With the construction industry failing to meet targets for the reduction of deaths and injuries, demonstrating real commitment to health and safety could become increasingly important in winning major contracts.
Says Mike Weston, who heads health and safety services at project and cost management consultant Faithful+Gould: "There is a wealth of expertise available and a well developed framework for minimising safety risk on site through systems and training. As an industry we know how to keep people safe but the fact that the construction sector is well short of Government targets is a clear indication that there remains a lack of investment in this key area. In recent years we have seen environmental and sustainability rocket up the priority ladder when it comes to assessing tenders. Health and safety is equally fast becoming a key consideration."
Huge strides forward have undoubtedly been made with the best developments rigorously enforcing 'no hard hat, no work' procedures and making safety training a pre-requisite not only for contractors' site personnel but also for occasional visitors. Says Mike Weston: "The achievements of the best operators are unfortunately offset by those companies that still just don’t care. In the middle there remain many organisations that are genuinely focused on health and safety but will benefit from expert review of project related risks, safety procedures and training regimes."
Although the chances of reaching the target of reducing deaths and injuries by 40 per cent by the end of 2004 must now be slim, Mike Weston remains optimistic about the future. He explains, "The example set by the best and the 360 degree pressure from Government, key designers and contractors must help drive improvements in performance. There is also growing awareness of the cost of ignoring health and safety in terms of lost man hours, prosecutions and lost business. Getting health and safety right brings bottom line benefits and no business can ignore that."