A Study Of Safety Management In The Nigerian Construction Industry

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Abstract: 
Given the hazardous nature of the construction industry world over, the need for an effective safety management system which aims at forestalling the risks and hazards inherent on site has been reiterated by recent studies and applicable laws. Studies however show that level of effectiveness differs from country to country; industry to industry and from company to company. This study therefore undertakes both qualitative and quantitative investigation into the safety management system of a Nigeria-based construction company with a view of determining how compliant the system is to international standards. Identifying five major components and fifteen elements in the study, both primary and secondary data were collected through personal interviews, structured questionnaire and observation and these were analysed using One Sample t-test at 0.05 level of significance. The results show that though a form safety management system exists in the company, the system is however poorly organised and consequently, it is characterised by ineffectiveness and poor documentation. It is therefore recommended that management gives an urgent attention to the company’s safety management system with an intense interest to standardise its operations and functionality. As a roadmap to achieving this, the paper proposes an integrated “PCR” safety model based on the “TAB” philosophy.

Keywords: Safety Management System; Construction Industry, Risks, PCR-Model, Work sites, Hazards.

Background 
The importance of providing safe workplace has been reiterated by various related studies because of the intrinsic hazard and risk factors that undoubtedly underlie every work situation and their negative impact on a company’s overall performance. While risk is the chance or probability that a person will be harmed or experience an adverse health effect if exposed to a hazard, hazard on the other hand refers to the situation or source (which could be biological, chemical, physical or ergonomic) of potential damage to somebody, property or equipment. It is believed that some industries are more hazardous that some others. The construction industry world over, is however considered as one of the most hazardous industry. The International Training Centre of the International Labour Organisation (2011) claims that one in six fatal accidents at work occur on a construction site. It further stated that no less than 60,000 fatal accidents occur on construction sites around the world every year. Similar conclusions were made by Keller & Keller, (2009) and Injuries Board (2009).

The fact that a construction job or work environment is considered as highly risky and hazardous does not mean that its susceptibility to accident is not controllable – this largely depends on “work situation” which is humanly controllable. Safety records in the same construction industry in most advanced countries have proven this to be true. Little wonder Koehn, Ahmed, and Jayanti (2000), Idoro (2008) and Enhassi, Choudhry, Mayer & Shoman (2008) all express similar worry as to why worse safety conditions persist on construction work sites in most developing countries like Nigeria. The irony of the situation is that the causes of accidents are well known and almost all preventable and as other business issues, occupational safety and health (OSH) can be managed in the enterprise (The International Training Centre of the ILO, 2011; Indian Council of Medical Research, 2003) but the reality of it is contrary in practice.

Previous studies such as Bluff (2003); Needleman (2000); Saksvik & Quinlan (2003); LaMontagne et al (2003); and Indian Council of Medical Research (2003) uniformly recommend that construction firms adopt safety system that seeks to prevent the occurrence of accidents rather than essentially managing accident cases and victims by paying medical bills and compensation. The core of such safety management system as highlighted by Bluff (2003) includes “systematic identification of hazards, assessment and control of risks, evaluation and review of risk control measures” to ensure that they are effectively implemented and maintained. Needleman (2000) on the other hand recommend that an effective safety system management requires management commitment to OHS; assignment of responsibilities; OHS procedures; OHS communication mechanisms; hazard identification, prevention and control; accident investigation; OHS training; documentation and evaluation of program effectiveness. Bluff (2003) further opined that if such safety management system would be effective then responsibility must be designated to competent safety personnel who will determine and implement the required preventive measures; that workers will actively be involved; and that procedures are documented and repeatable. This implies that an effective safety management system requires the implementation of core structures and processes and action by key players. Meanwhile, Indian Council of Medical Research (2003), Bluff (2003), Dorji & Hadikusumo (2006) argued that a successful safety system should be policy-based. This implies that having a clearly stated safety policy is the starting point for developing and implementing a safety management system on the construction sites. The result then should be reduced accidents, injuries, sick pay, fatalities, lost work-hours, compensation claims, absenteeism, workers’ agitation, overall costs of project; and significant improvement in efficiency and profitability (Awodele and Ayoola, 2005; Aksorn & Hadikusumo, 2007; Enhassi, Choudhry, Mayer & Shoman, 2008).

Nigerian construction firms especially the multinationals which seem to have inherited safety policies and systems from their parent companies still record repeated cases of accidents and injuries some of which include falls from height, trapped by something collapsing or overturning, struck by a moving vehicle, contact with electricity or electrical discharge, struck by flying/falling object during machine lifting of materials, contact with operating machinery or material being machined, exposure to hot or harmful substance or fire outbreak that engulfed their entire office premises (Consultnet Ltd, 2011). Most often, the problem is not the level of awareness of importance of safety neither is a safety policy absent but it is more related to poor or lack of implementation of safety programmes and systems, as it is with many other key players in the Nigerian construction industry (LaMontagne et al, 2003; Indian Council of Medical Research, 2003).

Procedures and programmes of safety management system of construction firms are naturally expected to lead to highly safe construction sites if they are well followed and implemented. Research studies however, claim that accident and injury rate in many developing countries such as Nigeria is considerably higher than in Europe, U.S. and Australia (Idoro, 2004 & 2007). Koehn, Ahmed & Jayanti (2000) in Bust, Gibb & Pasquire (2004) reported that statistics has shown that there are 8 or 9 times as many fatalities and accidents on construction sites in developing countries than in industrialized developed regions. This is similar to the claims of Awodele & Ayoola, (2005) and Smallwood & Haupt (2005) that not less than hundreds of construction workers are being killed each year and many more rendered permanently disabled on Nigerian construction sites. It is either the installed safety management system is poorly managed or the safety system is not adequately addressing all the relevant safety issues involved in each construction project and site thereby making workers on site highly prone to accident. This study therefore found it necessary to assess performance level of installed safety management system existing in a typical Nigerian construction industry.

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(2014, 07). A Study Of Safety Management In The Nigerian Construction Industry.. ProjectStoc.com. Retrieved 07, 2014, from https://projectstoc.com/read/2184/a-study-of-safety-management-in-the-nigerian-construction-industry-9936
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