Today there is a high focus on safety in the industry. Many companies have recognised
that the safety and well being of their workers and fellow human beings deserve
the highest priority. Historically, this is a major leap. If one looks at the attitude
and many deaths during projects such as the great chinese wall, which is still considered to be
the largest construction project to date, the leap is visible.
One ancient Chinese myth states that each stone in the great chinese wall stands for a
life lost during the wall's construction. Although no records are available
this myth may be closer to fact than we would like to think.
Archaeologists have discovered thousands of bodies buried in the foundation of the wall.
Bodies were also used to make up the wall's thickness. It has been estimated that millions
of workers lost their lives due to accidents, intense physical labor, starvation, and disease.
This is in the order of magnitude of a life per metre of wall length!
It is now rare not to find a safety part in mission statements of large companies.
It is good to recognise that the behaviour with respect to safety is in fact
driven by two elements:
- Ethical reasons
- Business reasons
In the ideal world ethical and altruistic motivation should be sufficient. In the
real world the current situation is that an attitude such as safety management of the chinese wall is
The costs of unsafe acts or products can be huge and can put
companies out of business. Recent claims and settlements in the USA
have been well documented, e.g. for the tobacco industry. Companies can no longer afford
it not to take care of safety.
Absolute safety does not exist. Safety is often defined as taking acceptable risks.
This recognises that in fact every activity, whether it is driving a car, cooking in the kitchen
or working on a drilling rig has associated risks. By accepting that there
will always be a certain risk involved it is possible to reduce risks, by reducing
the chance of an unsafe event and mitigating its effect.
The trends to improve the safety at work can be seen in the chart underneath.
During the industrial revolution little time was spent to ensure that machinery
was safe. The increased effort and technological progress associated was the first
major step to improve safety at work. Personnel training about safe working methods
made the next big improvement. Certainly, the effort of labour organisations to
improve the focus on safety, also when this implied a slower or more costly production
method, supported this development.
Management of Safety
Nowadays the need to execute a project safely is embedded in many laws and organisations.
Industrial projects go through their life cycle of design, procurement, construction
operation and demolition. Safety applies to all phases. Without trying to be complete
we provide a number points that we believe to be essential. They encompass both organisational
and behaviour base principles.
Planning for safety right at the start
We believe that the basis for a safe construction is already laid during the front
end loading (FEL) of a project. (FEL encompasses all the work done until
completion of the basic engineering). Clear goals, high quality basic
designs and solid execution plans include many aspects of early planning for safety.
That this has a large impact on the safe execution is supported by correlations.
Some of these correlations were made by oganisations such as Independent Project Analysis (IPA).
It has been statistically proven that there is a correlation between good FEL
and safety performance. Good FEL will ensure for example:
- a basic lay out that provides the construction team sufficient access possibilities and space
- a schedule that shows when important items need to be started
- a design that can be constructed safely
- that design safety and construction reviews are done
Office design reviews
It really adds value to perform safety and constructability reviews. A HSE plan
that schedules them well ahead of the reviews is the first step. A
somewhat logical groundrule is to mix the designers with the users in the review team -
e.g. the designers and construction supervisors and construction contractors personnel
in constructability reviews. Also peers from outside the project
team, i.e. some 'cold eyes', add a unbiassed element to the reviews.
Merits of emphasis on safety during contract award
The best moment to make agreements with construction contractors about the way way that
safety aspects will be treated is before contract award. Useful information can
be gathered from the yearly safety records, which provides information about
the type of incidents and accidents that occured in the past. A good analysis
of these and the project to be done will provide lessons learned
and the opportunity to pro-actively organise.
Useually, the managing party will have a total construction schedule before
the construction contracts are (sub)awarded. This managing party can be the
owner, an engineering contractor or a main contractor. Each construction (sub)
contractor will issue the schedule for his part of the work in isolation.
It takes good construction management to plan and manage concurrent working,
avoid congestion of workers, sensible logistics - storage and transport routes.
Safety Induction on site
A Safety Induction program before mobilisation to site for
every person that enters the site is highly recommended. It is usual to test the
people after the induction. A small card with
information such as emergency phone numbers, alarms, escape routes and
muster points can be handed out to each person.
The correlation between a good induction training and safety performance is
very clear. This is one of the best tools.
Management on Site
Attention with regard to good housekeeping, toolbox meetings and safety meetings
is a well known item during construction.
It is a good habit to put safety on the agenda as the first point in every
meeting. Reports of near misses and unsafe situations provide key indicators for
the safety practices of the field labour. These reports need to be
clear, factual and correct.
In the real world accident do happen. When they happen it is important to learn
about the causes and implement measures with the goal that such an accident
does not happen again. For this good tools are available such as the Tripod
Early Planning of commissioning and Handover
Historically Owners and contractors have used the Mechanical Completion of
a production facility as the main milestone for completion.
The real interest of the owner, however, is the product that will be
produced with the facility. To close the gap between completing the
construction activities and getting product out of the facilities
an overview and planning is required.
It is important to have commissioning documentation, i.e. for
testing the facility and putting it into service, ready well before
Also the organisation structure and working permit will normally change in this period.
This needs to be clear to all involved.
Training of users
It is clear that the operating and maintenance personnel need to be familiar
with the design and equipment that they will be working with. Training needs to be
organised on time, i.e. well before mechanical completion.
Safety statistics provide useful information for managing safety.
They demonstrated that most accidents are a caused by humans. The
picture underneath shows the ratios of safety parameters. The parameters
shown will normally be logged together with the number of work-hours
and also be presented as frequencies, e.g. LTIF, Lost Time Injury Frequency.
Most systems use 200 000 work-hours as the reference point. So LTIF = 1 means
one LTI per 200 000 work hours (roughly 100 working years).
The conclusion that was drawn from these ratios is generally known as the
iceberg theory. It implies that the risk to have a fatality is dramatically
reduced if one controls the less severe accidents. It is a good practice to treat
small accidents, near misses and observation of unsafe situations with care
as this has a risk reducing effect on all classes of incidents.
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