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Managing safety on a construction project

Paul Sancandi
September 14, 2012

Following on from Stage 2 – Design, this article provides an overview and summary of the key tasks in the management for safer construction during the Stage 3 Construction stage of the project lifecycle, as included in the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Guide for Construction Innovation’s Guide to Best Practice for Safer Construction: Tasks. It is assumed in this article that the project manager has been engaged by the client to act as his or her representative to manage the delivery of the project.

The construction stage usually starts after the finalisation of design and the engagement of a constructor. The constructor is usually responsible for the prosecution of all works, including provision of all materials, labour and equipment required to complete the project, and the management of any subcontracts.

On completion of the works, the facility/structure is handed over to the client. Commissioning of the facility/structure may also be included in the contract. This is a critical stage for safety risk management. Construction personnel are exposed to risks in all activities, and neighbours and the public may also be exposed to risk as a result of construction activities.

For a traditional project delivery model, the safety risk management actions during the construction stage are the responsibility of the constructor. However, the client/project manager and the designer when operating as the client’s agent under the construction contract, will also have a role during this stage to inspect and monitor contract compliance.

With a project delivery model such as an alliance, the constructor may share these responsibilities with the client/project manager and the designer, subject to the allocation of responsibilities in the alliance agreement. However, it is a well-established principle that responsibility should lie with the party who is best able to manage it.

Clearly all projects are unique and the project stakeholders should determine the appropriateness and degree of applicability of the suggested tasks and procedures to their particular project, commensurate with the risk profile of that project.

The CRC Guide details six principles to be followed in the Construction stage as follows:

Principle 1: Demonstrate Safety Leadership

Develop construction safety plan
Following the selection of a qualified constructor, a project-specific construction safety plan will be prepared by the constructor prior to occupation of the site. The plan must demonstrate, as a minimum, compliance with statutory regulations of the state (or the Commonwealth) in which the project is located. The project manager, with the designer’s assistance, will provide all relevant information under their control to the constructor for input into the development of the construction safety plan. The project manager may engage a suitably experienced third party to independently review the plan if no such expertise exists within the client’s organisation.

Demonstrate management commitment to safety processes at all levels

Senior managers of the project manager, designer and constructor should actively participate in the on-site safety risk management program during the construction phase.

Implement senior management-led ‘safety walks’
Senior managers of the client, project manager, the designer and the constructor should undertake unscheduled ‘safety walks’ around the construction site.

Conduct regular site inspections
The project manager should undertake active monitoring of the constructor’s safety performance through planned inspections and audits. These inspections and safety audits should be undertaken with the constructor to reinforce a team approach to improving safety management.

Consultation and talking safety
The constructor will consult with workforce personnel about all aspects of work safety prior to commencing construction and regularly throughout the construction stage.

Author avatar
Paul Sancandi
Paul Sancandi is a senior design manager with InfraSol Group. He has a technical background as a structural engineer, owned an architectural and engineering practice and has worked in Australia, Asia and the Middle East on a wide range of small to mega projects over the past 32 years.
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