06 May 2024

Caption: Roelof van den Berg, CEO of the Gap Infrastructure Corporation.

Health, safety, and profits in construction go hand in hand.

The following article on health, safety and profits in the construction sector was written by Roelof van den Berg, CEO of the Gap Infrastructure Corporation. This is part 1 of a two-part article.

Workplace health and safety should never be a tick-box exercise in construction. When given the proper care and attention, health and safety practices keep workers safe, help projects stay within budget and timelines, and can have a substantial impact on companies’ bottom-lines.

World Day for Safety and Health at Work on Thursday, 25 April 2024 calls on companies in every sector to reassess their safety practices, and to help spread awareness among their stakeholders regarding the value of prioritising a safe and healthy work environment.

Critically, maintaining a high health and safety standard is not as simple as conducting a risk assessment once every few months, or handing out personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers before their shift begins. To be successful, workers at every level must be consistent and vigilant in their approach to practicing safety.

In construction, that means accounting for every possibility, however remote, which in turn requires the active involvement of every person who will be part of your project. That includes management, on-site workers, any sub-contractors, and even the various suppliers who may at some point have to access the worksite. To juggle all these moving parts without incident, construction companies require a clear, concise, and comprehensive health and safety strategy.

Health and safety’s ultimate goal

Any comprehensive health and safety plan should be designed with a zero-lost time injury (LTI) status in mind. A project can only be considered an absolute success if, when the project concludes, there has not been a single incident resulting in injury – which may require strengthening systems.

At Gap Infrastructure Corporation (GIC), for example, we require upwards of 95% regulatory compliance rather than the industry norm of 80% as we continuously strive for incident-free projects. And as one example of the success of this approach, GIC’s Kathu construction project has maintained its zero-LTI status even as we near the completion date.

Located in what is known as the ‘iron ore capital of the Northern Cape’, the region is home to many workers essential to the local mining industry. The project was initiated by the local municipality to assist in relocating residents to an area pre-equipped with the necessary services. As a result, GIC was brought in to provide over 5,100 residential stands and households with access to a water and sewer reticulation system, a formal road network, and accompanying drainage solutions.

The relatively remote nature of the region, and the fact that we have largely employed labourers from the local community, have meant that it’s been vital to place a strong emphasis on workplace health and safety throughout.

In response, GIC implemented and refined an exhaustive health and safety plan specifically designed with worker’s needs in mind, closely monitoring and managing this plan throughout the course of the project.

Measures to mitigate risk

Any risk mitigation efforts begin back at the office, where the management team will develop a safety policy that serves to guide any prevention, regulation, and response practices going forward.

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