The construction sector is a crucial player in infrastructure development and overall growth of a country’s economy. Though technology has made inroads, construction remains largely unorganised and labour intensive in India. International investments and modernisation in buildings and infrastructure has resulted in rapid growth, but has also seen a downfall in terms of safety and health of the construction workers onsite.
According to figures quoted by the Planning Commission of India, in the next five years, nearly $1 trillion of investment will flow into the infrastructure industry in India. However, the workers’ safety leaves a lot to be desired and calls for a huge change in the level of importance that the safety aspect is given and the way it is handled. Onsite construction accidents like the recent accident in Panaji where 17 workers lost their lives are common but the migrant labourers who depend on this industry for their livelihood and the associated workers continue to face high risk.
Cause for concern
Given the nature of work involved, the risk of injury or fatalities is high and unfortunately any stringent law to safeguard workers health and safety does not protect them. The Government has enacted the Building and other construction workers (regulations of employment and conditions of service) Act 1996 and has framed central rules but most State Governments have not yet enacted or implemented these rules.
The frequency of accidents can be attributed to the lack of enforcement of standards and safety regulations combined with non-compliance. A majority of accidents caused by building parts or faulty operation of machines can be prevented by using protective gear to minimize the risk of injury. Faced with lax regulations and an excessive demand for development from a surging population, the construction workers’ problems of safety and danger to human life will spiral out of control if corrective measures are not taken.
A common accident at any construction site is a worker falling off an elevated floor. This can be avoided or injury minimized simply by workers wearing adequate protective gear. In spite of instances where workers have been wearing safety gear, accidents have occurred because the safety gear was faulty and non-certified. Therefore, enforcement of proper inspection and use of tested and certified safety gear like safety helmets, boots and goggles is crucial. It is necessary to analyse whether the safety gear will perform its role in the event of a mishap.
For a property developer, time and money is of essence and there is a possibility of cutting corners to meet these objectives. On deeper analysis, the root cause of the problem lies at the design stage itself. It is required the design engineer or the architect ensure that all safety standards are implemented. Even before construction starts and the workers are to be deployed at the site, the prerequisite safety measures need to be in place. The involvement of global safety science companies can ensure the safety of the workforce by helping the design engineer at this particular stage. Essential safety measures can be specified by a team of experts in conjunction with all the key stakeholder which would help prevent or miminize any losses from occurring.
With development in infrastructure and building progressing rapidly, there is a need to upgrade regulations to create a safe onsite construction environment through training programmes, safety audits and awareness campaigns involving all the key stakeholders. A building is constructed to last for life and every stage of the process calls for solutions to ensure safety of the workers, the public and the building.
Director, Sales and Marketing -South Asia Middle East & Africa
Underwriters Laboratories (UL)