Human touch

By Alex Dahm06 August 2008

John Spanswick is chairman of Bovis Lend Lease and the Strategic Forum for Construction (SFfC) Tower Crane Group. He believes that well trained supervisors are a vital key to effective risk management at work sites.

According to Spanswick, the lack of supervisors in the industry and their level of competency is a big issue, “both with main contractors and, more importantly, their supply chain. If you do not have the right number and right level then we are never going to make the impact needed in preventing an accident.”

Near miss

Spanswick adds that in the UK Bovis Lend Lase is carrying out additional training for its own supervisors and to ensure supply chain supervisors are competent in their field of expertise and understand their duty to look after their workforce.

“I think it is an issue around the world but, certainly in the UK and in the US, there is a shortage of skilled workers and people are becoming supervisors almost by accident. You cannot just get rid of them, but we have to ensure that they have the right standard and ability.”

The tower crane group is set to issue guidance on the induction process for dismantling and erecting tower cranes in September. “A concern from the group is that when a tower crane arrives on site the general contractor can tend to sit back and leave it to a specialist, because they think that the specialist should know what they are doing. The general contractor does not take as much responsibility in understanding the risk in the process. It is about ensuring people understand what has got to be done and doing a proper risk assessment the day they arrive on site.”

Spanswick adds that there is a general lack of proper risk assessment around the world, because they are too generic, out of date or they are not fully completed.

When it comes to insurance, Spanswick believes there is not a trend towards higher premiums. Rather, organisations that can demonstrate they have robust risk management systems in place, will get preferential rates.

Concerning the industry as a whole, Spanswick adds, “I don’t think we are there yet but there is a real will to drive through that. We have to find some better ways of prompting people into it. We tend to be driven by lagging indicators, i.e. statistics, but we are trying to get a grip of leading indicators.”

To this end, the group is working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to create a web-based information sharing facility, possibly a stand-alone website for crane operators.

“It will get people talking about near misses, or just mishaps, and get people to learn from their mistakes. We need to get that type of information around the industry because people’s lives can be saved that way.”

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