Safety: small companies need big company attitude

Worker safety is paramount, regardless of company size

Safety standards in other countries, like China, aren't as stringient as they are in the UAE. Photo: Getty images.
Safety standards in other countries, like China, aren't as stringient as they are in the UAE. Photo: Getty images.

While the safety message may be getting through to many of the construction industry’s larger players, smaller companies also need to look after their workers with comprehensive training and monitoring says Qatar Project Management HSE director Wayne Harris.

Speaking during the ConstructionWeek Building at Height Safely seminar last week, Harris says that larger companies were aware of the impact any lost time injuries had on projects, and that it was important to ensure workers were kept safe on the job, but the message needed to filter down to smaller companies too.

“We’ve seen it in the UK where most family owned, family contracting companies couldn’t always afford to hire in an HSE consultant to draw up a plan and train staff. That’s where big business has a role to play,” he said.

“It’s not always a case of wielding a big stick: Abu Dhabi has taken the lead by developing a framework for the whole of the UAE, and initiatives like BuildSafe UAE are great for spreading the message – but big business can help too.”

Harris said that larger firms often brought smaller company workers in to their projects to work for short periods to instill in them a safer working practice.

“We don’t build as we did 10 years ago, so we can’t work the same way. We also work closely with them to replicate ideas on a smaller scale, just to spread the word and give something back.”

Delegates agreed that adopting best practice principles were also key, and motivating staff to follow safety training was simply a matter of motivating them to do so. One delegate said that incentives worked well within their company. Whether that incentive wass a simple reward, such as a phone card, extra pay – or the knowledge that there was a workforce waiting in the wings and ready to replace them if they didn’t follow company rules – motivating staff to wear their safety equipment and work safely was exceptionally important.

“I was pleasantly surprised on a recent trip to Yemen and the Sudan where, at one site, the safety standards were exceptional. I asked why, and was told that the country’s employment levels were a strong motivator.”

All operators, whether large or small, must take steps to ensure their workers are safe, Harris said. He also said that any time lost to injuries was probably felt more keenly by smaller companies - so safety was even more important for thoise with a limited workforce. Time and money invested in safety could only save companies in the longer term.

“If we’re not prepared to pay for safety, there will be accidents,” Harris said.

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