Ensuring safety on construction sites

An expatriate worker died after falling off a building that he had been working on in Phuentsholing earlier this month.

Perhaps, the unfortunate incident could have been prevented if the worker had on a safety harness, or if other safety requirements were followed.

However, construction safety requirements are blatantly ignored nation wide, even on government construction sites. This is especially true of building construction sites.

It is the spring season when most building constructions begin and already you can see workers, mostly expatriate, working without any safety gear on.

Construction sites are dangerous areas, not only for the workers on site, but the public as well.

If safety requirements are ignored, there are risks to both workers and the public.

The rules are already in place and monitoring on compliance is carried out periodically. However, safety remains an issue.

The problem here is mindset. Most expatriate workers do not want to use safety gear and complain it is uncomfortable and hampers their work, among others. Another problem is that construction foremen, site managers and owners do not strictly enforce the rules. This is likely compounded by lack of more stringent monitoring by the agencies concerned.

There is clearly a need to change mindsets at all levels.

This could perhaps be achieved by having expatriate workers go through a crash course on personal and site safety. This must be then followed by safety briefings every morning by the site in-charge. It must also become the responsibility of the site in-charge to ensure that safety requirements are followed throughout the day.

Expatriate and local workers must realise that to work in Bhutan, their safety along with the public’s is not taken lightly. This message must be made clear with the concerned agencies conducting more regular inspections of construction sites. These inspections must not only assess if workers are using personal safety gear but also whether their employer has ensured that the construction site is safe for the workers, in terms of providing them with the essential necessities like hygienic toilets, clean water, and acceptable hygiene.

Inspection teams could also begin rating contractors on their safety compliance, and use these scores to determine the award of contracts later on. It is also important that employers who fail to ensure safety of their workers on site, of fail to convince their workers to use protective gear are penalised.

It is evident that safety is lacking in the construction sector. It is time we begin changing that and provide a model of safety in the region.

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