All In A Day's Work: Safeguarding lives

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 July, 2007, 12:00am

As health and safety manager at Gammon Construction, Jesse Hau is responsible for spotting unsafe conditions or unsafe actions on a construction site I have been with Gammon Construction for about 14 years. I started as an assistant safety officer and then my old boss asked me to attend a one-year safety training course run by the Labour Department. So I did that and in parallel worked at Gammon. After I finished the course with the necessary qualifications, I applied to become a registered safety officer (RSO). I worked as an RSO for three to four years and then I got promoted to a senior safety officer. Now I am the health and safety manager.

Working hours on our construction sites start at 8am and finish at around 6pm, so I usually arrive at the site 15 minutes earlier to arrange the morning assembly. Usually, I am the speaker, so I will have prepared some notes the day before, often based on newspaper cuttings about occupational health and safety issues or things that I need to tell the workers.

The workers also do some simple stretching exercises to prepare them for their day.

The morning assembly takes about 15 or 20 minutes. After that, the workers break into smaller groups and their foreman will talk to them about that day's work. The foreman will supervise them, but it is my job to listen to them and give some supplementary information if they need it. After this, I go to the site office and check e-mails or look at the newspaper for news that is relevant to our work.

I do a safety walk every morning, usually with some of my staff. We use a check list to see if anything is unsafe. If we find something wrong, we might rectify it on the spot or make a record for action later.

We do find unsafe conditions or unsafe actions on a construction site, which is quite a mobile environment and the workers' behaviour is unpredictable. This is why we spend a lot of time training the workers and trying to change their attitudes.

This starts with the daily 'induction training' for the new workers who are coming on site. Induction training can take anything from one to two hours, depending on contractual requirements. We teach the workers how to operate at the site, identify where the danger areas are, and show them what they need to look out for. In the afternoons, we usually do a 'toolbox training' presented by one of the foremen and a safety adviser. We use pre-approved training materials, often from the Labour Department or from the Occupational Safety & Health Council, and this helps update our workers and refresh their memories.

Once a week we have site inspection with the clients, sub-contractor's representatives and foremen to check everything out. If it is a big site, this will take two to three hours because we have to go through every process as well as check site conditions, the physical conditions and also the workers' behaviour. During the walk we talk to the workers, check that things comply with the safety regulation and practices and then prepare a report.

In general, the health and safety officers give a lot of advice to the projects to help the workers function safely. We provide some method statements or risk assessments to review whether the project is operating safely and legally. The project manager may not understand the legal requirements in terms of safety so it is our job to tell the project manager what they need to do.