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Lives are shattered while trying to support a family

Mal Coates, director, Santis International, on the importance of health and safety, and its intrinsic link with productivity.

 MAL COATES: trying to reduce fatalities.
MAL COATES: trying to reduce fatalities.

Mal Coates, director, Santis International, on the importance of health and safety, and its intrinsic link with productivity.

The construction industry is in itself inherently dangerous and personnel who work within it know only too well how dangerous it can be if not regulated. Unfortunately, the industry is tagged with a macho image which encourages our youths to take unnecessary risks, which is often driven by peer pressure.

 

The rate of fatal injury to workers has fluctuated in recent years.

Traditionally, employees are rewarded for performance, rather than adherence to safe working conditions and this issue is not confined to any particular country.

If we are able to harness this powerful motivational tool to the benefit of employees rather than to their detriment, we would almost certainly see a reduction in the current unacceptable rate of family loss and subsequent trauma.

Santis International HSE Group has been studying the phenomenon of peer pressure for the past two years and believe we are on the verge of a breakthrough in harnessing this powerful economical tool.

In the period 2006/07, 241 employees in the UK never made it home because they were killed while working to make a living to support their families. We do not have the moral or legal right to put people in harm's way to benefit the bottom line or profit and loss sheet. Every worker has the right to return home in good health after each day's work.

The provisional figure for the number of workers fatally injured in the UK in 2006/07 is 241, and corresponds to a rate of fatal injury of 0.80 per 100,000 workers. In 2005/06, the finalised figures were 217 and 0.72 respectively - these were the lowest annual figures on record.

Although a long-term downward trend is still clear, the rate of decrease has slowed over the last 15 years and there has been very little change in the overall rate over the last five years.

Of the main industrial sectors, agriculture and construction have the highest rates of fatal injury. Together, these two sectors account for 46% of fatal injuries to workers.

Falling from a height continues to be the most common type of accident, accounting for 19% of fatal injuries to workers in 2006/07. Over the last decade, there has been steady and significant reduction in fatal injuries due to this type of accident.

Being struck by a moving or falling object, and being struck by a moving vehicle, are the next most common kinds of fatal accident. There were 90 members of the public, fatally injured in this way in 2006/07 (excluding railways-related incidents). This number has not shown any significant change over time.

Worker fatalities by industry

In construction, there were 77 fatalities and the rate of fatal injury was 3.7 deaths per 100,000 workers. Over the last 15 years there has been a statistically significant downward trend in the rate of fatal injury to workers; on average a 3.9% year on year decrease.

However, the higher number and rate for 2006/07 changes a pattern consistent with continued reduction up to 2005/06 into one of no change since 2002/03.

In manufacturing, there were 35 fatalities and the rate of fatal injury was 1.1 per 100 000 workers. The rate of fatal injury to workers has fluctuated in recent years with no statistically significant trend.

It matters not what race, religion or creed people may originate from; the simple but realistic fact of the matter is that we are all human beings trying to provide for our families to the best of our ability.

As can be seen by the figures published by the HSE Administration, the fatality rate over the past 15 years has not seen any significant reduction. Does this mean that we now accept that people are going to die while trying to provide for their families?

If the answer to the question above is yes, then we live in a very poor state of respect for human life. If the answer is no, how do we correct what we are obviously getting wrong. We at Santis HSE Group, believe it will be by giving the employee a voice.

If all senior managers (decision makers) of the major companies in the UAE sat together and agreed on basic standards of safety for their workers we would witness an immediate impact in the reduction of the current fatality/injury rate, and productivity would actually increase.

Our experiences in Azerbaijan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Egypt show that this can be achieved and we maintain data to support this claim. We are now concentrating our efforts and knowledge on realizing the same benefits here in the UAE.

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