Written by Occupli EHS Consultant Michael Gleeson
Historically the construction sector has been one of the biggest killers in Ireland. In the 1990’s construction safety standards remained poor and in one infamous criminal court case following a construction site fatality, Justice Peter Kelly labelled the company in question as a “recidivist criminal” and informed the managing director during the trial that “You are entitled to make profits on the sweat of your workers, but you are not entitled to make profit on the blood and lives of your workers. You are a disgrace to the construction industry and ought to be ashamed of yourself.” Justice Kelly (now retired) statements related to one case and one company but it could be argued that they were a reflection of standards that were endemic in the industry at the time.
The Safety Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations were first brought into force in 1995 to bring about change in the industry and stem the tide. They have been amended a number of times since and the current Regulations are the Safety Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013. The Regulations place legal responsibilities on the Client, Designers, Contractors and require the appointment of Project Supervisors for the Design Process (PSDP) and Construction Stage (PSCS) for most construction projects.
Occupli’s approach to the safety on any construction project focuses on three main areas:
- Safe completion of each construction phase.
- Safety in operation of existing buildings during the works.
- Safe future maintenance
Client’s influence on a construction project
Many may believe that the clients responsibilities end when they appoint a competent PSDP and PSCS, however the clients can influence the safety culture on the project by:
- Requesting copies of all safety meetings
- Performing their own on-site safety audits
- Taking part in site safety meetings
- Requesting notifications of all reportable incidents
- Taking an active part in the setting of goals and targets
- Taking an active part in incident investigations
PSDP requirements on construction projects
The PSDP has a central role in the promotion of the General Principles of Prevention (GPP) and the management of safety and health during the entire design process. This process starts when the design work commences and continues throughout the construction stage. The PSDP has statutory duties as set out in the Regulation but in essence the PSDP must ensure that there is sufficient hazard identification/risk assessment by designers (permanent works designers and temporary works designers) and that there is sufficient cooperation between designer to eliminate, minimise or mitigate construction risks and “in use” risks for the project.
This requires significant input and attendance throughout the design and construction processes. Regular risk workshops should be held by the PSDP (depending on the scale and complexity of the project) and Risk Registers should be developed and maintained as the project develops. The PSDP also has a statutory responsibility to
- prepare a Preliminary Safety and Health Plan for issue to all contractors tendering for the construction work clearing outlining the particular risks on the project; and
- ensure that the Safety File is handed over to the client in a timely manner at project completion (containing all certification, drawings, manuals etc. and clearly outlining any residual risks and the requirements for safe operation of the building and its elements).
The onerous responsibilities of the PSCS
The Project Supervisor for the Construction Stage (PSCS) is a very onerous role and should not be taken on lightly by any organisation. During any fatality or serious accident investigation, the PSCS will be called to answer for their actions or inactions. Essentially the buck stops with the PSCS when it comes to safety management during the construction stage of a project. To comply with the onerous responsibilities, the PSCS must develop and maintain a documented site safety management system (SSMS), which should clearly outline the standards to be adopted by all persons on site and processes/procedures in place to ensure the safety of all construction workers, visitors and members of the public during construction work. The PSCS has a statutory duty to ensure communication and cooperation between contractors and to co-operate with other duty holders (including the client and PSDP) to ensure the General Principles of Prevention are applied during construction and that safety for all is maintained during construction. Monitoring those contractors (and sub-contractors’) are working in accordance with the agreed safety protocols is a key requirement of the PSCS. For this reason, it is accepted that the PSCS must have a full-time presence on site to carry out their duties.
Occupli offers construction safety support to clients, designers and contractors on small, medium and large projects to ensure that construction risks and ‘in use’ risks are managed.
If you require further information or assistance please contact us via email at email@example.com, by phone at 021 497 8100 or start an instant chat with us via the chat box in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen.