From humble beginnings to Safety Person of the Year in KZN

03 November 2021

GVK-Siya Zama’s KZN Health and Safety manager, Benny Boyce reached a career milestone when he was named the Master Builders Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Safety Person of the year at their recent annual awards.

Boyce’s journey leading to this award is an inspiring story of dedication, commitment and belief, as well as faith in his abilities by construction company, GVK-Siya Zama.

GVK-Siya Zama’s KZN Health and Safety manager, Benny Boyce.

Boyce started off as a labourer at the company 15 years ago when he came across a GVK-Siya Zama project site office in Sea Point, Cape Town while walking through the area.

“I was desperately looking for any kind of work and went to speak to the security guards. I had recently lost my father and was forced to go out and look for work to provide for my family,” explains Boyce.

As chance would have it, the company’s then CEO, Richard Williams, and contracts manager, Errol Hosking, saw Boyce at the security gate and seeing his eagerness and his humble demeanour, decided to give him an opportunity at the company as a general labourer.

“Over the years, GVK-Siya Zama invested in me, booking me on various training courses as scaffolding erector, inspector, and team leader after which I was appointed as a Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) representative on site,” said Boyce.

His hard work paid off as he was promoted to Junior HSE Officer and thereafter senior safety officer in the group’s Cape business in 2011. 

In July 2018, Boyce took another big leap with a transfer and appointment as regional HSE manager of the group’s business in KwaZulu-Natal. He has since thrived in the role, which this award bears testament to.

Boyce says the award means a lot to him personally as it recognises his commitment to the field and the unorthodox journey his career has taken. “It is also gratifying to be acknowledged by my peers and industry stakeholders for my commitment to health and safety and as a safety leader who hopefully inspires others to do the same,” said Boyce.

The award is also of significance to GVK-Siya Zama, considering an average of 2.7 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases each year, with a large portion of these associated with the construction industry, an industry that, according to COIDA stats, has historically failed to protect its workers, says Boyce. 

“This award is a recognition of GVK-Siya Zama’s commitment to the safety and wellbeing of their employees, business partners and clients. Our strength lies in our people, and we strive to ingrain a culture of personal responsibility and accountability that goes far beyond safety policies and regulations,” said Boyce.

Boyce says that GVK-Siya Zama’s continued investment in him over the years has been one of the main contributors to his success. This investment in Boyce has helped him in his career and towards several formal qualifications and accredited training certificates in health and safety, with his latest qualifications being a national diploma in Occupational Health and Safety Management. He also recently completed his Bachelor of Art Degree in Disaster and Safety Management.

COVID-19 has also brought about changes to health and safety in the sector, with one of the greatest challenges being able to remain operational in a safe and responsible manner.

“It has also delivered some valuable lessons and encouraged HSE practitioners at GVK-Siya Zama to become innovative in our approach to health and safety and to focus more on employee wellness. With COVID-19 being a part of our lives for the foreseeable future, our next step is to continue educating our employees and co-contractors and providing a safe environment for everyone,” said Boyce.

Despite progress in construction Health and Safety, Boyce believes the human factor remains the greatest risk to projects, necessitating continuous training and skills development.

“Health and safety training is a lifelong process and cannot be limited to specific tasks or activities. It goes beyond legislative requirements and general health and safety rules. It is about our people. Our moral and ethical responsibilities towards safety should take preference over merely complying with the rules,” said Boyce. 

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