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Building a culture of safety

1st Feb 2008 , Ed

When it comes to occupational health and safety in the building industry, Master Builders South Africa's CEO, Pierre Fourie, said it was MBSA's “unqualified belief that all workers deserve a safe working environment”.

“Through its national office and the regional Master Builders Associations, Master Builders promotes a positive occupational health and safety culture which contributes to the efforts to eliminate occupational injury, disease and loss, and to the prevention of damage to the environment,” he said. Master Builders South Africa, previously known as Building Industries Federation South Africa, functions as a national federation of registered employer organisations and their members. The Master Builders Associations (MBAs) and specialised Affiliate members collectively represent some 4 000 small, medium and large contractors in South Africa. The building and construction industry represents a combined sector of almost R123bn, of which the building industry contributes nearly 60%. It also employs 966 000 people, according to Statistics South Africa's March 2007 Labour Force Survey (LFS)*, two thirds of whom are estimated to be employed in the formal sector. There are, based on the number of construction companies contributing skills development levies, approximately 7 000 active employers in the construction industry in South Africa. Threats to occupational health and safety differ between industry sectors, and monitoring measures or remedial tactics vary considerably between these sectors. The variances peculiar to the building industry are the prime focus of MBSA and the MBAs. To assist employers, the Organisation has over many years developed an extensively accepted and effective tool, widely known as the Construction Industry Occupational Health and Safety Manual. This guide offers a complete range of appointment forms, registers, checklists and guidelines, all of which can be initiated or used to enhance the integrity of any construction safety programme. Many companies, primarily larger and listed companies that also bid for work outside South Africa, have developed their own systems and implemented quality management systems such as OHSAS 18000, which is an international occupational health and safety management system specification. Workmen's Compensation The Federated Employers Mutual Assurance Company Limited (FEM), together with the State's Compensation Fund, provides insurance cover to the construction industry. FEM was established as a mutual insurer in 1936 and, on the introduction of the Workmen's Compensation Act 1941, was granted a licence to offer workmen's compensation insurance for the building industry. Its business operations are essentially confined to the insurance of employers against their liabilities under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 1993. The occupational health and safety programmes offered by MBSA and the MBAs are financially supplemented by FEM. Being an insurer of a large portion of the industry's workforce, FEM also provides a reliable source of industry injury statistics. Claims statistics Fourie says: “The most common causes of injuries on building and construction sites are ‘falls from height’ and ‘struck by’, and these account for nearly 70% of all claims and nearly 50% of the cost of the claims. A further concerning contributor to claims statistics is the number of motor vehicle related accidents which add considerably to the total costs of claims.” Personal protective equipment He points out that personal protective equipment (PPE) plays a vital role in occupational health and safety on building sites and the General Safety Regulations require that, where it is not possible to create an absolutely safe and healthy workplace, employees be informed about this and be issued, free of charge, suitable equipment to protect them from any hazards. It is a further requirement that the equipment be maintained by the employer, that he instructs and trains the employees in the use of the equipment, and ensures that the prescribed equipment is used by the employees. Employees do not have the right to refuse to use/wear PPE prescribed by the employer. Many manufacturers and suppliers of PPE will assist with on-site training of employees on the correct use of protective equipment. – Jeannie Terblanche [Master Builders South Africa, tel: +27 (0)11 205 9000, e-mail: jterbl




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