Most construction projects are now on the fast track, and workers are under tremendous pressure to deliver, says senior civil engineer Ajit Sabnis

Accidents during construction at project sites take place mainly due to wrong construction practices and negligence. Accidents also occur due to faulty designs. The number of fatalities is quite disturbing including fall from heights and through openings. Every project site, as it advances towards completion, changes its nature continuously, involves different agencies and consequently becomes more and more prone to accidents. Most projects are now fast-track constructions and workers are under tremendous mental pressure to deliver. Accidents not only de-motivate and traumatise workers, they also slow down the progress.

Causes are varied…

There are quite a few factors that could potentially cause a construction accident. Machinery and tools can malfunction, leading to injuries. Exposure to toxic chemicals, fire, dangerous debris, falling objects or hazardous materials may be another cause. Accidents may also occur when tools are not properly placed in their slots or supports aren't safely secured. Sometimes, it is because of wrong judgments. Construction sites often have many areas that are inherently unsafe, including unprotected duct openings and partially-constructed building components. Workers have to be wary of cylinder explosions and electrical shocks due to improper laying of cables.

The code

The National Building Code (NBC) of India provides a framework for improving safety performance on construction projects and in fact has a dedicated chapter on “Constructional practices and safety.” Though every tender document, under specially stipulated general conditions of contract, demands complete adherence to environment, health and safety aspects, there is a need to create a robust safety culture and enforce construction safety management.

The objective of construction safety management is to ensure safe working conditions to prevent accidents and hence it is necessary to understand and implement proactive control measures by all the stakeholders at a project site prior to execution of the work.

The principles

* Safety is an attitude, a way of life that has to be practised

* All individuals at project sites are responsible and accountable to manage and eliminate risks

* All accidents are preventable with proper care and understanding.

* Life is precious, awareness about safety is mandatory.

Various steps can be taken and implemented to improve safety during construction. Many of these decisions can be taken during the pre-construction stage, i.e. at the design and tendering stage itself.

Educating workers and concerned site managers will have a direct and positive impact on jobsite safety.

(The author is Secretary General, Association of Consulting Civil Engineers-India, Bangalore)

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