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The health and safety misconceptions impeding construction growth

THE entire construction industry benefits when its participants, whether big or small, improve their operations and particularly their focus on safety. 

Unfortunately, prevailing misconceptions about the importance and benefits of adhering to occupational health and safety standards hinder many companies, especially SMMEs, from attaining stable growth.

“Every company’s most valuable asset is its workforce. Its workforce also represents its greatest risk factor. As a result, while health and safety regulations were originally implemented to ensure construction workers no longer have to work in unsafe environments, the industry has since evolved and now embraces a culture of health and safety which benefits both employee and employer,” notes Gap Infrastructure Corporation (GIC) CEO, Roelof van den Berg.

Construction has the highest occupational health and safety (OHS) compliance rate compared to the agriculture, chemical, iron and steel, manufacturing, and wholesale and retail sectors. This is due in large part to its emphasis on advanced employee-focused workplace protocols.

Yet regardless of the many advantages of improved adherence to health and safety regulations, a few misconceptions regarding these regulations persist. These prevent companies from realising their true growth potential – especially smaller businesses struggling to find a foothold in the industry and become profitable.

Occupational Health and Safety myths limiting business growth

One misconception suggests that strict adherence to health and safety regulations hinders productivity and efficiency, and slows project completion. But in reality, these regulations exist to safeguard construction workers from potential harm, which would otherwise result in considerable lost time, high medical costs, insurance costs, and potential equipment damage for businesses, explains van den Berg.

Another misconception is that regulations apply exclusively to large-scale construction projects and that only larger companies with many employees need to comply with them. However, South Africa’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, regulated by the Department of Labour, applies to every participant in the construction industry, and smaller businesses can also benefit substantially from compliance.

Some construction workers and employers also believe that accidents, injuries, and lost time are unavoidable risks inherent to construction work. However, many incidents can be prevented by adhering to established safety procedures and general guidelines that have been carefully crafted and enhanced over the years to specifically lower these risks.

Investing in safety training, conducting regular inspections, and identifying potential hazards significantly reduces the potential for accidents and damage to property. 

Moreover, a company-wide proactive mindset encourages employees to become more aware and sensitive to potential workplace hazards, enabling them to perform their duties with a stronger sense of security.

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