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Dead or deadline

BAD SUPERVISION is connected to two thirds of fatalities on construction sites, claimed a speaker at last week's BIET conference.

General manager of VHE Construction Steve Stiff, in a paper on contractors attitudes towards health and safety, said that charlatans remained in the crucial supervising roles.

He said: 'Perhaps the greatest challenge in developing a good safety culture throughout a company is to change the attitude of its frontline supervisors. They are invariably promoted on the sole basis of ability to meet deadlines. These supervisors have become adept at bending the rules, cutting corners and improvising with whatever equipment and materials are to hand.'

Safety instructions given out at the beginning of a contract would often be countermanded when a project fell behind.

Poor supervision was setting a bad example to young engineers entering the profession with no prior knowledge of health and safety matters on site, he said. 'The situation can become self perpetuating as the experienced supervisor instructs the junior ranks.'

A site supervisor with strong presentation and communication skills was a must to set the safety tone for all parties on a contract.

He said: 'When VHE operated largely as a subcontractor, it was noticeable that the attitude on any particular site was moulded by the attitude and performance of the main contractor and to some extent the clients representative.'

Site operatives did not escape censure in his paper 'Muck, microbes and magic mushrooms'. Strong precautions needed to be taken against the spread of illegal drug taking in recent years.

'Use of drugs has increased dramatically over the last 10 years and it is dangerous to assume employees are not using them,' said Stiff.

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