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Suggestion Box as Tool for Improving Construction Site Health and Safety Performance in Nigeria

FEATURED PAPER

By Victor Okorie, PhD

Department of Quantity Surveying
University of Benin

Edo State, Nigeria


Abstract

The importance of suggestion box for organisational efficiency has received much research attention in the banking, hospitals and manufacturing companies. In contrast, little or no research into suggestion box and construction site health and safety (H&S) performance has been conducted in Nigeria. Suggestion box is one of the simplest and most cost effective tools management has used and still using to collect information from workers, customers and the general public on how to improve products, services and workers’ welfares. This simple management technique has the added advantage that allows anonymity of the worker or the public to make suggestion(s) on how to improve organisational efficiency.

This study aimed at exploring/examining the extent Nigerian construction companies employ this simple management tool for effective site (H&S) management. Questionnaire was structured from literature on H&S management which was administered to managers/supervisors and site workers. The questionnaire survey was complemented with walk about and interviews that were conducted with managers/supervisors and site workers from the five selected construction companies; one large, two medium and two small sized construction companies within the Lagos State.

The results findings revealed that majority of the construction companies did not provide suggestion box both at the head and site offices. Interviews conducted with managers/supervisors and workers however, indicated that provision of suggestion boxes by construction companies in respective of size could contribute positively to the improvement of site H&S performance. The study therefore, concludes that provision of suggestion boxes by construction companies will build trust between workers and management leading to improvement and sustainability of workplace H&S culture.

Keywords: Constriction, health and safety, suggestion box, Nigeria

Introduction

Fatality and injury rates within the Nigerian construction industry remain a matter of concern to employers, government, workers and general public. The National Occupational Safety and Information Centre (NOSHIC) (2006) reports that accidents and fatalities rates in the industry are among the highest in all industrial sectors being second after transportation. The International Labour Organisation (ILO, (2010) estimates that at least 60,000 fatal accidents occur on construction sites around the world every year, that is one in six of all fatal work-related accidents. The World Health Organisation (WHO, 2010) puts the figure much higher at 108,000 with construction responsible for 30% of all work related accidents.

More workers suffer from work related injuries and occupational diseases arising from exposure to dangerous substances such as dust, chemicals, and asbestos (Health and safety Executive (HSE, 2008, Goetsech, 2013). However, construction industry employs the highest number of skilled and unskilled workers and with highly paid comparable to other industries (Hughes and Ferrett, 2010). Despite being the economic hub of many nations, construction industry still remains the most dangerous, difficult and dirty place to work (WHO, 2010).

Employers have both moral and legal obligations to provide a working environment free from hazards. According to ILO (2010) it is a right for every working man or woman to return home without harm. ILO (2010) further maintains that of all of the deaths and injuries that occur in construction sites are foreseeable and preventable. A proactive H&S management system that allows workers to contribute in the decision making process of an organisation is for necessity. The workforce has direct experience of site conditions and often the first to identify the potential problems (Hinze, 2006, Geotsech, 2013).

However, management of construction H&S is complex. This can be traced to the unique nature of the construction industry due to its complex set of operations. Transient workforce is another major factors engendering implementation of proven H&S management systems in the industry (ILO, 2010). In addition, the industry is noted for its employment of rural migrant and unskilled workforce (Okorie and Smallwod, 2012). For these reasons, a proven management H&S system and culture become imperative.

Worker involvement in organisation’s H&S decision making process has been recongnised by researches amongst (Krause, 2003, HSE, 2008) as an important step for sustainable workplace H&S culture. Though management has the responsibility of establishing organisational H&S policy and allocate adequate financial resources for H&S. Effective H&S management system according Hughes and Ferrett (2010) should be proactive in nature and should be one that involves worker in the organisation’s H&S decision making process.

Organisation that successfully manages workers’ H&S, recognised the importance of worker’s contributions as it concerns their worksites (ILO, 2010). Naoum (2011) argues that organisational H&S policies should align with other human resource management, designed to have a listen ear to workers complaints or suggestions and recommendations that promotes their well-being. Cooper (2010) and Lees and Austin (2011) argue that effective H&S management by a contracting organisation is largely dependent on involving and motivating workers to come up with suggestions and recommendations on how to improve their worksite conditions.

Many H&S management systems have been employed to improve construction site H&S performance such as: job safety analysis; incidents investigations; safety committee and safety representative. However, a gap may exist between management and implementation of the abovementioned H&S management systems that act as communication link between the committee and management (Lingard and Rowlinson, 2005). As a result, suggestion box has the potential to act as an important mechanism that gives a worker the right(s) to communicate directly with the management by coming up with ideas, suggestions, complaints or recommendations on how to improve organisational efficiency. Cesarini, Hall and Kupiec (2013), emphasising the importance of suggestion box as tool for H&S management, stated that it gives a worker the freedom to communicate dirctly with the management unlike the safety committee or safety representative that acts as a communication link between worker and management.

Much has been researched on other areas of H&S management systems such as safety representative and safety committee in Nigeria, but little or no research has been conducted that explore the importance/uses of suggestion box in the area of construction H&S management. However, this study tend to fill in this gap by exploring the importance/uses of suggestion box as a tool for improving construction site H&S performance in the Nigerian construction industry.

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About the Author

pmwj50-Sep2016-Okorie-PHOTO
Dr. Victor Nnannaya Okorie

University of Benin Ugbowo
Edo State, Nigeria

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Dr Victor Nnannaya Okorie
received his first degree in quantity Surveying from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu State, Nigeria in 1995; Masters’ degree in Construction Management from University of Lagos also in Nigeria and PhD in Construction Management from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 2014.   His research interest is on construction health and safety (H&S) with focus on culture, behaviour and leadership in relation to construction health and safety performance.

Dr Victor Okorie can be contacted on [email protected] or [email protected].