Keeping safety at the core of the construction industry

By Phillip Smith, Group Executive - Environment, Health, Safety and Quality, SHAPE Australia
Friday, 07 October, 2022 | Supplied by: SHAPE

Keeping safety at the core of the construction industry

As Australia emerges from the pandemic, a recent forecast by the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) suggests that the construction industry is powering the country’s recovery. With a surge in residential construction and a strong pipeline of infrastructure projects, the industry is predicted to enjoy annual growth of 3.4% through 2025.

However, as the industry booms, the demand on workers will be strained. Coupled with the resourcing issues caused by the skills shortage, employers are also grappling with pressures to deliver projects on time. This can have dire consequences on workplace and employee safety. Safe Work Australia found that from 2019–2020, there was a 10% year-on-year increase in serious injury claims and a 6% increase in workplace fatalities.

Building a safety-first culture should be at the forefront of any organisation, not just in construction. When the wellbeing of an organisation’s people and its subcontractors takes top priority, it creates a positive ripple effect on how the organisation performs.

Leveraging technology is one key way to empower any site manager, trade worker or contractor to take safety into their own hands. SHAPE has rolled out the Minimum Standards (SMS) app, which can provide quick and easy access to environmental, health, safety and quality management information from any mobile device.

Since launching the SMS app in 2020, the company has experienced a decrease in incidents and increased logging of positive observations. For instance, electrical incidents have decreased by 67% and asbestos-related incidents have decreased by 29%.

Utilising technology and procedures that will protect workers could also have significant financial benefits — it is estimated that more than $1.6 billion is being paid as compensation for serious injury claims.

The construction industry currently employs almost 10% of the country’s working population, yet more than one in five have a mental health condition. Construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than a work accident, equating to the loss of a construction worker to suicide every second day.

Providing training to help identify colleagues who might be experiencing challenges and offering the right support could make the difference. SHAPE currently has more than 65 employees who have taken ‘Connector’ training, designed to help spot and support employees, contractors and subcontractors who may be having a tough time. Along with more than 30 ASIST workers, who undergo an extensive two-day suicide prevention training course, Connectors and ASIST workers are available onsite as a line of support to keep employees safe.

Phone: 02 9906 6977
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