HSE Challenges at Construction Sites & Mitigation Plans
Shriram Rahalkar, Regional HSE Head, Jacobs Engineerings Ltd

Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) at construction site is of utmost importance to safeguard the lives of people working at the site, thus Indian companies are being forced to upgrade their safety norms and procedures to comply with the law & regulations. Shriram Rahalkar, Regional HSE Head, Jacobs Engineerings Ltd, details the challenges related to safety at construction site faced by the industry, and the mitigation plans that clients, consultants and contractors must focus on as they are the industry stakeholders. Edited excerpts from Rahalkar's presentation delivered during the Oil & Gas World Expo 2014.

Safety in construction is frequently pushed to the bottom rung of priorities by the clients, contractors and consultants involved in the construction industry. Fatal accidents, exposure to hazards, etc take place at work site that cause irreplaceable loss of human lives. While monetary loss heads the list, loss of man-hours and material progress are equally irreparable.

Construction Safety Challenges
Most of the construction sites in India often struggle with low workers literacy, unskilled labourers coming mainly from the farming background, with high strength & ability to work for long hours. The culture they bring really lacks the ideas as how to be safe at construction site. Lack of awareness and training is another big factor for fatal accidents at construction site. In India, most labourers are poor migrants with no education, nil health benefits and absolutely no insurance cover. In such a scenario, it must be made imperative to have standards and processes for each work in a project.

Client participation in construction business is also a challenge because many clients prefer that all safety norms and procedures be included in the contract document and all the responsibilities passed onto the contractor .

Enforcement of laws & regulations to safeguard workers health and safety have not been properly implemented in India. Government bodies involving building and other construction workers act are neck-deep in many other activities and have not enacted these laws. So limited implementation & enforcement of laws & regulations makes it difficult in creating a safe condition at construction site.

Limited use of latest technology in construction is another reason for fatal accidents because labour intensive methods remain cost effective for the industry. Thus, every contractor prefers to go by that and every client wants to have a project cost by keeping it minimum.

In most episodes of fatal incidents at construction sites, the onus always lies with everyone involved in the project – starting from the client, the contractor, the consultant and the workers. The construction workers’ problems of safety and danger to human life will spiral out of control if corrective measures are not taken before the pre-construction stage.

Pre-Construction Stage
Contracting strategy & selection of contractors are the two important factors that the industry needs to evaluate at pre-construction stage. For a specific project, the clarity about the right contracting strategy should be done before starting the project. What kind of contract the client is going to have in a project, what kind of participation the client wants from consultants or from contractors should be cleared at pre-construction stage.

Explicit HSE field, HSE specifications, how the job is to be executed, the work activities involved in the project, what are the safety precautions, etc need to be clarified to the contractors or consultants to take the project at the right stage, every time they intend to take up that work.

There are issues related to temporary facilities can be resolved by clients with deeper pockets so that construction place becoming much safer.

Planning assistance, which consultants need to do under its constructability review so that right from beginning whatever the client construct in a manner that it facilitates construction friendly and safety as well.

Temporary Site Facilities and Services
It starts from good security and fencing at access gate that minimise the unnecessary access of PP (Parent Portal) and no one can enter without PP at premises. All equipments like cranes, dumpers, excavators for construction work should be allowed inside the premises only after the inspection. So enforcement within the site is taken care of.

Having a medical facility within or near to the construction site helps to reduce the attrition of workers from environmental ailments. Warehouse and laydown areas should be marked in advance and illuminated areas will eliminate construction hazards to such extent.

Power & water supply provided by the clients need to be solved with consultant’s work out. Total power requirement, main power distribution and main distribution boards should be installed at the right place rather than only at one place in the corner of the site. These precautions need to be taken for mitigating all the problems related to electric hazards in construction site. Welfare facilities also do help workers to remain at sites and avoid attrition.

Safety Health & Environment Management
Planning, implementation and co-ordination of constructability reviews across the facilities improve the portfolio of the project. Special construction methods, early engineering reviews, use of special material, etc for modular structural building reduce the work, material handling and obviously hazards. Contractual provisions like timely delivering materials for the construction of project can help to facilitate in mitigating hazards at construction site.

Support through participation between clients, contractors, consultants must not be only building into a contract condition but also going through the process of the construction of project. House keeping crew should be deployed in the site by the clients to keep the place neat & clean. Personal protective equipment (PPE) like safety shoes, gloves should also be kept inside the construction site to avoid hazards.
Motivational schemes like providing mosquito meshes to workers for avoiding malaria, providing socks for safety shoes for avoiding shoe bites and blisters do help to reduce absenteeism in the workplace and monetary loss.

Fall through opening at construction site can be avoided if contractors would coat the covering the opening. There is also a need to take some expertise from design like providing a hole in the columns in the beginning so that the moment the columns are cast or insert pipe, there will have an edge protection.

Similarly, when dealing with the pipe racks and structural steel at construction site, having small cleats with the holes for putting pipes, the workers who are working at heights can have some solutions and latch their hook into the anchor.

There is a need to create a safe onsite construction environment through protocol arrangement, checklist, supervision, planning and training involving all the key stakeholders in advance to mitigate hazards at construction site. As an industry at whole from a consultant, to a contractor, to a client, providing a smart budget and smart participation will help to mitigate hazards at construction site. While intervention is something that can’t be avoided and has to remain up to the end, commitment for the people who work at construction site needs to be created in saving their lives.