Construction safety coordination

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Construction safety coordination

The
construction is one of the most dangerous areas in terms of occupational safety. Just think of the many dangers that workers face on a construction site. There is e.g. the risk of falling down, working in confined spaces, risk of electric shock, working with chemicals (including carcinogens), risk of cutting, injury, noises … not to talk about things like dangers of working in the wrong posture, and we could go a long way…

Because of the aboves, it is very important to pay particular attention to the safety of the employees on every construction site.

One of the most important things to do, is to employ a safety coordinator (also known as HSE coordinator or OSH coordinator) for both the design and construction phase. Always, for every construction. I mention this as one of the most important things, because a good safety coordinator also provides the right level of professional knowledge on the construction site and can provide useful information on OSH obligations and regulations.

The employment or hiring of the

Safety coordinator

…is a must according to the a common decree 4/2002. (II. 20.) of Ministry of Social and Family Affairs and Ministry of Health.
3. § (1) When preparing the construction design documentation, the designer must work with (employ or assign) a coordinator (…)
 
(2) The constructor employer must work with (employ or assign) a coordinator during the construction(…)

What are the tasks of the safety coordinator?

For the exact definition I put the legislative text here (can be opened and closed by clicking on the number of the decree below) … and let’s talk only about the construction, as usually the coordination of the designing phase is provided by a designer who is a qualified OSH professional as well.

The tasks of the coordinator in relation to the construction work are:

a) coordination of fulfillment of the specified requirements in order to ensure that the employer and – if necessary for the benefit of the workers – self-employed persons fulfill what’s defined in Article 10 and the requirements laid down in the safety and health plan in accordance with Article 6 (2) (b);

b) where appropriate, making revisions in the safety and health plan and to the documentation specified in Article 7 (c), in order that they shall include, at all times, the requirements of healthy and safe working as the work progresses and circumstances change;

c) coordination between employers operating simultaneously and successively at the construction site, in accordance with the liability rules of Section 40 (2) of the Labor Code;

d) coordinating the control of work processes;

e) taking the necessary measures to ensure that only authorized persons have access to the construction site.

So, what does the OSH coordinator do in practise…

  • Mostly they check and if they find any deviation from the specifications, will suggest a correction.
    I am often asked, what I am working on. I’m a safety coordinator. “Then you make sure everyone on the construction site has a helmet?” It is indeed a task to check the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE), but this is only a small part of the job … there are also problems like, the documentation of the earthmoving machinery is incomplete, the fire extinguishers have expired, the on-site safety documentation (risk assessment, medical certificates, inspection papers of the electrical equipment, etc…) is incomplete, or even those working with hazardous substances do not know that its safety data sheet must be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website and the material must be used / stored accordingly. In addition, things must be checked, like the cover of the grinding machine and other machines has not been removed, the extension cables and other electrical cables are intact, the trenches are properly surrounded, the liftings are carried out safely and properly, and the conditions are appropriate for this (ropes not damaged, etc…), social rooms are provided properly (toilet, hand washing facilities, etc…). I could list a lot of things to check, but the point is, it matters a lot how experienced safety coordinator do you employ for a job, because a good coordinator goes out and catches immediately the things that need to be corrected. And this can also save a lot of money for a constructor, for example in the case of an inspection of authorities.
  • Coordinates with other company coordinators, project managers and anyone needed to work safely. I am not saying anything new, that in the case of a factory or power plant or any major project, employees of several companies are working at the same place at the same time. Many times they are physically crowded into a very small area. In this case, parallel work is a source of danger as well, just think about what happens when employees of one company are painting (thinner, paint, all flammable material), while the employees of the other company are grinding something and sparks are flying everywhere. Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions to such cases, but the prerequisite for all of them is to have an experienced, well-trained safety coordinator who thinks about these. Of course, this grinding case is just one of many examples.
  •  Provides professional (occupational safety and health) information to the constructor in any case of question.
In addition to the aboves, the safety coordinator is often entrusted with other tasks. For example, many large companies give them the power to take action, e.g. in certain projects, the constructor’s safety coordinator has the power to give “penalty points” on subcontractors’ safety deficiencies, for which the constructor deducts penalties from subcontractors’ contractual price.

So to summarize…

Why do you need a safety coordinator on a construction site?
  • Because it is required by decree
  • Because they provide information on safe working conditions
  • Because they check and coordinate to ensure safe work
  • Because they provide information on current occupational safety and health legislation
While it is mandatory, what are the attributes of a good safety coordinator?
We think, she/he should be…
  • Experienced and practical
  • with appropriate lexical (professional, legal) knowledge
  • and with great communication skills
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