THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: “The major reason for the increasing rate of accidents on construction sites, especially in Kerala, is the absolute lack of scrutiny in the employment and training of workers which is further worsened by lack of interference and inspection from the government,” says K Muraleedharan Pillai, a Construction Safety Consultant and author of books on the subject. Talking to City Express in connection with the 41st National Safety Week, observed from March 4-10 under the aegis of the National Safety Council of India, he said the occasion should initiate discussions on construction safety in the context of ever-increasing activity on this front.
Pillai has worked in the field of safety in private and government sectors in India and abroad for more than 25 years.
He has authored the book ‘Construction Safety Handbook’, one of the few authentic locally-authored books on the topic and easily a reference for safety management.
The construction field was an unorganised sector as the employment durations were too short which resulted in poor employer-employee relations, says Pillai. The lack of experienced personnel, frequent change of operations and lack of supervision being the other reasons that contributed to further damages.
“The scenario changed to some extend a few years back when the central government enacted ‘The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996.
The legislation had been compiled by including provisions from the Conventions and Recommendations of International Labour Organisation and International Safety Standards and Regulations on Construction. Later, the Government of Kerala also framed ‘The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service), Kerala Rules, 1998.
Like other industrial organisations the construction industry is also functioned by tripartite mechanism comprising the government, employer and trade union” he says. “These are the bodies responsible for ensuring safety in the construction field,” he adds.
Pillai points out that one major defect about the construction sector is the ignorance of the contractors with regard to the statutory provisions and other safety measures which are to be implemented during a construction work.
“Even if they are aware, they pretend ignorance to avoid the financial implications involved in it,” says Pillai.
As a result of such negligence, accidents are repeated at construction sites. While it is the responsibility of a contractor to register the details of his employees with the authorities, this is not being done in the case of most of the on-going construction projects.
“And in the event of an accident the contractor tries to hide the mishap so as to minimize the post-accident expenditure and to maintain the reputation of the builder. Many a time, the trade unions also act in favour of the contractors by not insisting on registering the workers,” he says.
To be on a safer side the client must check the competency and capability of the contractor by verifying the contract documents, says Pillai. “It is important to ensure whether the contractor has experience on similar type of projects and whether they have completed similar type of projects without accidents. Budgeting for safety has to be specifically mentioned in the contract.”
Before winding up, he adds, “morally, safety is everybody’s business.”