05 April 2024

Entries for this year’s Master Builders Association  North Regional Safety Competition have now closed, and the adjudication or auditing phase has begun. Gerhard Roets, Construction Health and Safety Manager at MBA North, says that the annual competition highlights the importance of safety in an intrinsically dangerous industry like construction.

“Ultimately, any business is only as good as its people and the same is true of industries as well. Our people are the core of our success, and protecting our human capital makes sense on every level,” he says. “Our annual safety competition plays an important role in recognising those firms that are setting the benchmark when it comes to safety, and also allows all entrants to receive an objective assessment of how they are doing.”

Statistics collected by Federated Employers Mutual Assurance Company (FEM) over the years show which areas of the construction business cause the most fatalities. Motor vehicle accidents cause the most deaths (6 in 2023), followed by the “Struck by” category (4) and “Falling from different levels” (2). In terms of the overall number of accidents “Struck by” leads the pack with 857 accidents.

Aside from the human cost of accidents on site, FEM’s statistics indicate the financial cost involved. The average cost per incident for motor vehicle accidents is R112 446, while “Struck by” incidents cost on average R57 815. “Falling from different levels” incidents cost an average of R99 189 each. High costs like these can impact a company’s bottom line significantly, especially given the industry’s low margins.

“Improved safety reduces the costs and downtime caused by accidents, and it also lessens ongoing costs for medical insurance, worker compensation claims and so on,” Roets says. “A better safety record also impacts the firm’s legal position as regards compliance with safety regulations and, above all, enhances its reputation with clients and employees.”

Previous award winner, VIVA Group, commented on the benefits of winning an award. “Our core scope, Temporary works, is in one of the highest risk categories, which means we need to take additional care to ensure the safety of our people and the project. Placing or winning in a category is a badge we at VIVA wear with great pride,” says VIVA Group Director, Thor van Eunen. “It shows our trusted customers that we are going the extra mile in ensuring their project is delivered to the highest possible safety and compliance standard.”

“Over the last five years we have spent a lot of time getting closer with the MBA North to ensure we are at the highest level of compliance and standard safety. By entering the competition it allows us to accurately gauge how we as VIVA compare with the rest of the industry – and we are starting to see more of our competitors enter the competition with the MBA North, which is great. The construction industry, and specifically in the formwork and scaffolding sector, is full of guys trying to take shortcuts and that do not meet the minimum requirements to be compliant onsite. The competition highlights those in the industry that are looking to improve their safety and compliance as opposed to hiding away from it. It is all part of making our industry a safer place to work,” says van Eunen.

Lester Stubbs, Safety Manager at WBHO, agrees, saying that MBA North’s safety awards is a significant milestone. “It’s not just a check on our safety standards; it’s a chance to see how well we’re doing in our jobs compared to others. Importantly, the results aren’t just about recognition; they directly benefit all of us working on-site.”

“And the real motivation comes from being in a room filled with like-minded individuals. This shared space encourages every company to step up their compliance game, ultimately contributing to a safer industry and better working conditions for everyone,” says Stubbs.

This year’s entrants dropped to 67 with a higher total project value of R13,3billion, compared to 78 entries with a total project value of R10.6billion in 2023. Roets says this is likely a sign of the tough economic conditions prevailing in the industry, with many well-established companies having gone bankrupt or in business rescue.

The audit process ends on 30 May. Roets says that there are three auditors, each one of which will handle all the audits in a category. “That’s very important in ensuring we get a consistent rating across the category,” he says.

Category winners of the regional competition will go forward into the national awards programme, which will be adjudicated during June and July. However, MBA North’s Regional Competition category award winners will only be announced publicly at a function in August, with the national award ceremony scheduled for September.

MBA North’s focus on safety is not restricted to the award programme. It runs regular safety and compliance workshops for members, making it possible for smaller, less well-resourced firms to improve their safety posture.

“Over the years, FEM’s statistics show that our safety record as an industry is improving, and we can assume that this safety competition, which we have been running for more than 40 years, is playing a part in driving the safety message home,” Roets says. “These awards, along with our regular workshops have also driven higher levels of compliance with the Department of Employment and Labour’s Health and Safety guidelines, something that the Department recognised at the 2021 award ceremony.”

Read the latest issue

Latest Issue