Construction Industry’s OHS Statistics Needs Revamp

South Africa. The construction sector’s Health and Safety numbers had not been improving in tandem with the industry, said Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) construction industry performance programme manager Dr Rodney Milford.

Milford said that fatalities and injuries statistics were severely lacking and that made an acurate assessment of current trends very difficult.

According to the Department of Labour there were 162 fatalities in the construction industry, excluding motor vehicle accidents, in 2007/08, compared with 79 in 2006/07, 81 in 2005/06, and 54 in 2004/05.

Around 40% of all fatalities in the construction industry were linked to vehicle accidents and the CIDB believes that under-reporting of incidents to the Department of Labour is a reality.

Milford said the Compensation Commissioner should be able to accurately report on Health and Safety in the construction industry. Statistics from the Compensation Commissioner is however flawed, as the latest round of available statistics was from 1999 and thus, ten years old.

All of these aspects made reporting on Health and Safety in the construction industry a difficult job, said Milford.

He added that the sharp rise in fatalities did not necessarily provide an accurate assessment either, as the construction industry had been experiencing rapid growth in projects, work, and employment since earlier this decade. In relation to employment numbers, fatalities and injuries had, therefore, not necessarily worsened, even if every such event was still very much regrettable.

Milford said that South Africa was not lacking in Health and Safety legislation, but that the report found enforcement to be sorely lacking. Also, those government officials inspecting building sites lacked the requisite construction expertise to spot noncompliance.

Industry also did not escape scrutiny, with Milford noting that there was inadequate management commitment to Health and Safety, as well as inadequate supervision on the adherence to Health and Safety codes on site.

There was also not sufficient training on Health and Safety issues within construction companies, and a lack of worker involvement – which was not necessarily the employers’ fault, noted Milford. Workers and employers should both become more involved with this issue.

He also said that tertiary education courses, such as university civil engineering degrees, did not even touch on Health and Safety matters.

CIDB CEO Ronnie Khoza noted that the “current construction Health and Safety systems were clearly not working too well”.

Source: Engineering News

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