Internationalcompanies in building and construction are forcing Indian companies to upgrade their safety norms and procedures. Safety in construction is frequently pushed to the bottom rung of priorities by the builders, contractors and engineers. While monetary loss heads the list, loss of man-hours and material progress are equally irreparable when scaffolding fails, a roof collapses or a fatal accident takes place at site of work, the human life is irreplaceable.
Finally the legal actions and vicarious culpability that invariably follow, haunts the management and chief executive too. Many builders have had the experience that once a worker loses his life in an accident at site, the morale of the working force sinks to a new low. The spirit of working and the progress of work never remain the same as before. With all this the safety aspect is often ignored. Only after some untoward incident occurs, do contractors begin to take safeguards. International companies in building and construction are forcing Indian companies to upgrade their safety norms and procedures.
“It is high time that a Construction Safety Manual is evolved, made a part of decision-making criteria submitted along with standard tender document by every bidder and strictly enforced by the supervising agency”, says R.Sriram, Managing Director of SAAG RR Infra Ltd., a major player in infrastructure development with interests in Oil & Gas pipelines, Roads & Bridges, Water & Sewer as well as general buildings is a strong proponent of Construction and Structural safety.
Findings of the International Labour Organisation reveal that the accident rate among industrial workers is highest in India, touching 4 per 1000 and a major share of it is accounted by the building and construction sector. Indian construction industry is highly labour-intensive. Though mechanization in construction projects is inevitable, induction of machinery and equipment is taking place in a very slow manner. Unskilled and semi-skilled labour is cheap, unorganised, being unaware of their rights, builders find it convenient and profitable to use manpower than machines. Governments and private bodies worldwide have conducted a lot of research and numerous studies on the subject, which is of global concern.
However ECC Construction of L&T has a safety record that is among the best when compared to global construction companies. According to L&T management the appointment of safety officers and audit of safety in equipment and work place practices plus a clearly enunciated checklist of internal procedures have helped the company maintain the lowest accident rates in the industry. Since L&T Group has manufacturing facilities too, they are in interaction with the Inspector of Factories - a fact that keeps them proactive when it comes to safety.
Some of the findings of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in the field of safety in construction are:
1. The accident rate in construction is four to five times higher than that of the manufacturing sector on the global scale. There is an increase in the numberof work related diseases associated with construction all over the world.
2. After the initial employment, there is a dramatic increase in accident frequency over the following six to eight months. This shows that more workers meet with accidents during the first year of their employment.
3. A study conducted in four industrialised countries - Canada, Japan, UK and US - showed that danger in the construction industry was more than four times than those in the manufacturing industry.
4. Another study of seven industrialised countries indicated that the average number of such occurrences per 1,00,000 workers was 12 per year, with some countries reporting 35 instances per 1,00,000 workers annually.
However, compared to other countries, there is precious little authentic data in respect of the accident rates, causes or preventive measures taken by the Indian construction industry. No agency till date has been assigned the responsibility to compile such records, and no voluntary efforts have been made in this regard. However, as per one report at an all India level, 165 per 1,000 workers get injured during construction activities. This is very high compared to the rates in the developed countries and even certain developing countries.
The reason why no agency has made any efforts in this direction is the lack of specific legislation on safety in the construction industry till as recent as 1996. Before the passing of the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 (BOCW Act), construction safety fell within the mandate of Industrial Disputes Act, Central Labour Act and other related legislations. Central Rules and the State Rules need to be made and the enforcing agencies need to be notified. However, till now apart from the Centre only two states, namely Delhi and Kerala, have set up the necessary State Rules.
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