 21st May 2000, three workmen were killed when a tower crane collapsed at a construction site in Canary Wharf: only a few weeks’ earlier three men had been killed on a site in HULL. Both accidents were dreadful reminders to the industry and to the world outside that construction has had a dismal safety record. “Figures published by the health and safety executive show construction have the highest rate of fatal and non-fatal accidents to employees of all major industrial groups.
Another graphic example of the potentially serious health and safety consequences of construction failure occurred in October 1994 at the world busiest airport-Heathrow. A tunnel under Heathrow’s Central Terminal Area being constructed for the Heathrow Express rail link collapsed. It was described as one of the worst Civil Engineering disasters in 25 years.
What is particularly depressing is that the industry is still seeking such high rates of injury and deaths after many years of increasingly tight regulation designed to reduce accidents and improve health standards, some of it specifically concerned with the construction industry.
There are a number of ways in which industries within a country can be regulated by the government in office. At one extreme, industries might be completely unregulated and left to what has been called “free market forces” and at other extreme industries might be directly regulated by the government. It could be argued that, at the extreme, neither of these models has worked particularly well and that what is required is some form of middle ground. That would seem to be the position within the United Kingdom, which appears to have a fondness for what might be termed “light touch” legislation after which matters are generally left to self-regulation (Anderson, 2006).
The UK authorities had taken series of actions in order to bring to the minimum injury and death in the UK construction industry. This includes the prosecution of earring contractors involved in some of the disasters in the industry. The judge in the prosecution of the Heathrow Tunnel contractor said that the tunnels could and should have been built safely and therefore pronounced the contractor guilty. The judge reinstated that Section 2(1) of the health and Safety at work Act 1974 say: it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure; so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.
He also emphasized that Section 3(1) says it shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety”
Likewise in February 1997 record penalties under the health and safety legislation were imposed on four companies for negligence leading to the collapse of a ferry walkway which resulted in the tragic death of six passengers and the injury of another seven. The fatal accident occurred in September 1994 when the walkway fell 30 feet whilst passengers were boarding a ferry at Ramgate in Kent (Sydenham and Durrant 1997).
Accident will happen, so it is said, they do. In the case, workers have a duty of care and this is emphasized in the UK in the health and safety work Act. In order to give workers the duty of care in fulfillment of the health and safety work act, Regulators in the sector have been working for years to improve the situation. Whilst construction is inherently dangerous, the dangers can be minimized if not completely eradicated. Button (1999) says the Health and Safety Executive take the view that 75% of all construction accidents are essentially preventable. The construction industry is thus being targeted by the Health and Safety authorities as a result of the high fatality rate in UK. One result has been the introduction of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 which imposed substantial additional duties on all participants in the construction process to take health and safety into account in the way in which they carry out their work. Whether this has been effective is another issue that needs to be reviewed.
According to Morton (2002) these regulations are encoded primarily in one major act of parliament and several sets of regulations set up under various clauses of the act includes;
- The H and S at work Act 1974 which laid the groundwork for subsequent legislation and regulatory instruments. It set up the Health and Safety Executive and imposed a very wide range of obligations on all employers in every industry;
- The management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and the Management of Equipment Regulations 1992;
- The Construction Design and Management Regulations 1994 (known now generally as CDM)- and their Approved Code of Practice;
- The Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) (CHSW) Regulations 1996;
- The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998;
Morton further states that the CDM and the CHSW Regulations both included provisions implementing the EEC directive on construction of 1992 and all the seats of regulations above were essentially extensions of the original 1974 Act.
The CDM Regulations is the major instrument directed specifically on Clients, Designers and Contractors. Clients have to ensure that a planning supervisor is appointed. His/her obligations are:
- To inform the local Health and Safety Executive of any proposals for construction work lasting over 30days.
- To co ordinate health and safety aspects of design and project planning.
- To ensure that a health and safety plan is prepared by the contractor which indicates, among other things, where health and safety risks are likely to occur.
- To prepare a health and safety file to be kept by the client and available for inspection.
The HSE report focuses on ways to get workers to practice safe behaviours: “The frequency of a behaviour can be increased or decreased by altering the consequences following that behaviour. There are three main types of consequences that influence behaviour. There are: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and punishment.” There has been series of changes in the regulation over time. “First, there was the management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 and the other regulations which made up the “six pack” which came into force on 1st January 1993. This was followed 27months later by the introduction of the construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 while the CDM Regulations on 31st March 1995.
Construction Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations were the equivalent of the workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 from which Construction Sites (including sites offices) were expressly excluded.
Some of the Health and Safety Regulations includes: Construction (General Provisions) Regulations 1961, the Construction (Working Places) Regulations 1966, the Construction (Health and Welfare) Regulations 1966 and the Construction (Health and Welfare) (Amendment) Regulations 1974, the Construction (Lifting Operations) these regulations cover area such as: `
Prevention of falls, fragile materials, falling objects, collapse of structures, safe means of support, demolition or dismantling, excavations, cofferdams and caisson, traffic routes, doors and gates, vehicle, plant and equipment, fire precautions, emergency routes, ventilations, temperature, good order” (Raymond and Pinsent 1995).
There has been general increase in awareness issues at all levels. The CDM Regulations which at first were generated with skepticism and the usual complaints about increasing bureaucracy and cost have generally been accepted and incorporated, at least at a superficial level, into normal procedures.
It has been argued that the numbers of deaths /thousand operatives, the figures do show a decline since the introduction of CDM (Morton, 2002).
Nevertheless an absolute increase in deaths and serious accidents, which as evident in the injury and death reports of health and safety executive, actually occurred. This is hardly a sign of great success. The simple answer to the question of why there has been so little advance is that the regulations are still not taken seriously enough right across the industry; it is possible to walk onto building sites anywhere and find breaches of the code.
Why have the contractors not willing to comply with the health and safety regulations in construction industry? Geoffrey (1991) answers that their attempt to increase productivity and make as much profit out of the job as possible, sub-contractors may not only seek to cut corners on the quantity of work done, but also to disregard safety needs and engage in working practices inferior to those normally expected by the main contractor. Many labour-only sub-contractors ignore the requirements of the health and safety at work Act and accident levels are found to be highest in small sub-contracting firms and in the ranks of the self-employed.
Morton (2002) asserts that one factor that seems generally accepted as an underlying cause of the high accident rate is the level of sub contracting and bogus self employed. Self employed and agency workers are far less likely to be aware either of their own or the contractor’s responsibilities. According to Morton, a union representative found on one site that none of the self employed had any idea what or who CDM or a planning Supervisor was.
Another problem is that the construction industry (and probably in all other industries too) everybody seems to blame everyone else. Price (2000) says that it has been claimed that architects have not taken their CDM obligations seriously enough. The Unions have no doubt that it is the contractors who are failing in their responsibilities; the union says further that the basic causes of death have not changed since the Blacspot Construction Report of 1988. This found that building workers were killed during simple routine work because of a lack of planning and the management was responsible for 70% of death 13. Yet another report says management while it was envisaged that initiated safety measures are also undermined by workers carelessness (UCATT 2001)
The code of practice has identified the obligations of all stakeholders in health and safety. Code of Practice paragraph 60 P: 19 say designers and contractors are responsible for seeing that the health and safety aspect of their works are considered in detail. The Designers are required to examine the methods by which the structure might be built and analyse the hazards and risks associated with these methods in the context of his design choices. Contractors are required to develop the health and design plan in a way which ensures that all health and safety at work regulations will be met and compliance monitored throughout the project. In order to do this they have the power to require all sub-contractors to do what is necessary to guarantee the safety conditions are met.
Likewise, the 1996 CHSW regulations also impose obligations on everybody including employees and self-employed workers. Many of the regulations are common sense written into law (e.g. regulation 8-do not throw any materials or object down from a height if they could strike someone). Others required actions that might not otherwise be taken- for example the requirement to inspect any working position at a height before work actually starts.
Section 7 shows the obligation of the worker to himself and to other workers. Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is concern with the general duties of employees at work “it shall be the duty of every employee while at work:
- To take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work and
- As regards any duty or requirement imposed on his employer or any other by or under any of the relevant statutory provisions to co-operate with him so far as is necessary to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with” Griffith and Howarth, 2001.
When safety is based on reliability, with the fall-back being to shut the plant down, there is clearly a built -in trade-off between safety and availability. The plant is always safe if it is unavailable. Yet the users of the plant want it functionality.
In an attempt to finding solution to the problem of incessant injury and death in UK construction industry, major contractors held a summit called the safety summit meeting in February 2001, they produced a ‘Health and Safety Charter’. This is in effect an agreement to take a number of steps towards increased safety including having safety committees on every site and banning the victimization of “Whistleblowers”.
The real problem is to ensure the good intentions are actually realized and spread right throughout industry. It may be necessary before the whole issue is taken really serious by all that there will be more rigorous inspection and enforcement. Unless evasions are identified even heavier punishments for negligence will not be a deterrent. There have already been some heavy fines £1.2 millions after the collapse of a tunnel at Heathrow imposed at the Old Bailey in 1999) but often punishments have seemed trivial. Many inside and outside the industry are of the view that until there is a crime of corporate manslaughter, and individual are also found criminally negligent, the toll will continue. For the fact is that safety costs money and where competition is fierce and profit margins are slim, corners will be cut.
Worker’s motivation is a commonly cited reason for the high accident rate, it was deemed to be useful to assess the effectiveness and sustainability of behaviour based safety scheme in UK construction industry.
Announcing the HSE contract research report (CRR), Dr Norman Byrom, of HSE’s Nuclear Safety Directorate, said: “There is potential to extend behavioural safety principles and strategies, which are often focused on frontline staff in organisations, more widely to encourage and promote behaviours that support the health and safety management system as well as the development of a positive health and safety culture.”
The importance of well-founded and effective health and safety planning for all construction activities and the catastrophic and tragic effects which can occur where health and safety planning is ineffective has been emphasised.
The health and safety planning is influenced significantly by the need for contractual parties and individuals to meet project applicable health and safety legislation, the attitude and stance of the employer, or corporate organization, is also fundamentally influential. It will be no surprise to find that where there is a strong and committed company organizational culture to maintaining good health and safety practice that robust and effective project based health and safety practices normally result.
Behaviour-based methods of safety management have become increasingly popular in recent years. Motivational techniques aimed at increasing the incidence of safe behaviour among employees, have been introduced in the construction industries of the UK and Finland and researcher have concluded that these techniques are effective in these environments (Duff et al, 1994; Matilla and Hyodynmaa, 1998)
Traditional methods of evaluating the effect of an intervention are not appropriate for use in industrial settings as they rely upon the random assignment of subjects into control and experimental groups. This cannot usually be arranged in a work environment and the violation of this assumption by using existing work teams or departments as control and experimental groups, has been a methodological flaw in previous behavioural safety research (Zohar et al, 1980; Smith etal, 1978). An appropriate methodology is required for measuring effectiveness of behaviour based safety schemes.
An alternative to traditional experiment designs involves the drawing of comparisons within the same group of subjects (Barlow and Hersen, 1984). Within-group experimental designs have been used by the majority of researchers assessing the effectiveness of behaviour-based safety techniques in Industrial settings.
It is necessary to for UK construction industry to make safety schemes more effective. For many larger principal contracting organizations, the adoption of a formal and documented health and safety management (H & SMS) will be the vehicle to ensuring effective health and safety planning both within the parent organization and on the sites of the project it undertakes. For smaller principal contractors an alternative is to implement project-based approach. There are key H & SMS elements which apply to both large and small contracting organizations and focus on corporate organizational planning by the company. These are:
- Policy and company commitment
- Organisation and organizational culture
- Planning and risk assessment/setting of performance standards.
- Monitoring and measuring performance
- Auditing and review.
Effectiveness and sustenance of safety scheme depends on policy, planning, monitoring and auditing.
The standard measure of success of a behavioural safety scheme is increased “safe behaviours” observed, and/or a reduction of the reported injury rate. Injury rates can go down when workplace health and safety conditions improve. But they can also decline when workers are pushed and coaxed and cajoled to work very, very carefully (using “safe behaviours”) around hazards that shouldn’t be there in the first place.
“Organisation has a considerable influence upon developing a sound and positive culture which allow safety management to be effective. Understanding of the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved is vital to effective health and safety control”. Griffiths and Howarth (2001).
Corporate health and Safety approach is a better approach to sustaining safety schemes in construction industry. The HSE (1998) suggest that this approach (as described in their lists of questions) to managing safety is tried and tested. It said further that it has strong similarities to quality management systems used by many successful companies.
Effective planning is pre requisite to successful health and safety practice. In meeting project0-specific health and safety legislation, a principal contractor is required to provide a detailed health and safety plan. This will involve accurate hazard identification, risk assessment, mitigation, control and emergency procedures to meet prescribed safety standards. Whilst much of this is developed in relation to a particular project, many aspects are generic and form an intrinsic part of the corporate plan for health and safety management.
Well conceived and presented safety method statements are pre-requisite to effective health and safety planning and form the basis for the iimplementation of “Safe Working Practices” on site. Safety Method Statement is a scheme that shows the control measures which should be applied to minimize potential risk of accident. Therefore, safety method statements according to Griffiths and Howarth (2001) enables operative carrying out the works to:
- Be aware of the hazards associated with their tasks;
- Undertake their tasks using safe working practices and
- Implement control mechanisms to eliminate or reduce the risk of accidents.
Safety Method Statements are essential on all projects but in particular on demolition projects which almost always involve intrinsically dangerous equipment-based and labour tasks and the handling of hazardous materials.
Safety Method Statements are key to identifying, understanding and ultimately controlling the dangers inherent on construction project in the industry.
Workplace behaviour modification program have been shown to positively reduce the number of accidents (Lund and Aaro, 2004) and safety incentive programme are just one ends to the means of influencing a population’s safety behaviour. An organization’s safety culture, which includes individual’s personal motivation for safe behaviour, risk justification and optimism, has also been deemed important in improving workplace safety (Williamson et al; 1997). Behaviour based safety scheme can be enhanced by using behaviour -based incentive programme whereby worker behaviour is observed as a criterion for awarding incentives. According to Duff et al’ (1993); Roberton et al, (1997); previous research has identified the means of measuring individual behaviour as a proxy for safety performance.
Rewarded behaviour can be based on the worker’s participation in activities such as safety meetings and training programme, suggestions about how to improve jobsite safety, the proper use of personal protection equipment and other behaviour that can help avoid accidents (Gangwar and Goodrum, 2005). According to them, Behaviour-based observation can provide data about equipment and facilities that put workers at risk for injury. As behaviour-based incentive programmes are comparatively difficult to measure and monitor according to Geller (1996) so also is Behaviour-based safety schemes. This is because worker behaviour is inherently more complex and difficult to gauge. In confirmation of this, Gangwar and Goodrum (2005) affirm that worker’s behaviour changes constantly in reaction to external factors like new equipment, new facilities, new work groups and even behaviour observation programmes themselves which applies to behaviour-based safety schemes as well.
‘The behaviour-based safety schemes should be continuously reinvented within the company through new measures in order to maintain the interest and awareness of the workforce to improve jobsite safety.
Whistleblowers in work place should be encouraged. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a whistleblower is an employee who reports employer illegality to a governmental or law enforcement agency”. According to Jubb (1999), this definition excludes employees who report activities that may be legal but that may still seriously endanger the public.
A body or alliance consisting of national experts in Construction engineering and management, health science, safety labour relations should be formed. It should represent a cooperative effort that includes: Labour organizations, construction companies, owners of constructed projects and trade associations. Their goal of the alliance should be similar to that of the Construction Safety Alliance. CSA in U.S. according to Dulcy et al (2004) the goal of CSA is to link safety and health (including occupational ergonomics) with improved productivity and quality and hence cost savings for the construction industry.
Proponents of safety incentives programs will argue that the programmes serve as a positive reinforcer that affects workers behaviour and eventually jobsite safety (Krause and McCoerqudale 1996).
The criticism has been that Yet, instead of examining how core work processes are affecting health and safety and working with the workforce to remedy problems, many employers have chosen to bring in behaviour-based safety programmes that focus on workers’ unsafe behaviours – workers – as the problem. Not surprisingly, workers have expressed a rather jaundiced view of this “problem” tag. While employers and consultants call them “behavioural safety programmes,” many workers and unions in the US refer to them as employers’ “blame-the-worker safety programmes,” or simply by their initials: BS. Now, more than ever behaviour and blame oriented systems are an inappropriate and ineffective approach at work. The failings of old are compounded by a system that concentrates on the behaviour of the individual when the behaviour of the organisation is increasingly recognised as the route of modern occupational ills including stress, overwork and conflicting pressures (NIOSH 2002).
It is necessary to improve safety planning and control methods beyond what is required by regulations and standards. Suraji et al (2001) found that planning and control failures related both to safety and production itself were major contributing factors to accidents in construction sites in the UK. Pre-project and pre-task safety planning is among the critical measures required to achieve a zero accident target (Hinze, 2002 and Liska et al, 1993).
McCollum, (1995); Kartam, (1997); Hinze, (1998); Ciribini and Rigamonti, (1999) have suggested that safety planning and control should be integrated. ‘On one hand, typical production planning decisions are the basis to establish preventive measures. On the other hand, safety requirements must be taken into account in production planning. Otherwise production plans may fail due to the lack of safety” Saurin et al (2004).
Everyone on site can contribute to the improvement of safety on site. Conclusively the used of Behaviour safety scheme has been effective but more need to be done to sustain the schemes in UK construction industry.