The last eight years of my 25 years of civil engineering experience have been in the oil industry. This was once an industry with as bad a safety record as construction, but now is an order of magnitude better.
I would attribute much of the difference to the oil industry's belief that 'safety is our business'.
To have a low accident rate, you need a strong safety culture on site. The single most important factor is the attitude of senior staff; both in what they say and what they do or do not do. Root cause analysis of accidents confirms that people usually act in the way they perceive their boss wants them to behave.
The client's representative, project managers and engineers write the contracts, set the health and safety requirements, choose the contractors and supervise the work. They set the site health and safety culture by design or by default, so have responsibility for the impact of that culture.
From what I see in my business, construction safety does not have to be poor. It's not necessarily easy, but the articles in NCE about Heathrow Terminal 5 show that you do not need to be in an oil company to do it.
Health and safety is good business - avoiding accidents really does save time and money as well as lives.
Chris Parkinson , safety and security manager, Shell International Exploration & Production, Visseringlaan 25, P.O. Box 60, 2280 AB Rijswijk, Netherlands