The construction sector remains an extremely dangerous industry for workers, purely based on the unacceptably high numbers of accidents which occur resulting in injuries to employees every year.
Statistics released by the Federated Employers Mutual Assurance Company (FEM) reveals that there were 47 844 injuries required medical attention between 2015 and 2020. Two of the major contributors to these injuries on construction sites are ‘falling to different levels’ and ‘struck by’.
According to Deon Bester, Occupational Health and Safety Manager at Master Builders’ Association Western Cape (MBAWC), ‘falling to different levels’ and ‘struck by’ are two descriptions used in the statistical reporting system which ties in with the general way of recording and reporting incidents both nationally and internationally:
‘Falling to different levels’ typically describes an incident which a person falls while working in an elevated position such as from a ladder or a scaffold.
‘Struck by’ captures many different types of incidents. For instance, a person struck by a motor vehicle while working next to a public road would be classified as ‘struck by’. Other examples of this type of injury would include brick or timber boards falling on someone.
The FEM stats for the period 2015 to 2020 clearly indicate that there is a serious problem in the industry regarding these two specific areas and it requires immediate attention:
- There were 47 844 injuries requiring medical attention recorded during this period.
- A total of 5 220 cases of persons falling to different levels were recorded for the period.
- ‘Struck by’ and ‘falling to different levels’ account for 44% of all accidents.
- ‘Struck by’ and ‘falling to different levels’ account for 35% of all fatal accidents.
- ‘Struck by’ and ‘falling to different levels’ account for 2 702 people becoming permanently disabled which is 46% of all persons with disabilities.
- The medical costs attributed to ‘struck by’ and ‘falling to different levels’ injuries totalled R618 229 587, which is 33% of the total cost of injuries.
There is an urgent need for stringent measures to be put in place to assist in reducing the number of injuries sustained on construction sites. This can be achieved by not only creating a healthy and safe working environment, but also ensuring that employees always receive the correct training.
Training ought to be ongoing and inclusive, providing employees with an opportunity to share their input with regards to safety protocols and processes. Employees also need to start holding their employers accountable when these processes are not adhered to and vice versa. By doing this, employers who are neglecting health and safety processes can be reported to the Department of Employment and Labour inspectors.
“As the Master Builders’ Association Western Cape, we continuously strive to assist our members with health and safety compliance processes through ongoing interactions to ensure that they are prioritising worksite safety” says Bester.
To lower the level of accidents which occur onsite, employers need to ensure that their workforce is trained on issues relating to health and safety, and to this end, the MBAWC provides its members with requisite training.
The MBAWC also has a working relationship with FEM, which provides workmen’s compensation cover in the construction industry. It is through this relationship that the MBAWC can lend support services to its members as well as to FEM policyholders.
While ‘falling to different levels’ and ‘struck by’ are being highlighted, the construction industry should not lose sight of all the other accidents that occur daily in South Africa.
“On average, about 36 people are injured on construction sites daily. This figure relates to employers who are insured by FEM, which means the figure could be slightly higher, considering that injuries are likely to occur in the informal construction sector as well. Our aim as the MBAWC is to assist all our members in reducing the daily cases of injuries, as we believe that no employee should be injured or lose their life at their place of work”, concludes Bester.