Construction Health and Safety Under the Microscope At FEM’s 2020 Health And Safety Awards

This year, the Federated Employers Mutual Assurance Company (RF) (Pty) Ltd (FEM) 2020 Health and Safety awards were held digitally for the first time in the award’s history, in line with Covid-19 precautions. The awards enable FEM to recognise member companies in the construction industry which have maintained high standards of health and safety (H&S) in the workplace.

Witty raconteur Dr Riaad Moosa was MC and kept the e-audience in stiches with his social commentary and impersonations. The comedian described how his comedy gigs had dried up in the face of Covid-19. He considered going back to medicine, but said he remembered nothing of medical school, and so considered a life of petty crime, which would prove impossible considering how well-recognised he is, even with a mask on.

Nico Maas, Board Chairperson, spoke about red tape at construction sites hindering productivity, thanked those behind the scenes making the awards event possible, and expressed positivity about the industry going back to normal due to the roll-out of Government infrastructure projects.

Ndivhuwo Manyonga, CEO, FEM, welcomed virtual attendees and nominees, highlighting their importance as the reason for the awards. She emphasised the timeliness of best practice H&S measures in construction, and spoke about how Covid-19 had further exposed the vulnerabilities of workers across the world in the context of job security, and health and safety itself.

Manyonga applauded health and safety officials in the construction industry for their efforts in keeping work sites virus-free, but reminded the audience that worker H&S was an issue before the pandemic. She cited the International Labour Organisation’s estimation that 374 million global men and women suffer non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses annually.  A further 2,8 million succumb to their injuries.

FEM provides workmen’s compensation for the construction industry, under licence from the Department of Employment and Labour, covering more than 5 000 employers and 300 000 employees. FEM receives approximately 8 000 accident reports every year, many of which could have been avoided. Injured parties’ lives are forever changed as a result of their injuries, even if these are not fatal.

A number of H&S initiatives have been undertaken by FEM to promote H&S in the industry, including the loadings and rebates applied to clients based on their H&S experience, grants provided to industry associations, seminars and webinars with content based on H&S trends in South Africa (including the impacts of Covid-19 and motor vehicle accidents) and the distribution of 75 000 masks to construction companies requiring assistance.

“We believe it is important for us to celebrate, award and reward construction companies demonstrating H&S practices of a high standard,” Manyonga commented. ”We would like to thank these construction companies on behalf of their employees for showing us that zero harm is indeed possible. It just takes the right behaviour, attitude and focus, in spite of challenging circumstances, extra expense and effort. A safe and healthy work environment is a basic human right.”

Yusuf Bodiat, CFO, FEM, presented the awards, commenting that safety is not expensive, it is priceless. He added that FEM’s more than 5 000 policy holders work in different environments, geographic locations, have different numbers of staff, and work in different risk areas. For the awards, each policy holder is categorised into various groups, following a simple three-step process.

The first step is to recognise that each policy holder works in a different risk environment – high, medium and low risk, using premium assessment rates as a guide to categorising their risk ratings. Policyholders are then split further, based on the number of employees, because as the company’s staff contingent changes, so does the risk profile. These categories are a small, medium and high employee base.

The third criterion is geographic location, as different locations have different risks. Using regional FEM offices as a guideline, these are divided into Kwa-Zulu Natal, the Cape (in the broadest sense) and Inland (non-coastal areas). Each policy holder is assessed and ranked within their different groups, following the principles of accident frequency (the amount of employees who incur accidents as a percentage of all employees) and the claims loss ratio over a period of time (the amount of claims FEM pays in proportion to the premiums received over a period of one years.)

FEM then applies rules from a fairness perspective to ensure that all award receiving policy holders are entitled to their awards. All policy holders in each category are then subjected to threshold / minimum criteria measurements, and any policy holders with fatalities in the period under review are excluded.

Policy holders receiving awards comprise a small percentage (2,5%) of the total number of policy holders, a testament to the high standards of H&S protocols recognised by the awards. Award recipients raise the H&S bar.

The criteria for the Special Health and Safety Awards disclude risk, location and employee numbers, so all policy holders fall within the same category, and the period in which claims are assessed is 10 years to reward consistent H&S practices. The top four policy holders in this category receive either a Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze Award.

All FEM policy holders who receive the latter awards obtain bragging rights within the industry as well as additional financial incentives, getting rebates from FEM which are calculated based on the company’s most recent rebate.

Guest speaker, Lynette Ntuli, CEO, Innate Investment Solutions, delivered an inspiring speech in which she highlighted the lessons learned from 2020, and the resilience and size of the fight in each of us. Ntuli remarked that working from home has meant studies or home offices have turned into marketplace coal faces, and the sounding boards of corporate boardrooms.

Because of lockdown, rules, she said, have had to be rewritten as we navigated through unprecedented times. We were faced with an invisible, non-preemptable foe and Ntuli described the various emotional states we as global citizens experienced as the viral narrative unfolded, ranging from hysteria and anxiety to indifference. Group projects via Zoom have become the norm.

But, we have survived and have acquired new skills; learning new ways of working and playing.  Through collaboration and cooperation, many policy holders have been able to avoid accidents and injuries. Women are key contributors to health and safety – from home schoolers to heads of state.

Ntuli spotlighted the relatively lower Covid-19 death rates in countries headed by women leaders, who exerted timely control measures and actions to reduce population mortality. Citizens of these countries may also well emerge with better economic and social conditions than their global counterparts.

Ntuli concluded by citing transparency, truth, warmth, openness, communication, coordination, compassion, desciveness, agility and servant leadership as qualities exhibited by women leaders to lead their nations into healthier and safer societies after the pandemic, leaving no-one behind.

Well done to all nominees and winners for raising the health and safety bar higher each year! See you all in 2021.

Here follows the list of winners of the FEM’s 2020 Health and Safety Awards:

2020 – Winners List

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