CONSTRUCTION SAFETY MANAGEMENT: Developing a Culture of Safety on Construction Projects in Nigeria

by / Tuesday, 30 May 2017 / Published in How To's
construction safety management in Nigeria

A world class construction project execution is impossible without proper construction safety management. This is because the construction industry is prone to many hazards and accident potential. Construction materials, tools, machinery and handling techniques all come with their own dangers. So whether it’s a fall, a mechanical malfunction, or problems with exposure, construction workers can face serious injury while on the job.

Therefore, ensuring the maximum safety of the construction site is as important as any other aspect of successfully executing a construction project. At Sapient Vendors, we don’t take the issue of safety likely. It’s a critical part of our overall value proposition to clients. We will not only execute your projects on time, within budget but also accident free!

That’s why in this article, we will be sharing some insights about construction safety management in Nigeria.

What is construction safety management?

Essentially, a safety management system (SMS) for construction is a systematic way of identifying hazards and managing risks relating to the construction workplace.

The safety management system (SMS) must include the construction company’s policies, procedures, systems, organizational deployment, and accountabilities for making sure that the necessary precautions have been taken and are being maintained for the safety of all concerned. More than this, the safety management system (SMS) must be embedded in the culture of the company, so that it is applied by all.

A properly performing SMS will typically include:

  • Identification of all safety hazards relating to the company’s activities and assessment of the risk associated with each hazard.


  • Risk management procedures to keep risk from hazards down to acceptable levels (which may in some cases mean a level of zero).


  • Continual monitoring with regular evaluation of safety performance.


  • Continual improvement of the effectiveness of the safety management system.

Why is construction safety management important in Nigeria?

Construction safety management is important in Nigeria because of the following three reasons of having an effective safety management system (SMS):

  • Moral obligation: no company should place its employees, or people associated with the work of the company, at risk. There is simply no excuse for slacking or cutting corners when it comes to health and safety in construction. Poorly implemented health and safety techniques, design and management can result in accidents, illness and even death.


  • Regulations: it’s a legal responsibility for companies to promote and maintain secure working conditions. Most accidents can be avoided by implementing stringent health and safety protocols and ensuring those protocols are constantly maintained.


  • Cost-effectiveness: time, effort, and money spent on preventing accidents are less than the expense of dealing with accidents afterwards. Economic development activities are usually hampered in a country with high rate of construction fatalities; since productivity/national output will be low, inflation and rate of unemployment will be high while there will be an increase in social vices.


How to Develop a Culture of Safety on Construction Projects in Nigeria

Since fatalities originate from unsafe acts of people, they can be prevented through the inculcation of a positive safety culture in the Nigerian construction industry.

According to authors, Mba Okechukwu Agwu and Hilda Enoh Olele in their journal; Fatalities in the Nigerian Construction Industry: a Case of Poor Safety Culture. The process of inculcating safety culture in the Nigerian construction industry should involve the following twelve steps:

  1. Start at the top,
  2. Make safety committees and safety managers part of the job,
  3. Recognize but hold everyone accountable,
  4. Plan safety into the project,
  5. Prequalify subcontractors for safety,
  6. Train workers for safety,
  7. Focus on fall management,
  8. Combat illicit drug use,
  9. Evaluate each project phase for safety,
  10. Make safety an everyday topic,
  11. Review accidents and near misses and
  12. Work with your insurer and risk management experts.

Step 1: Start at the top

Safety on the job site starts in the executive suite. To have a real impact on workers, safety has to become a core value of the organization. Chief executives should instill the idea in every level of management that the responsibility for safety lies with them. Senior executives need to lead by example taking an active and visible role in the implementation and execution of the safety culture.

Step 2: Make safety committees and safety managers a part of the job

Safety committees consisting of upper management, risk managers, safety directors and operational staff should be established to continually discuss and review safety performance.

Safety efforts should not end with the safety manager. The safety manager should be viewed as a resource to help continually review and enhance the efforts made by everyone on site. Every person on a project site is responsible for safety.

Step 3: Recognize success, but hold everyone accountable

Accountability must be a core component of the safety culture. From individual workers to foremen, project supervisors and executives, everyone needs to be held accountable for safety. Without accountability, employees may be tempted to cut corners in an effort to save time and money. When safety programs, procedures and safe workplace habits are enforced from the top, field employees take safety seriously.

Aggressive safety goals that are reasonable and attainable should be established yearly. Management performance reviews should include those results. Discipline must be part of the process. Construction companies should also recognize success such as reaching a certain number of hours worked without an accident or achieving a full year incident rate that meets or exceeds the goal. Recognition shows workers that management values safety and the contribution it makes to the success of a project and the company.

Step 4: Plan safety into the project

Before work starts, a project specific safety plan should be developed to provide an overview of the scope of the work and the names, roles and responsibilities of key personnel. It should include a list of local emergency responders and medical facilities; emergency procedures and evacuation plans; fall management and retrieval procedures; substance abuse testing and new employee orientation.

A project specific safety manual that outlines safety expectations and criteria should be given to each subcontractor. In addition, subcontractors should be required to submit their own project specific safety plan to identify the scope of their work, how the hazards will be mitigated and what measures they will take to provide a safe work environment.

Step 5: Prequalify subcontractors for safety

To evaluate subcontractor safety performance, construction companies should review their experience modification rates, their recordable and lost time incident rates, citation record and their overall safety culture and procedures. The pre-qualification of subcontractors should not stop with safety history and performance. It should include a review of the subcontractor’s own safety culture and how the company incorporates safety into its day-to- day operation.

Step 6: Train workers for safety

Workers need to be trained to properly use a variety of safety equipment, such as fall arrest systems and they need to know the appropriate regulations. Orientation should not be limited to new employees. The company should provide orientation specific to each project.

The orientation should include an overview of the project, an in-depth review of the safety requirements and expectations, evacuation plans and procedures, disciplinary actions, substance abuse testing policy and fall management procedures/requirements.

Step 7: Focus on fall management

A detailed fall management plan should be developed for each operation where the potential of falls from elevations will be encountered. No operation should commence without an approved fall management plan in place.

At a minimum, the plan should address each task where a fall exposure exists; the hazard associated with the task; and the controls that will be implemented to mitigate the exposure and the safety training that will be provided to each worker. The plan should also address retrieval procedures necessary to rescue workers should a fall occur.

Step 8: Combat illicit drug use

Construction companies need to actively combat illicit drug use by conducting tests to identify workers with illicit drug abuse problems and steer them into treatment programs. They should focus on preventing impaired personnel from working on construction site.

Step 9: Evaluate each project phase for safety

As a project progresses, a job safety task analysis should be performed to make sure that the appropriate work and safety equipment is on hand so that workers would not tempted to make do with what may be inadequate equipment or take chances that will endanger their safety.

The analysis should include the specific aspects of the work at hand, identification of potential exposures, controls to eliminate the exposures and the necessary safety equipment to perform the work properly.

Step 10: Make safety an everyday topic

When foremen gather workers at the beginning of a shift to talk about the day’s work, they should review the hazards involved and the safety controls, and make sure that the workers have the right protective gear and that all safety concerns are addressed.

Regular, planned field safety inspections can help solve a host of issues while also improving safety. Regular inspections are probably the most effective management tool for dealing with the basic root causes of accidents, such as worn equipment, misplaced tools or equipment or unsafe actions by workers.

Step 11: Review accidents and near misses

Construction companies should start with the mindset that accidents are not inevitable. In the event that there is an accident, the facts and circumstances should be reviewed to identify root causes so that corrective action can be taken and future incidents can be prevented. The same attention should be paid to near misses that had the potential to become serious accidents.

Step 12: Work with your insurer and risk management experts

Construction companies should look to their insurers as a resource with substantive expertise in risk management, engineering protocols and procedures to help make their own safety efforts even more robust. Risk engineers may bring a new set of eyes to a project and can help identify issues that may be overlooked.


Accidents on construction sites can become a thing of the past in Nigeria if the culture of construction safety management is imbibed by contractors. As with most issues discussed on this blog, our objective as a forward thinking Construction Company in Nigeria is to kick start the conversation in order to draw the attention of the construction industry to this issue of safety.

So if you are reading this and you are one of us in the construction space, here are a few things you can do to contribute to this conversation;

  • Drop a comment below to share your thoughts, experience or ideas about construction safety management.


  • Help spread the word, use the social media sharing button to share on facebook, linkedin, and twitter.


  • Write a follow up article to this and send to us to publish.



One Response to “CONSTRUCTION SAFETY MANAGEMENT: Developing a Culture of Safety on Construction Projects in Nigeria”

  1. […] the first post of the series on construction safety management, we highlighted the importance of developing a culture of safety in Nigeria’s construction […]

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