Having served the occupational health and safety industry for over a decade I have come to realize several important factors that negatively impact the safety industry.

And they are, ignorant employers in terms of occupational health and safety and the title hunter safety officer.

Both makes for poor health and safety practices on site.

The ignorant employer will sign away document after document trusting that the content is applicable to their scope of work and covers all the tasks and risks and measures to mitigates them,  and the title hunter safety officer that will clear the contractor for approval based on the title of a document.

This leaves the employer open to liability and employees open to an unsafe work environment.

I urge employers to be involved in the development of health and safety documentation. And I urge my fellow occupational health and safety professionals, to play out their roles as professionals. Do your due diligence when auditing.

A well-developed health and safety file should paint a masterpiece of the contractor’s scope of work, and how it manages its risks.

Another important factor linked to the first two is the training and upskill of employees regarding the risk and preventative measures. What I see in the construction industry is employers ticking compliance boxes and not promoting health and safety.

Section 8(2)(e) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, act 85 of 1993  states the an employer have a duty to  provide such information, instructions, training and supervision as may be necessary to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees.

I fear that employer’s resort to only the minimum in training which they usually aim at compliance training for tick boxes.

The benefit of a safe work environment is an increase in cost effective production, and employers are still to realize how they can capitalize on that.

Lets play out a scenario, Contractor X, a plasterer arrives on a project. The employer did not read through any of the documents but signed off on all documents, not realizing that the work at height does not include working from scaffolding. The safety officer, title hunter, looks for a fall protection plan, finds it and ticks away and does the same for the work at height risk assessment.

The first week goes well as employees start working at ground level, second week and Contractor X’s employees are required to work at heights from scaffold.

The contractor employed a new employee as work demand requires it, the new employee has no experience in working from scaffold. He was given general induction of the file which does not state any risks or hazards concerning scaffolding.

Employee gets on scaffold works on an open edge which is being altered without a safety harness, steps back to view his work and falls down the scaffold.

Employee luckily sustain only a broken leg and is booked off for 3 months. Employer now has to pay that employee 75% of his wages and replace that person. A route cause analysis is done whilst work is stopped, and the cause of accident is determined as lack of training and documentation.

How could this have been prevented.

The employer, the industry expert, in his field should have informed the safety file developer upon receipt that all the risks are not covered. The title hunter safety officer should have realized that the full scope of work has not been addressed, and the employer should have provided such training and instruction to make employees aware of all risk.

The cost is as mentioned above, stop in production and an increase in production cost for the same work.

Invest in safety and capitalize on your investment by doing safety right the first time.