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Prof John Smallwood believes SA's safety culture must change!

by , 30 April 2015
Tuesday was World Day for Safety and Health at Work. A day that promotes a safety culture to help reduce the number of occupational fatalities, injuries and diseases.

Earlier this week, South Africa also celebrated the anniversary of its first democratic elections - also known as Freedom Day.

According to Prof John Smallwood, the head of the Department of Construction Management, and Programme Director of the MSc Built Environment Programme,, SA safety culture must change, adding that we can't talk about real freedom, security, or human rights until the threat of injury and disease is removed from workplaces.

He presented a list of construction leadership and safety culture changes. At present, South Africa's construction industry continues to receive unfavourable media coverage due to trench collapses, building, deck, and slab collapses, fatalities, injuries, disease, and damage to public property.

Moreover, South African construction incident statistics indicate the need for a construction health and safety culture change. While construction management focus is tied with safety, health and ergonomic issues receive limited or no attention.

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According to Sheqafrica.com, Prof Smallwood advocated a list of interventions to realise substantial change in South African construction health and safety (H&S). The list is based upon extensive research, publishing, course, seminar, and workshop development, conference organising, lecturing, community service, and professional registration and association:

• Value people as our most important resource.

• Values as a constituent of health and safety culture.

• Leadership in terms of health and safety.

• Management commitment, participation, and involvement in health and safety.

• Multi-stakeholder contributions to health and safety – architects, clients, contractors, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects, material manufacturers and suppliers, project managers, quantity surveyors, and labour unions.

• Optimum health and safety culture, among other, a vision of fatality, injury, and disease free projects, and a goal of zero deviations as opposed to incidents or accidents.

• Comprehensive health and safety education and training of all stakeholders (designers included).

• Competence accompanied by, among other, appropriate values and an exacting philosophy – the core competencies (self-image, traits, and motives) differentiate between superior and average performance i.e. at best the surface competencies (knowledge and skills) can only realise average performance.

• Optimum status for health and safety – greater than or at least equal to that afforded cost, quality, and time.

• Sound construction management (bona fide as opposed to pseudo) i.e. management of construction by construction managers.

• Integration of design and construction in general, but especially in terms of health and safety.

• Implementation of documented quality management systems in design and construction.

• Implementation of documented health and safety management systems in design and construction.

• Focus on health and safety regardless of circumstances – health and safety is a value, not a priority.

• Elimination / Mitigation of 'excusitis' (mind deadening thought disease manifested in excuses).

• Consciousness and mindfulness – constant cognising with respect to the surrounding environment, attention relative to health and safety, and mindful with respect to the implications of actions or omissions.

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