Reader panel - Let's talk constructionWritten by COS Editorial Team 14 March 2005
In this issue's Readers' Panel, we decided to tackle a topic from an industry we don't hear much from - the hazards of the construction industry.
Safety on any worksite has taken on a new focus with the 2003 passage and Royal Assent of Bill C-45 which amends the Criminal Code. The bill makes a failure to assure safety on a job site that results in an injury a criminal offence for companies and its people. Several companies have already faced criminal charges as result of incidents on their work sites.
Of the people who responded to our survey, 62 per cent were involved in the construction industry either directly or indirectly.
The first question they were asked was to identify the greatest threat to safety they saw. Of those who responded, 31 per cent responded equally that it was unarrested falls and improper signage or communication that was the greatest threat to workers. Seven per cent said it was improperly arrested falls and improper lockout/tagout while only three per cent identified improperly constructed scaffolding.
In the other category, 21 per cent identified a variety of other safety threats. They included personnel impaired due to alcohol, drugs and lack of sleep, lack of planning and OSH risks assessment, lack of good communication skills by supervisors, insufficient training of young workers, inadequate attention paid to safety by supervisors and workers and simple unsafe behaviour.
"I am involved from the health and emergency response aspect," stated one respondent. "The greatest threat to safety that I observe is improper use of tools (wrong tool for the task) and inadequate eye protection for the specific job or working conditions."
We asked if people ever offer feedback on their views of necessary changes in construction safety and the majority apparently have no problem expressing their concerns. Of respondents to this question, 71 per cent said they had no problem giving feedback.
We then asked, in their opinion, which of the following areas of the construction sector need specific and immediate attention, respondents could pick one or more of the following: fall protection; machine guarding; signage/communication; lockout/tagout; scaffolding; confined space safety; gas monitoring; dust and particle control; noise pollution and hearing protection; truck and heavy equipment operation; electric supply to job sites; electric installation on protects and protecting non-worker populations nearby or passing through the job site.
From the responses we received, 52 per cent noted fall protection as the area needing the most attention. Truck and heavy equipment operation came in with 38 per cent response followed by noise pollution and heavy equipment operation. Confined space safety, lockout/tagout and signage/communication each received 31 per cent of the vote followed by scaffolding with 29 per cent.
Protecting non-worker populations nearby or passing through came in with 26 per cent followed by dust particle control at 24 per cent and machine guarding at 19 per cent. Gas monitoring (17 per cent) and electric installation on project (10 per cent) took up the rear of the pack.
We then asked respondents to explain what they saw as the most pressing issues confronting job-site safety in the construction agency.
"Commercial construction poses more hazards and is watched closer than residential, leading to problems with workers trying to meet tough deadlines in the fast pace of house construction. More shortcuts are being taken, and workers without adequate experience," was one respondents observation.
"Compliance with standards by those who don't and profiling (and promoting) those who do," stated another.
"For all sectors the most pressing and most easily remedied is eye safety particularly where any renovation is involved," stated one respondent while another pointed out said.
"I observe all the time workers not using personal protective equipment and nobody enforcing the issue," said another.
Other observations and suggestions included:
"I think it is all-encompassing, and the biggest issue would be ensuring training of all staff on all applicable issues, especially for subcontracting firms."
"Residential Construction - this is a rogue industry. The workers are often paid by piece work and rushing/cutting corners on safety allows them a bigger paycheque. The prime contractors could change this scenario." "Residential fall protection and improper scaffold erection seems to be a big problem along with excavation/trenching which was not included in your list." "The construction workers not understanding the hazards for the job they are doing. Lack of hazard recognition is the biggest." "The deficiency of fair requirements for safety and health protection for all contractors regardless of size.
All contractors regardless of size must be required to show proof of certified Safety and Health procedures and policies." "Training is obviously the main area of concern, as control of all the hazards can only be achieved through consistent and effective training of workers and supervisors." "I work in the commercial end. The biggest issue that I can see is that 'young workers' (18-25) are being taught either directly or by watching bad habits, short cuts etc. by the journeyman that they are working with."
"Old attitudes are hard to change; the above areas are still poorly managed by all sectors." "You have mentioned most of where concerns should lie. Homebuilding, farming and fishing remain three of the issues offering the most uncontrolled risks."
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