The Pivotal Role Of The Health And Safety Manager In Construction Operations


It usually takes a combination of education, experience, and specialized certifications to become a health and safety manager. Candidates having at least a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, industrial hygiene, occupational health and safety, or a similar discipline are preferred by most businesses. For advanced employment, certain occupations can call for a master’s degree. Some “on the tools” experience, such as operating an excavator or working in a specialized craft, is beneficial for construction jobs.

Entry-level positions such as safety technician, safety coordinator, or industrial hygienist can provide valuable experience in the field and provide an opportunity to work up towards a managerial role.

Obtaining relevant certifications can boost your credentials and demonstrate your expertise in health and safety management. Some widely recognized certifications include:

  • Certified Safety Professional (CSP)
  • Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST)
  • Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH)
  • Associate Safety Professional (ASP)
  • Certified Safety and Health Manager (CSHM)
  • Certified Environmental, Safety and Health Trainer (CET)

Health and safety regulations are constantly evolving, so it’s essential to stay current with industry standards and best practices. Attend workshops, seminars, and conferences, and consider joining professional organisations such as the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) or the National Safety Council (NSC).

Responsibilities on a construction site

Health and safety managers play a crucial role on construction sites, ensuring that all activities are carried out in compliance with relevant regulations and best practices to protect workers from hazards and minimize the risk of accidents. Here are some of the key responsibilities of a health and safety manager on a construction site:

Developing and implementing safety policies

Health and safety managers are responsible for developing comprehensive safety policies and procedures specific to the construction site. This includes identifying potential hazards, establishing safety protocols, and ensuring that all workers are trained in safety procedures. The primary hazards are:

  • Working at heights
  • Machinery operation
  • Pedestrian separation from mobile plant
  • Suspended objects
  • Excavations and underground services
  • Weather conditions

Providing training and education

Health and safety managers are responsible for providing ongoing safety training to all workers on the construction site. This includes:

  • proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • safe work practices
  • emergency procedures
  • hazard recognition.

They will also set up systems to ensure that workers on-site are current with any certifications required for specific machinery. For example, boom lift training is required every three years for people that use telescopic or knuckle boom lifts, and workers will hold either an operator’s certificate or a licence for a group of machines or a specific machine.

Conducting risk assessments

Before work begins on a construction site, health and safety managers conduct thorough risk assessments to identify potential hazards and develop strategies to mitigate risks. They assess factors such as working at heights, electrical hazards, heavy machinery operation, and hazardous materials handling. This process usually consists of:

  1. Identify hazards – physical (trips, mobile machinery, falling objects, etc), chemical, biological, psychological/psychosocial, and ergnomic (manual handling)
  2. Identify people at risk – employees, contractors, visitors, client, suppliers, etc
  3. Evaluate risks – calculate the overall risk using the likelihood plus the severity
  4. Implement control measures – put systems in place to reduce or eliminate the risk
  5. Review and update – note any changes to risk over time
  6. Communication and consultation – communicate risks to stakeholders, e.g. through toolbox meetings
  7. Keep records
  8. Apply training and mitigation against any new risks identified.

Ensuring regulatory compliance

Health and safety managers must stay up-to-date with relevant health and safety regulations, and ensure that the construction site complies with these regulations. They also ensure compliance with local building codes and permits.

Inspecting the site

Health and safety managers conduct regular inspections of the construction site to identify any safety hazards or violations of safety protocols. They also will either set procedures for equipment inspection, inspect the equipment themselves, or collect and analyse checklists and logbooks for equipment to ensure they are in good working condition and meet safety standards. They are responsible for a site hazard board which identifies the risks present on the site to visitors and workers.

Investigating accidents and incidents

In the event of an accident, injury, or near-miss on the construction site, health and safety managers conduct thorough investigations to determine the root cause and develop measures to prevent similar incidents. A typical process for dealing with incidents is:

  1. Immediate response: the priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of those involved by providing medical attention, evacuating the area if necessary, and securing the scene to prevent further harm.
  2. Documentation: Accurately document the accident scene, including taking photographs, videos, and written notes of the scene before any alterations are made.
  3. Witness interviews: Firsthand accounts can provide valuable insight into what happened and why.
  4. Gather evidence: Examine physical evidence such as equipment, tools, materials, and environmental factors to identify any contributing factors to the accident.
  5. Review policies and procedures: Were they followed or if were there deficiencies that contributed to the accident?
  6. Analyse data: Data related to the accident, such as records of previous incidents, maintenance logs, inspection reports, and relevant statistics, are reviewed to identify patterns or trends.
  7. Root cause analysis: Identify the underlying causes or root causes of the accident. This involves digging deeper beyond the immediate factors to understand the systemic or organizational issues that contributed to the incident.
  8. Report and recommendations: A comprehensive report summarizing the findings of the investigation is prepared. This report may include recommendations for corrective actions to prevent similar accidents from happening in the future.
  9. Implement of corrective actions: Based on the recommendations of the investigation report, corrective actions are implemented to address the root causes and prevent similar incidents. This may involve changes to policies, procedures, training programs, equipment, or organizational culture.
  10. Monitoring and review: The effectiveness of the corrective actions is monitored over time to ensure they are successful in preventing future accidents. Regular reviews of health and safety practices may also be conducted to identify areas for improvement.

Promoting a safety culture

Health and safety managers play a key role in promoting a safety culture among workers and management on the construction site. They communicate the importance of safety, encourage the reporting of safety concerns, and recognize and reward safe behaviours.

Collaborating with stakeholders

Health and safety managers collaborate with project managers, contractors, subcontractors, and other stakeholders to ensure that safety is prioritised throughout all stages of the construction project.

Overall, health and safety managers on construction sites are responsible for creating and maintaining a safe work environment that protects the well-being of all workers and visitors to the site.

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