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Mark Ryan Safety Advisor with Wills Bros Ltd, South of Ireland, gives us his thoughts on effective Health and Safety management this Construction Safety Week 23rd-27th October.
The first words that spring to mind when I think of effective H&S Management are words like embrace, structure, commitment and culture. These are key elements.
A company must commit to H&S all of the time, not just when it suits them. Without commitment, the other elements cannot stand up.
To truly embrace H&S, you must begin in the planning stages. Ask yourself, have I included H&S costs? Can the job be done in a realistic time scale? Are resources adequate to complete the project in the manner envisioned in our H&S Management System? In other words- can we practice what we preach?
In a well-structured company everyone knows their role and responsibilities, they know what is expected of them. It is very important that companies create an obvious chain of command, clear policies and an expectation of communication and training.
Everyone needs to know what the structure is and stick to it. The chain of command must be supported by Top Management. For example, if a Project Manager is in control of a project and has sub-agents taking instructions from him/her, the sub-agent then plans how the work is to be completed, relaying these plans to the Foremen and workers on site through Method Statements/ Risk Assessment. What would happen if the Project Manager decides to skip the Subagent and just go directly to the Workers? This would cause chaos. Schedules would be for naught, risking a serious breach of legislation and/ or a person put at risk. But if the Project Manager discusses the issue with the Subagent they can change things in a constructive, timely way without causing confusion. All construction companies need to be disciplined enough to follow the chain of command structure.
Policies are commitments made by the company to guide their work. Workers need to know them. Appropriate training and enforcement combine to create a safety culture. When the pressure comes on, habit kicks in and you do what you do repeatedly. That is why you must embrace the right way of doing the job. Good habits save lives. Embrace the work, respect the structures, practice doing it right, every time and create a safety culture.