Sustainability and Health Safety in Construction Industry
To improve execution, the construction industry’s persistent health and safety (H&S) problems necessitate the implementation of broader-level interventions. Sustainability has emerged as a potential strategy for enhancing H&S performance. However, the principles necessary to incorporate sustainability thinking into H&S decision-making must still be included.
Sustainability and Health & Safety
Sustainability and H&S are both concerned with conserving natural and human resources. The two concepts share a concern for the well-being of humans. Occupational health and safety promote and preserve a high level of physical, mental, and social well-being for employees and workers. In sustainable development, human beings are at the centre of its concern as individuals entitled to a healthy and productive life.
Sustainable development, in terms of H&S, refers to the satisfaction of material needs through labour and other production processes without endangering the long- or short-term health of the community, the ecosystem, or human beings themselves. Given that occupational H&S and sustainable development share many of the same goals, combining the two ideas will increase their impact and help them achieve their objectives.
The H&S Problem
Due to the growing global focus on sustainability, it is essential that sustainable practices be adopted across all industries. Because sustainability plays a key role in saving the environment and providing infrastructure, the construction sector has a big responsibility to make sure that all of its various practices are sustainable. However, the poor health, safety, and environmental (HSE) record in the construction industry suggests that the industry is far from being sustainable.
Construction activities involve excessive resource consumption, land degradation, loss of habitat, and air and water pollution. The waste and environmental emissions generated from the construction process often exacerbate the construction H&S problem. Despite several interventions by the government and construction industry practitioners to improve H&S, construction incidents remain high. It is estimated that 2.34 million people die each year from work-related accidents or diseases, and approximately 60,000 fatal accidents are recorded per year on construction sites worldwide. The employees of the construction industry are six times more likely to be killed at work than employees in manufacturing.
Relevant SDG Goals for H&S
The traditional understanding of sustainability would lead one to believe that it only refers to environmental concerns like sea level rise and global warming. But it’s not accurate. Sustainable development also depends on the labour market, worker benefits, workplace safety, and health.
In SDG 8, target 8.8 emphasises the need to protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants and those in precarious employment. SDG 3 is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. The number of deaths and illnesses caused by hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution and contamination will be significantly decreased by 2030, according to target 3.9. Target 16.6 of SDG 16 focuses on developing effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels.
In order to achieve sustainable prevention, H&S preventive actions should rely on holistic and integrated perspectives. In this way, long-lasting effects are ensured. Even though Construction stakeholders can use frameworks to consider health and safety issues when building sustainable buildings/projects, there are no defining principles for implementing sustainable construction health and safety practices, making it hard to apply sustainability to health and safety.