Construction sector is the backbone of any country. It has the significant contribution in reshaping the country's GDPs but like any other sectors; it has remarkable chances for any incident which can lead to injury or any irreversible effect on the surrounding. There is always a risk for the accidents or near misses in this sector as mostly work is being done manually by the workers except destruction, loading or unloading and transportation of the material which is being done with the help of machines operated by the human operator.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), United States Department of Labor, there are around 5,333 construction industry workers who died on the job in 2019 which is equivalent to 3.5 per 100,000 full time employees . While in Europe, 3332, fatal accidents occurred in 2018 among which one fifth were related to construction sectors  which is approximately 9.5 per 100,000 full time employees. Both human and environmental safety needs to be addressed.
Human safety means the fitness of mind and health while environment safety is related to no harm to plants, animals, human, air, land, water and natural resources due the activities of the concerns.
Construction industry is one of the major contributors in the environmental degradation, around 23% of the air, 40% of the drinking water pollution and 50% of the landfill pollution is due to the construction sector . Similarly, quality of the construction work is one the most important factors which if not considered can lead to the high financial loss as done in the number of construction projects in the past. Like Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in China cost increased from $8.35 billion to $ 37 billion due to improper planning and unexpected issues , similarly, in the case of the International Space Station (ISS) cost increased from $ 17.4 to $ 100 billion  and Panama Canal construction project is another example of such type of cases which effect to lack of proper planning . So, planning and correct specifications are the utmost requirement to complete the project timely in a confined budget otherwise it can lead to the project loss in the form of direct financial and indirect repute of the organization.
After the United Nation, Sustainable Development Goal 2030 and Paris Conference in 2015; the world is showing too much concern toward safety, quality and environment. There is a significant increase in the construction companies which adopted these ISO standards in order to comply with these requirements. Like only in Hong Kong, there has been an increase of ISO 14001 Environment Management System certification in the last decade. As per Environment Protection Department of Hong Kong 33% of the total ISO 14001 EMS Certifications are issued to the construction sector . But now companies are more focused on integration of these standards based on Annexure SL structure as clauses are the same but the requirements are different like in the case of Quality Management System requirements. While in the Environment Management System, it is more focused on environment safety due to operational activities and throughout the life cycle of the product and in case of occupational health safety. Therefore it is more concerned about the workers, operators and visitors safety who are working or pass by in the vicinity of the project domain.
Safety, Quality and Environment are the major concerns of this era. There were different regional standards that existed in the past decade like European followed British Standards (BS), Americans and Japanese have their own standards in order to ensure the safety, quality and environment in construction sectors but from 2010 onward these standards have started to become uniform. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is working on the development of these standards through its Technical Committees (TC) consisting of all members’ representatives. ISO 45001 OHS, 9001 QMS & 14001 EMS standards have been developed by the ISO for safety, quality and environment. These standards are followed by the annexure SL structure having 10 clauses; starting from Scope, Terms & Definitions, Normative References, Context of the Organization, Leadership, Planning, Support, Operations, Performance Evaluation and Improvement. All of these clauses of ISO 45001 OHS, 9001 QMS & 14001 EMS standards can be integrated in order to implement these standards in the construction industry.
With a new structure of standards which have been revised after 2010, now the merging of these ISO 45001 OHS, 9001 QMS & 14001 EMS standards become easy due to annexure SL. As there are 10 clauses of these standards starting from Scope, which has the detail of the applicability of clauses and requirements related to implementation are mentioned through which one can easily identify whether the standard is applicable to the company.
Terms & Definitions have the detailed explanation of the terms used in these standards as the meaning of the terms are different with respect to use like where “shall” is used in the standards, it means this requirement is mandatory. Normative References have the detail of the references or data which have been taken from some other published work, it could be the property of ISO or any other organization. Context of the Organization having detail of interest parties with their needs and expectations from the company. In case of quality standard, Need and Expectation related to agreement technicality or specification while in safety standard, it is related to all Interest parties’ safety and in environment standard, safety of the environment by considering the national regulatory bodies requirements. Leadership requirement deals with commitment policies and roles responsibilities of the top management related to safety of environment, health and quality. Planning of the identified risk and its proactive measures to counter it, the major obligation of this clause; in safety standard it is more concerned to the safety of employees, workers and visitors at site while in environment standard the safety of environment is the major concern which needs to be pro-actively deal and specification & legal requirements are the concern of quality standard. Resources including manpower, physical items and documentation which are required to operate smoothly and running the system effectively are addressed by support clauses. Just difference is the physical resources like in case of occupational safety personal protective equipment will be required. Operations clause is the major one to implement these standards which further sub-divided into different clauses all activities related to the operations of construction company need to be planned and systematic manners in order to avoid any accident either it is a design & development, purchasing or work environment activities. System without a performance check is not effective in order to bring further improvement so in order to check the effectiveness and implementation of quality, safety and environment performance evaluation is being done in the form of internal or external audits. Findings of the audit are used as a starter to bring improvement in the system but every time no need to wait for the audit to bring improvement. There are other mechanisms that need to be defined related to quality, safety and environment improvement in the system which completes the continuous cycle chain.
In all developed or developing countries where some legal bodies exist, these bodies have their own requirements related to compliance of employee’s safety, environment safety and documentation works. Although ISO 9001, 14001 & 45001 standard is not mandatory in most of the countries, implementation of these requirements in any construction industry is noteworthy to fulfill the requirements of regional regulatory bodies. Especially in UK, Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) requirements along with the health and safety regulations endorsed by the UK regulatory bodies are fulfilled, if any of the company get ISO 9001, 14001 & 45001 certification then regulatory requirement section is the mandatory requirement of these standards so ultimately the CIS and safety regulations are fulfilled. Beside this, a systematic approach of completing the work job with proper documentation also saved the company from any unwanted situations. Construction companies in Europe, US and Gulf region are following the integration approach in order to tackle the regulatory bodies. These requirements provide support in order to expand the business as 21st century customers are showing considerable concern toward the environment and human safety so these requirements also act as a marketing tool for the companies. As per research conducted in the 302 construction companies of Spain; Integration of these QHSE standards have a positive benefit both internally and externally. Internal benefits include the processes of the organization while external benefits include commercial gain in the market . Similar research has been conducted by the British Standard Institute (BSI) in one of the renowned British construction companies; integration of the quality and environment safety in the company leading to the market growth of 34% along with the 5-10 reduction in the cost of project .
So, based on the above facts; it is concluded that the integration of safety, quality and environment as one in the construction industry is the smartest way to deal with all interested parties which not only help companies to improve its internal and external processes but also increases the customer satisfaction by helping in the reduction of the cost.
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Find out how to manage your business' health and safety better
Many employers are concerned about their reporting obligations for COVID-19/Coronavirus/SARS-CoV-2 under RIDDOR in the ongoing pandemic. You may be pleased to know that you do not have to report everything to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). We'll provide more info about when, what, and how to report.
The most common concern we've seen recently from employers is whether they need to report all COVID-19 and coronavirus testing results to the HSE. The short answer is no. According to the HSE: “There is no requirement under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) to report incidents of disease or deaths of members of the public, patients, care home residents or service users from COVID-19. The reporting requirements relating to cases of, or deaths from, COVID-19 under RIDDOR apply only to occupational exposure, that is, as a result of a person's work.”
Generally speaking, the ordinary RIDDOR rules already cover COVID-19. You should only make a report under RIDDOR when one of the following circumstances applies:
• an accident or incident at work has or could have caused the release of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). (Report as Dangerous occurrence)
• a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19 due to occupational exposure. (Report as Disease)
• a worker dies because of occupational coronavirus exposure. (Report as Work-related death due to exposure to a biological agent)
The bottom line is that existing rules cover most COVID-19 measures, and most of the COVID-19 guidance comes from public health authorities rather than the HSE. The environment remains chaotic, but you can minimize your legal exposure by continuing your existing compliance steps. This will include communicating with your insurer about risks, following public health guidance, and communicating regularly with your workers or unions on any of their concerns.
© Gavin Coyle, 2021
© Gavin Coyle, 2021