Don’t give the safety officers a tough time

Safety officers often get a hard time on site. In many ways they are treated as the Jehovah Witnesses of the industry. You respect their right to practice their religion but you don’t necessarily want to invite them in for a chat when there is something good on TV.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  March 18, 2006

|~||~||~|Safety officers often get a hard time on site. In many ways they are treated as the Jehovah Witnesses of the industry. You respect their right to practice their religion but you don’t necessarily want to invite them in for a chat when there is something good on TV. I’ve always felt this was wrong. One of the reasons they sometimes get a raw deal in the UK for example, is the sub-contracted nature of the industry. For the plasterer working on ceilings all day, a hard hat can be an irritation. For a scaffolder working on price, wearing a harness can slow him down. Sometimes the perception is that health and safety is an overhead, which can be ignored. The competition gets away with it, so why can’t we? This of course is nonsense. And it doesn’t take much imagination to appreciate what happens when safe working practices are not put in place. In this region, you only have to look out the window, which is what I was doing this weekend — specifically at the site across the road. About six storeys up there was a man launching what looked to be eight-by-four sheets of plywood off the side of a building under construction. Now the thing about throwing great big sheets of plywood off tall buildings is that you never quite know where they’ll land. Predicting their flight path and trajectory is really very difficult indeed, which is why hurling them off the side off buildings under construction is generally considered bad form in the industry. That I was able to watch a man do this not once or twice but every minute over the course of a half hour, is testament to the fact that as a priority on many sites in the region, health and safety lies somewhere between the price of fish and the migratory flight of swallows. Happily there are exceptions and it was refreshing to visit the Dubai Creek extension site this week, where the contractor has introduced a system of awarding safety stars for good health and safety practice. On this site at least, health and safety is not viewed as an overhead, but as a process, which ultimately improves efficiency, performance and profit. If an industry full of safety officers barking reprimands to everyone on site is the alternative to one where it is acceptable to launch potentially lethal chunks of wood off very tall buildings, then I’ll take the safety Jehovah’s any day of the week. “Yes, please do come in and sit down. I’ll grab the hobnobs and put the kettle on. “And yes of course I’ll take one of your Watchtower magazines.” Sean Cronin Editor||**||

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