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Managers responsible for accident prevention


About 10% of the reported fatal accidents at work in Zimbabwe occur in the building and construction industry, where people are often working at dangerous heights, or easily struck by falling

Many people will remember the tragic accident that occurred on December 2 1999 during the construction of the Cabs Millennium Towers in Harare, which claimed 15 lives.

There were 55 lives lost during the construction of Kariba Dam. Some of those who died still lie buried within the dam wall.

There will always be dangers involved in working at great heights or in an environment where there is a danger of being hit by a falling object.

That is why building sites in town centres are generally closed off with a temporary fence of corrugated iron, often with a covered wooden walkway with a corrugated iron roof to protect those passing by from any falling object.

It is why there are hard-hat areas at construction sites where even visitors are required to put on a hard hat to provide them with some protection in the event of a brick or other object falling on them.

Most accidents do not just happen. There is a cause. Human behaviour can often be part of the cause. Sometimes the cause might be the failure of someone working at a height to wear a safety harness.

Sometimes the danger of an accident occurring is foreseen, but the necessary steps are not taken to avoid it or guard against it. Managers have an obligation to consider the safety and health of those working under them. They need to consider the possible dangers and ensure that the right precautions are taken.

Lack of management control often precedes a series of events in a domino sequence that culminates in preventable loss. When it comes to safety that loss could be a human life.

Field evidence has shown that an unsafe act and/or an unsafe condition precedes a loss producing incident. How does management control feature as a critical factor?

The functions of management include planning, leadership, organising and control. Planning precedes other functions. Ensuring safety and health begins with planning for them.

Failure to plan for safety and health nullifies the other management functions of organisation, control and leadership, when it comes to accident prevention.

Formulating policies and procedures are generally regarded as the prerogative of management. Where the requisite resources to ensure safety and health, including human, material and financial resources, have not been provided, this would suggest a lack of management control at the planning stage.

Management responsibilities include the budgeting process, recruitment and selection, training and development, awarding of contracts, adoption and implementation of an occupational safety and health management system, auditing and communication.

The employees’ role in accident prevention is essentially to co-operate with the employer by following laid down safety instructions and procedures and to correctly use the provided safety appliances, safety devices, safety gear, protective guards and safety switches, reporting any deviations from the norm to the supervisor without delay.

Construction work includes excavation works, structural works, repairs, renovations and demolition activities. Examples include the construction of dams, roads, railway lines, sewer and water systems, power lines and irrigation systems.

According to the International Labour Organisation, the employer has an obligation to secure the safety and health of all his/her employees.

In Zimbabwe, the Factories and Works Act Chapter 14:08 and regulations made under this Act set out specific precautions that employers must take to prevent accidents that might injure people employed at structural works.

These safety requirements include the appointment of qualified and competent persons to be in charge of excavation works, scaffolding, equipment and machinery maintenance and to ensure such equipment and machinery are in good order and repair.

The use of the requisite codes of practice and standard specifications and the strict observance of and adherence to safety regulations should create a safe and healthy working environment.

To be productive, a worker needs to be healthy. It is the statutory obligation and responsibility of management to provide everything necessary for working safely and to maintain equipment in good order and repair.

Managers should satisfy themselves that all employees are properly instructed regarding the dangers associated with their work and are aware of the appropriate action to take in the event of there being deviations from the norm.

The employer is required to report accidents or any dangerous occurrences with potential harm to life to the inspector without delay in order to facilitate investigations and subsequent recommendations to prevent a recurrence.

The jurisdictional inspector has the responsibility to regularly inspect building, structural and excavation works and to issue prohibition orders where there is imminent danger in accordance with the law.

Employers and managers should not, however, limit themselves to what the law requires of them.
The best guarantee of safety is the proactive planning, development and implementation of safety measures by employers with a keen sense of corporate social responsibility and the welfare of their employees at heart.

Talking Social Security is published weekly by the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) as a public service.

There is also now a weekly radio programme, PaMhepo neNssa/Emoyeni leNSSA, discussing social security issues every Thursday at 6:50pm on Radio Zimbabwe.

Readers can email issues they would like dealt with in this column to mail@mhpr.co.zw or text them to 0735 041 278. Those with individual queries should contact their local NSSA office or telephone NSSA on (04) 706517-8 or 706523 5.

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