Improving Safety Standards of Small Construction Businesses

Promoting a strong safety culture on construction jobs not only reduces the amount of injuries and fatalities, but also impacts other business aspects such as productivity and competitiveness.

And while large construction firms understand this concept and apply it to their day-to-day business, there has been much debate as to why small construction firms are still lagging behind.

OHS Guidelines May Not Be Suited For Small Construction Businesses

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) refers to the complete physical, mental and social safety requirements within a workplace.

However the guidelines, as currently written, fall short of being an effective tool for small employers in construction. In addition, the guidelines are not designed for many of the worksites that are mobile and temporary, as are most construction jobs.

It has been suggested that developing a safety and health program guideline which addresses the dynamic nature of the small construction business may be beneficial, given the significant challenges they face in effective management of OHS risk.

Safety-Implementation Barriers for Small Construction Businesses

The following table examines some of the cost, time and educational barriers many small construction businesses face today in terms of promoting safety on construction jobs.

Cost Barriers Time Barriers  Lack of Safety Awareness
  • Lack of expertise
  • Lack of safety resources
  • Lack of financial benefit in OHS investment
  • Lack of bargaining power over main contractors
  • Financial fragility compared to larger businesses
  • Long safety training and education time
    needed for good OHS practice during construction jobs.
  • Tight project deadlines
  • The fragmented nature of the construction industry
  • Wrong perception or underestimation of risk
  • Variability of legislative enforcement


What Should Be Done To Ensure Small Business Workplace Safety

While large and medium sized construction companies may understand the complexity of a safety and health management system, many small employers with limited resources may view them as too complex to develop, implement and maintain.

Some recommendations to overcome these barriers and promote OHS practice in small business construction jobs include:

  • The development of a funding scheme by the government to ease the financial burden of small firms.
  • OHS training should be included in the curricula of tertiary and technical education.
  • The safety conditions of a construction job should be evaluated prior to the start of a project.
  • More emphasis placed on skill development rather than just information transfer during OHS training.
  • Development of an effective monitoring system with a penalty and reward mechanism operated for good performance and non-compliance during construction labour jobs.
  • Clear, practical information on OHS should be made available to small construction companies without too much legal or technical jargon.

Want to learn more?

To learn more about OHS regulations or how Matrix can help develop a culture of safety within your small construction business, contact us today at 1-866-666-9520.

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