Construction Safety in China

Simon Chivers
Productivity has often been prioritised over safety in China, but this is now changing.

China's economic progress has been powered by manufacturing and by investment in construction, building an infrastructure of cities, roads, rail links and airports across the country. Alongside this economic growth and social development, China has faced challenges in creating a satisfactory regulatory system for construction safety practices.

Construction has been one of China's most hazardous industries, but inward investors have brought expectations of global best practice. Industries, which demand high levels of quality assurance, to match consumer expectation and protective legislation, have been especially influential. The pharma and food & beverage industries are good examples.

Construction has been one of China's most hazardous industries, but inward investors have brought expectations of global best practice.

Where quality assurance is a priority, safety standards usually follow, utilising the same methodical approach and attention to detail. Although inward investors first introduced formal quality and safety standards, the Chinese government and its local authorities are now emulating these procedures. Awareness has also been raised among Chinese client organisations, and, increasingly, standards are improving in this arena, too.

National mandated safety standards now exist in China, with some local variations. There has traditionally been a mind-set of prioritising productivity over safety, and reversal of this needs stakeholder commitment throughout client body, design team and supply chain. Worker welfare and occupational health & safety have made faster progress, with on-site accommodation, food and safety wear usually satisfactory. Construction safety enforcement, however, can be problematic.

Faithful+Gould is helping clients in China to chalk up safety successes. We work closely with clients and contractors to instil a positive safety culture, ensuring sites are as safe as possible. We help evaluate and mitigate the many risks, from working at height and moving plant equipment, to electricity, lifting operations, and the transfer of labour to and from the site.

One example is our work with Jahwa, on a one million square-foot facility in Shanghai's Qingpu district. Scheduled for completion at the end of 2016, the project comprises office buildings, warehouses and manufacturing facilities to develop hair and skin products for the domestic and international markets.

As part of our project management role, we are leading Jahwa’s health & safety compliance. Throughout our work on the site, we have invested in the team by providing health and safety training and encouraging the workforce to alert us to any risks they identify.

In August 2016, the project achieved a major safety milestone: one million man-hours without lost time injury (LTI). An award ceremony was held at the project site, celebrating our commitment to workplace safety, and our success in ensuring the adoption of strict safety standards, procedures and systems.

We have also contributed to effective safety compliance in our work with IKEA in China, implementing the retailer's global standards and safety code across several sites.