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Health And Safety Practices Key To Winning Contracts As Construction Industry Shows Improvement

With continued challenges in the construction sector, smart companies are using quality data to help reduce deaths and injuries – and to win business.

As competition for big contracts continues, showcasing proven health and safety practices are becoming increasingly key when competing for contracts, says SiteSafe CEO Brett Murray.

Murray, who is part of the Vertical Leaders Group, made up of CEOs from companies specialising in vertical construction, says health, safety, and environment (HSE) is a key focus for the group.

“Health and safety is all wrapped up with environmental safety. On the largest construction stage, a lot of the big-ticket work for companies post-COVID is government generated which, if you want to win it, requires very specific guidelines that companies need to comply with.

“Some of these are projects in the 100s of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars category, and you need to display that you care about your people and the environment – and that needs to be reflected in your tender documents.”

For Murray, safety in the local construction industry is improving and positive strides have been made in the last five years. However, while fatalities are down, he says serious harm incidents are still too high with 337 injury, illness, and serious harm incidents reported up to July (compared to 302 in the same period last year).

WorkSafe construction industry statistics show injuries resulting in more than a week away from work totalled 6,189 in 2022 (up from 5,826 in 2021). So far this year there has been 1,470 to March compared to 1,422 during the same period last year.

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For Tier 1 construction company Icon NZ, which is working on the $350 million Auckland Airport upgrade, data is key to managing risk on sites.

Using a safety and work site management platform, the company aggregates data from across all of its sites to analyse the information and performance over a period of time, says Icon NZ’s New Zealand HSEQ Manager, Karyn Beattie.

“At any one time we might have up to 50 companies doing the same tasks. If they don’t speak to each other, no one will know what is going on. If you only see what is on your site, you wouldn’t necessarily know that there is an overall problem.

“If you are seeing a trend with that piece of equipment over multiple sites, you are able to identify there is a problem and do something about it. It means we can find a better way of doing things.”

Share data industry wide

Murray believes that collecting data from HSE processes is an essential step to build an understanding of trends that can guide specific solutions to help prevent injuries.

“Pooling insights and lessons learned from across the industry into a centralised source that can be accessed by contractors could further accelerate improvement. SiteSafe is working alongside CHASNZ and other interested agencies to improve data collection.

“The challenge for the industry is getting the full picture rather than one company’s data. With the industry embracing technology there is an opportunity to pool the data and feed it into a centralised point for the industry to tap into and do something with it.

“The value of data is the lessons we can learn from it and how can we make improvements in the way we work on site to make things better and how to better address specific issues.”

Could, and can, do better

When it comes to safety in the construction industry, leaders in the sector are up front and honest.

“Everybody wants to get home safely, and that is certainly our priority,” says David Wood, National Operations Manager from Dominion Constructors Ltd. “But in a dynamic & fluid environment it can be a challenge to have everyone living and breathing safety first.”

“Keeping people safe starts with making sure they are trained and informed. The first port of call is talking daily about safety and how you keep yourself and others safe.”

Data provides incredibly useful information, says Wood, however it has to be used in conjunction with training, and sound management and planning processes.

Dominion Constructors utilises data for a range of purposes including identifying risk trends to prevent injury, conducting compliance audits, and measuring the effectiveness of employee training programmes.

Ultimately though, says Wood, it's about assisting individuals to understand what the right thing is to do in the health and safety space.

“You have to start with the belief that you can mitigate every possible incident through good planning, thorough training and good management. But the reality is the construction industry has high risk and it only takes one person having a momentary lapse for someone to get hurt.

“The focus needs to be on why workers are getting hurt and creating solutions to stop injuries. Data helps that cause.”

Quality data key

Ben Leach, Co-founder and CEO of leading construction safety and site management platform, HammerTech, says the greater the quality of data coming in from the field, the better the ability to be able to identify trends.

“Enabling teams to accurately detect what is causing incidents and near misses helps develop programmes to reduce, and ultimately, prevent the occurrence of injuries and deaths.”

Leach says data that is timely, reliable and accurate provides significant value and insight for companies about true safety performance.

“Clients are often surprised when they first review the data because they were unaware that their actual performance was below their expectation – but then they are able to dial into the issues and initiatives to improve.

“It also comes down to clearly defined safety processes and procedures that are easily understood by the workforce. Research has shown that companies that focus on safety throughout the planning and construction phase also perform better financially.”

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