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Water Engineering and Development Centre

Resource details

Review of safety in construction and operation for the water supply and sanitation (WS & S) sector: part 2 - literature review

Author(s): Sohail, M.

Publisher: LSHTM | WEDC
Place of publication: London and Loughborough
Year: 1999

Series: WELL Studies in Water, Sanitation and Environmental Health Task 166/2
Collection(s): WELL


Water and sanitation projects are frequently justified on the basis of their contribution to health. Those familiar with the sector know that the necessary facilities (eg. Treatment works, storage tanks, pumping stations and sewers) all involve significant occupational risks for those building and operating these facilities. Construction and operation in developing countries is particularly dangerous, and a cursory inspection of any job site will reveal many health and safety hazards.

The majority of the health and safety guidance from international organisations such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) assumes the existence of powerful regulatory authorities, and therefore stresses an administrative approach to the problem. While these techniques have worked well in industrialised countries, they are inappropriate where regulation is weak or non-existent.

The report provides a critical literature review of construction safety in developing countries, highlighting the most relevant and useful publications, and identifying possible areas for future work or research. It is accompanied by a brief summary note for policy makers and practitioners in the sector.

The key points to emerge from the discussion include:

The review indicates that there is little data available on safety on construction sites in developing countries.

The level of insurance against injury claims from employees is unclear. Investigations are required to determine the safety nets that exist when workers are injured and how effective they are at protecting or supporting the workers

Research indicates that poor quality handtools not only increase the time taken to complete a task but also the fatigue of the worker. Poor quality handtools are more likely to cause injury to the workers. Further work is required to promote the benefits of improved quality of handtools to justify their increased costs.

Where local or community contract documents are used for a project they should be reviewed to ensure that the safety risks and responsibilities of all parties are clearly stated. Where appropriate, amendments should be made to ensure responsibilities are realistic and achievable in order that they will be adhered to rather than ignored.

There are two important ways to reduce construction accidents. First, by promoting awareness and enforcement of realistic safety legislation. Secondly by encouraging hazard awareness training of workers and employers on construction projects.

Safety will not be improved unless there is a demand or incentive provided to the contractors. As workers frequently feel that their jobs are too insecure to make large demands on their employers, the initiative for improved safety must come from the client.

Construction  |  Safety