I still recall the early days of my career in occupational health and safety when compliance on a project meant having a letter of good standing, a mandatary agreement, and a baseline risk assessment.

The appointed safety representative on the project was just that, a health and safety representative with a 2-day training attendance certificate to his name.

Fast track to today and contractors are sitting with their hands in their hair as they struggle to keep costs down and remain in compliance.

This however proves convoluted as contractors are required to align their health and safety files to suite the Health and Safety Specification of each project per project with every principle contractor adding their own set of rules. Failing which may result in a stoppage of work or delay commencement of work.

Welcome to the new arena of compliance.

It’s no simple task, and if you get it wrong the cost implications can skyrocket.

Let’s look at a scenario I have seen played out numerous times.

Contractor X, let say a structural steel contractor, tenders on a project at prices so low there is little to no profit margins just to be competitive in a very tight market.

The project program to add additional strain. leaves little for time delays.

To be as competitive as possible Contractor X did not include all the cost or any of the cost for health and safety.

Yore Eka, Contractor X is awarded the project.

Two days before the contractor is due to start on the project he receives an email loaded with attachments regarding the health and safety requirements for the project, Health and safety specification, baseline risk assessment, File Index, Mandatory agreement, Site-specific rules, and in the body of the email the wording  “All contractors are to submit health and safety files to site 7 days prior to commencement.”

Contractor X now boxed in, compiles a health and safety file of old health and safety files he has stacked on the back shelve in his office, not having the resources or the time to read through all the documentation ahead of time.

Day 1 of the project and Contractor X arrives on-site at 07:00 sharp with his best version of the 5 versions of safety files he has in his arsenal, of which he had reached compliance on previous projects

The supervisor is directed to the safety officer of the project and arrives at his/her office only to meet 4 other contractors. Supervisor of Contractor X waits 2 hours for his chance to speak to the safety officer, and then he receives the brutal news “I cannot audit you today I have 4 other contractors who booked ahead of time”

Day 1 of lost productivity and the standing cost is already becoming infuriating to the contractor.

After toiling and fighting away to get an approval audit done the next day, it is scheduled for 13:00. The team and file arrive back at the office.

The next day the full team arrives on the project hoping for an approval audit and induction.

Its 13:45 and Contractor X finally receives the attention of the principal contractor’s Safety Officer.

Having lost a day and a half already the safety officer starts to dissect the safety file, 2 hours later and another day lost. Contract X receives his score, a measly 50%, the approval score 90% compliance.

Back to the office and employees knock off. Having the deviations on hand the contractor on the third day now scrambles away to get as much as possible in place.

The file is audited once again, and our contractor now scores 85%. Some of the Competencies previously not required for appointments are not in place. The contractor is made aware of new training that was SAQA aligned and now considered compulsory.

Contractor X must now train his employees. Bookings are made and employees trained on money not budgeted for. Day 5 after the first visit and the file is approved, Contractor X is given an induction time for the following day, day 6 for induction training.

Day 6 and induction training commences at 09:00 and finishes at 11:30. Employees take lunch and work is to start at 13:00

A staggering 6 ½ days to get on the project.

Let’s do the math for 6 ½ days of standing time *

  • Five general laborer’s @ R1400 per day *
  • Once Crane Operator @ R  640 per day *
  • One Supervisor @ R  520 per day *
  • One Welder @ R  520 per day *
  • One Welding Machine Hire @ R  650 per day *
  • One Mobile Crane Hire @ R5000 per day *
  • Transportation cost up and down @ R  500 per day *
  • Training of employees 2 off @ R2500*

* Costs were relevant at the time of publishing.

Sum total R62 295.00, and that is excluding the cost of overtime incurred to make up the lost time on production.

I certainly have empathy for contractors in today’s market, it is extremely difficult to keep abreast with the latest development in occupational health and safety, price occupational health and safety into tenders and meander around different specifications and additional requirements.

None the less that is the price of being in business in today’s construction industry. The question to all of this is, how does one manage the cost?

And the answer lies in the question, you must manage your cost.

Invest in a good health and safety consultant

  • They will keep you informed and up to date with the latest occupational health and safety developments,
  • They work with numerous clients and principal contractors on a daily basis and know what is required from each
  • A good health and safety consultant will request the client’s specification at the time of tender

This will lead to zero standing time, increased production, and a safer work environment with fewer injuries more people on-site and safer equipment.