Why government should increase supervision of construction sites

By Maduka Nweke,

manweke@gmail.com    08034207864, 08118879331

Supervision of construction sites is an important role government authorities have been taking with levity. The laxity with which government officials take issues relating to construction and the lackadaisical attitude of government authorities have caused avoidable misfortunes both in human and material costs. But because the authorities don’t see it as anything worth reviewing, it has kept reoccurring. Supervision is of paramount importance to every one especially those who would not like to take a process twice. Many gullible government officials often compromise development codes and standards.

On construction sites, supervision has a key role to play in preventing accidents. Typical supervisory functions include planning and allocating work, making decisions, monitoring performance and compliance, providing leadership and building teamwork, and ensuring workforce involvement. Supervision is therefore heavily integrated in the running of a typical construction project and in particular in ensuring that health and safety are effectively managed. The kind of supervision being noticed these days is not enough and that could be the resultant effect of incessant building collapse being noticed here and there around the country.

Field supervision is the owner’s and the designer’s last line of defense. While many contractors have qualified personnel who are conscientious enough to pick up design errors, most contractors view such personnel as an unnecessary burden on the project overhead. Thus, while competent field supervision is, to me, critically important, it seems to be very low on most people’s order of priorities. The reasons for this are many. A graduating engineer has little encouragement to go into the field. The high-dollar jobs are almost always in the office. The attitude of many design firms is that the real engineers are in the office; field people are not real engineers. Along with this attitude is the attitude that the design is never to be questioned. Fortunately, at my company, the field people are treated as equal to the office people. They are listened to, and their input is sought on design problems. Another problem which directly affects the field work is the reluctance on the part of many designers to see how their designs are actually built. Were designers to spend more time in the field, they would soon learn to avoid unnecessarily difficult construction details. They would also learn that vague details produce vague and sometimes dangerous construction. One can ask if all failures could be prevented? The answer is probably not. Can many of them be prevented? I feel that one way they can be is through competent field supervision. Owners and design firms must be convinced that it is in their best interest to hire competent field supervisors and keep them on the payroll otherwise he will be embarking on a white elephant project.

Lip service is often given to the provision of supervision on site. To be effective, supervision must be methodically and critically considered. Provision of supervision must not only be taken seriously, it should be planned, managed and monitored. Anything less will see inadequate supervision continue to be a feature of the many accidents that occur on construction sites. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has identified supervision as a ”Performance Influencing Factor” when attempting to prevent accidents. It has also been a factor in a number of major high profile accidents in the past, such as the Piper Alpha oil rig fire in 1998 and the explosion and fires at the Milford Haven oil refinery in 1994.

The lack of proper provision of supervision also regularly features as an important contributory factor in less well-known accidents, including many of those occurring on construction sites. It is not, however, always viewed a critical factor for site safety and its provision is not always given the due consideration and weight it deserves. Sometimes supervisors, for whatever reason, do not fulfill their role effectively. The moment one fails to do his part in the contract chain, the mistake emanating therefrom snowballs into a plethora of problems that could result in pulling down the whole building in order to correct a common mistake. Key principles for effective supervision are as follows. The supervisory arrangements in place must be assessed and appraised to ensure that all key supervisory functions are clearly defined and appropriately allocated.

The right people for the job must be selected and provided with training where appropriate. Relevant individuals must have the necessary skills and aptitude for supervisory activities, such as planning, communication, delegation and leadership etc; a thorough understanding of local hazards and control measures; and the experience and credibility to gain respect from others. Supervisors must be supported in their roles and responsibilities.

Achievable targets should be set and visible support given. Supervisors must be allowed the time and the opportunity to interact with others to fulfill all of their supervisory responsibilities. The performance of supervisors must be measured, audited and reviewed. Supervisors must be supervised. In all of these, the level and nature of supervision required should be determined as an outcome of the client’s management arrangements for the project and from the risk assessments carried out by contractors and others. It is not sufficient to stipulate that supervision will be provided without specifying the detail of that provision. The client’s arrangements for managing the project and the risk assessments for the project should stipulate the level and nature of the supervision required.

Questions such as who will supervise, how supervision will take place, how much is required and when need to be considered. Some workers and some activities will require more supervision than others. For example, young inexperienced workers may need very close and maybe constant supervision. Migrant workers with poor English language skills or understanding of site safety standards, may need additional supervision. High-risk activities will need to be closely monitored by supervisors.

The post Why government should increase supervision of construction sites appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

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