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Building a safety net: Protecting the workplace with effective project management

Photo shows a woman wearing a hard hat holding buildings in her handConstruction sites are considered high-risk environments. Pay a visit to one and you will immediately see why — with large teams of people simultaneously working on various aspects of the project, all kinds of tools and heavy machinery involved and in motion, and the different areas of the site itself in varying degrees of completion, there are many potential mishaps or accidents that could take place.

Each workplace must be proactive in ensuring the health and safety of each worker onboard the building project. As busy and complex as the operations may be, there will always be an ideal way to implement safety protocols for all relevant and potentially dangerous situations within the site — and that's through effective and strategic property management.

Key construction health and safety risks

There are a number of serious health and safety risks that construction workers regularly face, depending on the nature of their work. These include:

Accidents. Construction sites are prime environments for slips, trips and falls. At different points, workers can deal with structural instability, working at height, fire, electricity, heavy lifting, heavy equipment and vehicles, and demolition, all of which can put workers at risk of accidents and injuries.

Physical health risks. Manual handling, noise and vibration — all part and parcel of a construction site operating in full swing — have been documented as primary causes of ill health, upper limb disorders and back injuries.

Exposure to hazardous substances. It is very common for construction workers to work with potentially harmful mixtures (such as paints), chemicals, dust, gases, vapours and fumes. These substances can have a serious effect on a person's skin and respiratory system.

Cancer. According to the Health and Safety Executive, construction has the largest burden of occupational cancer among all industrial sectors. The most common culprits are asbestos, silica, paints, and diesel engine exhaust.

How project management contributes to maintaining workplace health and safety

A contractor's project management services would typically involve functions such as project planning, site management, procurement, quantity surveying, and temporary works management.

The more reputable construction firms would also call in the expertise of a health and safety coordinator who will be involved from a building proposal's design phase in order to draw up an appropriate health and safety plan for the particular project.

Such a coordinator would also be in charge of coordinating the employers' supervision of correct working practices on site as well as organising and encouraging cooperation between the employers.

Provided below are a few key project management provisions that are crucial in the effective implementation of health and safety practices in construction:

Streamlining the distribution of information

As part of positive project management initiatives, employees are regularly (ideally, daily) provided updated information on tasks and activities throughout the worksite so that everyone is kept on the same page and can thus avoid committing errors that could lead to potentially hazardous situations.

Likewise, any individuals or groups of people from outside the workplace, such as delivery personnel or visiting consultants, must also be properly briefed on the safety rules and dangerous areas that must be avoided to prevent loitering and venturing into places that are off-limits.

Establishing a centralised point of contact and scheduling

Eliminating health and safety hazards and preventing serious accidents begin with having a singular point of contact that workers and employers can approach to report observations of dangerous situations, damage to equipment or neglected safety practices that could potentially lead to an accident. A prompt response can then be made to address every reported safety issue.

Similarly, a centralised scheduling system is essential in effective construction project management in order to ensure that only the safest number of workers can be accommodated in the work environment at a given time.

Project management entails careful and detailed planning, organisation, support, coordination and implementation of the techniques necessary for the completion of a successful construction job. The same meticulous attention to processes and protocols can be applied to health and safety management in the worksite to secure every worker's safety and well-being at all times.


Author bio:

Sarah Miller is a project manager by profession and a content creator, writer and blogger by passion. She works for Modular Cubed, a groundworks contractor specialising in construction, groundwork and civils projects in the UK. Her topics of interest include business marketing, sales, and personal and organisational performance.

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