Nothing is accidental
Through its Safetember initiative, the Federated Employer’s Mutual Assurance Company (FEM), is taking the fight to accidents – particularly motor vehicle accidents – in the construction industry
According the FEM’s statistics, motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) account for ten percent of all accidents. So far, 2016 has been no exception; with MVAs accounting for 10,22 percent of all accidents as at September.
When we analyse the statistics in greater detail, a rather disturbing picture emerges in terms of fatalities.
Accidents in the category of people being struck by an agent accounted for 33,87 percent and numbered 1 936, of which six were fatal. On the other hand, 27 MVAs were fatal, out of a complement of 584 accidents.
Furthermore, MVAs account for some of the highest costs for injuries on duty – the 584 MVAs recorded this year to September each cost an average of R80 562. This was the second highest of all accident types recorded.
It’s clear that the problem is very serious, which is why, during 2015, FEM launched its Safetember initiative.
“Safetember was launched to bring awareness to the soaring number of motor vehicle accidents, as well as other preventable accidents, on construction sites,” explains Thelma Pugh, MD at FEM.
“It was designed to encourage organisations to enhance the skills of their drivers and to create a culture of road safety, to ensure that their workers, and all those who drive vehicles, remain safe on our roads,” Pugh elaborates.
It is generally acknowledged by those active in the construction sector that many MVA fatalities are as a result of workers being transported (often to and from the construction site) on open trucks or bakkies, which then become involved in accidents.
As it is still a new programme, it was important for FEM to establish the relevant criteria for the Safetember platform. On June 8, industry players including Saiosh, Master Builders South Africa (MBSA), South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (SAFCEC), as well as relevant departments within government, joined FEM for an inaugural meeting. The outcome, according to Pugh, was a step in the right direction.
“Some of the initiatives planned for the forthcoming year include full-scale media advertising, a ‘Report Bad Driving’ campaign, the creation of safety posters for construction sites, a minute of silence for those who lost their lives in construction, and a variety of other initiatives designed to strengthen safe behaviour,” explains Pugh.
Other driver-related aspects to be addressed through the programme include: substance abuse; sharing of information; sub-contractor safety; driving habits and advisories; and elimination of cellphone usage when driving – texting in particular.
It is hoped that, by this time next year, we will see a drastic reduction in the number of MVAs reflected in FEMs statistics.
The voice of experience
FEM’s managing director, Thelma Pugh, who started at the company 30 years ago, worked as the financial manager, general manager and, since 2004, has held the title of managing director.
During that time, Pugh has had an opportunity to promote health and safety in a meaningful way.
“Industry needs to take greater responsibility for controlling the risks that it generates,” explains Pugh.
“A human tragedy does irreparable harm to the family and the extended family structure; robbing them of breadwinners and increasing the number of widows and orphans. The frustration is that most of these accidents are totally preventable,” she continues.
As such, Pugh has some advice for the industry … which is to ensure that “nobody in construction should be dying for a job”.
Only the voice of experience could put it that simply…