Safety Issues In Indian Construction Industry

<p style="text-align: justify;">Since each person&rsquo;s perception can be described as their reality, I thought I would share my perceptions, on safety issues in Indian Construction, especially in the Metro Construction scenario.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Remember, these are my perceptions based on personal experience and observations over the past five years; it does not mean it will fit precisely with your views or may not be accurate in all metro projects.</p><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 14pt;">Challenges in Implementing Safe Workplaces</span></h2><p style="text-align: justify;">So here we go, my observations and perceptions:</p><h3><span style="font-size: 12pt;">1. Employer-Worker Relations</span></h3><p style="text-align: justify;">Lower-level workers/labourers are seen as a commodity, not a resource. They are treated as something easily replaced, without actual value and shown little or no respect and often with little or no humanity, especially when it comes to labour accommodation. (In fact, I have seen construction machinery receiving better treatment than many workers get).</p><h3 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 12pt;">2. Limited Resources for implementing Safety Plans </span>&nbsp;</h3><p style="text-align: justify;">Low project bids often mean little or no consideration for the cost of Safety, except to provide a safety team, rudimentary safety training (mandated by the contract) and supply of PPE.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">A solution would be to make safety an independent bid, supporting the primary project bid. This way, the contractor&rsquo;s safety commitment would have increased transparency, and thus more control could be exercised.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Additionally, the separate safety bid finances should be ring-fenced to ensure it is spent effectively and according to the safety plan.&nbsp;</p><h3 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 12pt;">3. Worker Safety Training </span>&nbsp;</h3><p style="text-align: justify;">Worker safety training focuses on what, not why, and does not allow workers to think for themselves in the workplace.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">It is well known that training is executed according to a &lsquo;needs analysis&rsquo; and not &lsquo;blanket training&rsquo; for the masses every time they return from an absence!&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Rote learning does not add any safety benefit where risks constantly change as work progresses; please, don&rsquo;t get me started on &rsquo;96 Hour Training&rsquo;.&nbsp;</p><h3 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 12pt;">4. Worker Skills&nbsp;</span></h3><p style="text-align: justify;">Workers' past training and experience are rarely acknowledged, valued, or rewarded. DMRC Project Safety has successfully trialed centralised training records to prevent repetitive training of workers returning from short absences or switching to other employers.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Employers would surely reap benefits in time and money by taking a little time to screen newcomers and questioning their experience and training.</p><h3 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 12pt;">5. Implementing Preventative Action&nbsp;</span></h3><ul><li><p>True &lsquo;Learning Organisation Principles&rsquo; are rare; finding blame appears to be more important than resolving issues or implementing Preventative Action in the first instance.&nbsp;</p><p>Safety is mainly reactive and not proactive. This I describe as &ldquo;Lethargic Safety&rdquo;. I have often observed safety supervisors standing on site watching unsafe acts and disregarding dangerous conditions rather than challenging them; furthermore, there is very little focus on upcoming safety matters.&nbsp;</p></li><li><p>While paperwork is a driving factor in safety and a contractual requirement in preparing for upcoming work activities, seldom are the documents utilised as intended, nor are they regularly reviewed.&nbsp;</p></li><li><p>Safety Leadership is tragically lacking, and &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t do as I do - Do as I say&rdquo; is a predominant feature of safety management. So much more could be achieved if senior managers became genuinely involved at the site and practically.&nbsp;</p></li></ul><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 14pt;">Recommendations to Improve Safety Standards at Construction Sites&nbsp;</span></h2><ul><li style="text-align: justify;"><p>Safety needs more 21st century ideas and equipment to assist site safety and worker involvement in improving safety.&nbsp;</p><p>Where is the manual handling equipment for the safer lifting of materials, the smartphone apps, and the down hook cameras for a real-time view of complex lifting operations?</p></li><li style="text-align: justify;"><p>The contractors who have a &ldquo;Daily Safety Pledge&rdquo; in their safety routine; should do a little self-examination to establish whether their words, uttered at toolbox talks and safety meetings, are respected by similar actions in the workplace. Let&rsquo;s not forget that Actions, Not Words, are required for a safe workplace.</p></li><li style="text-align: justify;"><p>Significant &ldquo;Managerial Development&rdquo; of contractor&rsquo;s safety managers should be de rigour within contractor&rsquo;s safety and succession plans. An example would be assertive communication training, which is imperative to successfully implementing safety plans and addressing critical safety issues on site.</p></li><li style="text-align: justify;"><p>Statistics on Metro Construction Safety, Fatalities and Lost Time Accidents (FIRs &amp; IFRs) should be published quarterly.&nbsp;</p><p>Projects and Contractors with poor safety records should be named and shamed and lauded where appropriate, i.e., develop a league table of contractors and Projects which is in the public domain.&nbsp;</p><p>This will also aid in choosing safe contractors for future projects and could ultimately lead to better workers choosing which contractor they would prefer to work for.&nbsp;</p></li></ul><p>Let&rsquo;s not forget that Actions, Not Words, are required for a safe workplace.</p><ul><li><p>The client should strive to elevate safety to a &ldquo;Real Priority&rdquo; equal to project fiscal matters and project timescales and not just pay Lip Service. (DMRC is an excellent example of a competent, dedicated, and enthusiastic Project Safety team with a highly proficient leader).</p></li><li><p>Government and Safety NGOs need to be more active, visible, and involved in reviewing Safety Legislation and best practices to meet the needs of modern construction safety.</p></li><li><p>Finally, contractual conditions for safety should be strictly enforced; No Ifs, No Buts!</p></li></ul><p style="text-align: justify;">This article contains a fair measure of personal thoughts and perceptions. Indeed, given more time, I&rsquo;m sure I could come up with the same number again.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">While most of my feelings and criticisms are aimed at contractors, there are some issues where both clients and government could improve too, though this should not excuse contractors for simply maintaining the safety status quo but should spur them on to meet and exceed contract conditions for safety.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">On a positive note, there are some &ldquo;centers of safety excellence&rdquo; within many metro projects and a few mainstream civil contractors.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">So much so that we can carry the hope that in the not-too-distant future, more contractors will rise from their &lsquo;risky torpors&rsquo; and join in the movement for a far safer Indian construction world.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><em>This article was contributed by our expert <a href="">Martyn Gomersall&nbsp;</a></em></span></p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><h3 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 18pt;">Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Martyn Gomersall</span></h3><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 12pt;">1.&nbsp;What are the different safety guidelines that need to be followed during metro construction?</span></h2><p>Throughout the metro construction process, the main challenges are the highest priority on the safety of workers and the community. A Project Construction Safety Compliance Program shall be developed to take a proactive approach to promote safe behaviours near construction sites and increase construction safety awareness for workers, the public and stakeholders in the areas along the alignment.</p><h2><span style="font-size: 12pt;">2.&nbsp;What is safety-related problems in the Indian construction industry?</span></h2><p>The safety policy is available with a few contractors for their site. In some cases, the safety program is incomplete. That is, there is no safety team, engineer, or another person responsible for safety at the site; some don&rsquo;t have formal safety organisation. It is disappointing that some areas do not have insurance for the labourers and those working at the site. It shows the lack of awareness among the people working at the site.</p><p>Safety record-keeping is urged to be maintained at the construction sites to make awareness of safety in construction sites to reduce occupational accidents and illnesses.</p><h2><span style="font-size: 12pt;">3.&nbsp;What are the major problems faced by construction labourers in India?</span></h2><p>Casual Nature of Employment: The nature of employment of the workers in the construction industry is uncertain. Neither the contractor nor the owner assures the workers of the job.</p><p>Absence of Social Security: The workers in the building construction sector have minimal or no benefits from the social security and labour welfare programmes run by the government. As a result, workers work under conditions like uncertain work, no medical facilities, an unsafe working environment and a lack of fair wages and insurance facilities.</p><p>Uncertain Working Hours: Uncertain and long working hours are another problem that the workers face in the construction sector.</p><p>&nbsp;</p>
KR Expert - Martyn Gomersall

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