Qatar-headquartered QPM, one of the region’s premier project management companies and the leading Qatari firm in the field, said holistic and sustainable Health and Safety is achievable only with education and training of staff at every level.
Alan Crawford, Head of HSE at QPM said regarding the industry in Qatar: “The framework that construction companies are expected to comply with is being amplified in the soon to be released 2014 version of the Qatar Construction Specifications (QCS) manual.”
Mr. Crawford said the challenges in the sector vary based on a company’s size and its overall HSE framework, but in general, the biggest barriers most companies have is in implementing these standards across the organization at every level. Part of this is because many migrant workers who come to work in the construction industry in Qatar and the region are unaware of health and safety standards.
He said this is not just applicable to site workers: “The knowledge gap can exist at many levels, for a variety of reasons. This creates a need for education, particularly in hazard identification and risk assessment. This is why QPM has invested in becoming an accredited Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) training provider to allow us to pass on these much needed skills to our employees, allowing them to further impart their knowledge to site employees.”
IOSH is the world’s biggest professional health and safety membership organization and QPM is one of few locally accredited members of such industry organizations that help set the agenda and drive best practice adoption across the sector.
“Health and Safety cannot be subject to individual interpretation and this is where a unified approach to setting the agenda is important. But to be fair, with recent shifts in perception and public awareness of these issues across the region, I think it’s fair to say that the industry is progressing in the right direction,” he said.
Mr. Crawford says: “Much of the Health and Safety legislation within the Middle East is based on the risk management and self-regulating approach of the UK’s Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974. The UK has just undergone a complete review of their Health and Safety at Work Act. As part of this review, Construction Design and Management Regulations are being revamped. QCS 2010, which is the current guide for the industry, is closely related to these regulations and that’s why it is encouraging for us that the Qatar Construction Specifications guide is also being reviewed by the government to take advantage of international developments.”
However, Crawford said, “All the reviews in the world will not educate a workforce. Unanimous commitment to training and education by the leading companies in the field is the only way to define progress. There are also a few challenges we need to consider when developing from business partnerships.”
As a leading project manager of iconic mega projects, QPM works alongside contractors of various sizes who may in many cases have varying elective standards. Mr. Crawford said: “We sometimes experience some disconnect with smaller less experienced contractors. In this instance, it is up to QPM to encourage and educate the smaller contractor to raise its standards to meet those of QPM. Of course, this is not easy and cannot be achieved overnight. This is why we often start by sharing how we achieved ISO and Occupational Health & Safety Advisory Services (OHSAS), accreditation for our management systems. QPM is always keen to share this in-house expertise with business partners and of course we can always offer consultancy and training services to those who lack subject matter expertise.
In general, Mr. Crawford says there should be a consensus within the industry that education should be the frontline approach to developing and implementing health and safety controls and QPM is working to make this a key discussion point at industry forums in which the company participates.