“Safety of the workers and the users of a facility is one of the most essential aspects for any engineering work.” (Skibniewski, 1983) Fault or failure in a completed project can lead to huge costs in terms of repairs and accidents. The defects may also cause unnecessary delays or even impair the functions of the affected facility. In the worst cases, “failures can result in personal injuries or fatalities.” (Dorf 2005) Accidents occurring in the cause of construction “can also afflict personal injuries lead to huge costs.” (Fox 1998) This paper seeks to establish various safety concerns and identify the alternative methods used in safety management in engineering.
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Safety concerns in engineering work
The quality of a completed project is always envisaged in the “design and planning stages rather than during construction. It is during these preliminary stages that component configurations, material specifications, and functional performance are decided.” (Havbro 2002) Quality control is done in the construction phase mainly focuses on ensuring that the facility conforms “to the original design and planning decisions.” (Skibniewski 1983) Whereas conformance to the original design may be the main focus for quality control measures, this should not always be the case. First, there may be unexpected circumstances, “incorrect design decisions or changes desired by the owner in the facility function may require a re-evaluation of the design decisions during construction.” (Tang 1975) All these “factors may compromise safety and lead to accidents and thus incurring high costs.”(Katrina, 2002)
Different designs require different safety measures; some designs may be hard and unsafe to implement, “whereas other, comparable plans may considerably reduce the possibility of accidents” occurring. (Katrina 2002) For instance, during the rehabilitation of roads, the separation of traffic from the construction areas greatly reduces the chance of accidents occurring. “Beyond these design decisions, safety largely depends upon education, vigilance and cooperation during the construction process.” (Tang 1975) Workers need to be consistently vigilant about the likelihood of accidents occurring and take the necessary decisions to reduce the risk. In addition, engineering models are always subject to uncertainty.” (Tang, 1975) In most cases, For instance when a “natural phenomenon like the weather is considered the engineering models designed to predict such conditions are always very tentative.”(Katrina 2002) Thus safety concerns in civil engineering are many and varied and the project managers should always try to tackle them. Some of the alternative approaches are outlined below.
Alternative approaches to safety management
Many different approaches have been developed to try and tackle safety issues accruing from the construction process. The best method to tackle the safety issue is by forming a group that is responsible for safety concerns within a firm or organization. “In large organizations, departments dedicated to quality assurance and safety might assign specific people to carry out the safety responsibilities on behalf of the firms.” (Shane 2002) “For smaller projects, the project manager or his/her assistant might” perform these duties. (Dorf 2005) In both cases, insuring safety during the construction process is the primary duty of the “project manager who is in charge of the overall project in addition to other concerns such as personnel, cost, time and other management issues.” (Dorf 2005)
Safety inspectors representing different organizations may tour the project to ensure that safety management is being implemented. Each of the organizations concerned with the construction may be “represented by their inspectors, these may include, the owner, the engineer/architect, and the various constructor companies.” (Fox 1998)
Various, safety administration agencies representing the state may carry out routine visits to construction sites to check on the safety practices. This is often done in conjunction with other agencies concerned with safety. “While the multitude of participants involved in the construction process requires the services of inspectors, it cannot be emphasized too strongly that inspectors are just a formal check on quality control.” (Fox 1998) Employee participation in safety and quality control practices should always be emphasized, evaluated and “rewarded, including the introduction of new ideas.” (Shane 2002)
Safety is always well captured in the design and planning stages. To implement a facility design to the expected quality and safety concerns, “the work and material specifications” is very important. (Sew 1996) “Specifications of the required quality and components represent part of the necessary documentation to describe a facility.” (Shane 2002)
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To ensure the safety and quality standards are upheld the project managers should “implement total quality control.” (Dorf 2005) “Total quality control in the construction typically involves insuring compliance with minimum standards of material and workmanship to ensure the performance of the facility according to the design.” (Sew 1996) The managers should ensure that all the workers are familiarized with Total quality control processes. These can be assessed by carrying out random sampling. The random sampling accompanied by appropriate “statistical methods often form a basis of either accepting or rejecting work completed and batches of materials.” (Tang 1975)
“It is important to understand that due to the various uncertainties influencing engineering models failure cannot be eliminated.” (Havbro 2002) Nevertheless, the chances of failure and the related risks can be restricted “by engineering decisions such that these are acceptable to the society; risk reduction is always possible at a cost- but society only has limited resources.” The l risk to the society that lies within the acceptable limits relates to the ability of the society to afford the engineering design. If the “engineering decisions are undertaken on behalf of the society, the preferences of society must be consistently reflected in the decisions.” (Havbro 2002)
Dorf, R. (2005) The Engineering Handbook. C.R.C, Boca Raton.
Fox, A. J. (1998) Quality in the Constructed Project, American Society of Civil Engineers. New York, Mellon, and Sons.
Havbro, M. (2002) Risk and Safety in Civil Engineering. Sidney, Macmillan.
Katrina, A. (2002) Safety Measures in Engineering. New York, Wiley.
Sew, G. S. (1996) Civil Engineering Towards Vision 2020. Malaysia, Institute of Engineers.
Shane, M. (2002) Fundamentals of Systems Engineering: Probabilistic Models. New York, Addison Wesley Publishing Co.
Skibniewski, M. (1983) Methods to Improve the Safety Performance of the U.S Construction Industry, Technical Report. Carnegie, Mellon University.
Tang, W. (1975) Probability Concepts in Engineering Planning and Design-Basic Principles. New York, John Wiley, and Sons.