Revisiting health and safety issues in facilities management

By Tunde Obileye

I decided to revisit the issue of Health &Safety due to the many situations I have witnessed that create potential for major issues if care is not taken. Recently, I visited a hotel where electrical wires were exposed without any sign to warn guests about the danger. I also visited an office where there was no ‘Assembly Point’ or ‘Muster Point’ sign to enable people know the place to gather in the event of an emergency evacuation. We take these simple steps for granted, ignoring the consequences of serious injury or even fatality when an accident happens

One major area that continues to give me the most concern in many parts of Africa is that our attitude has really not changed despite the obvious danger. Whilst some organizations and individuals have taken steps to ensure health & safety issues are adequately addressed, majority still fail to meet the minimum requirements to safeguard lives and property.

The general understanding of the need for health & safety regulations by those saddled with the responsibility and those in authority remain at an unacceptable level.This may explain the reason why we do not find in most places measures to prevent accidents. Often times, attention is not paid to preventive measures until a major disaster happens and this has to be a major concern for FM practitioners at all levels. Having a health & safety policy is clearly not enough but stringent measures of compliance will go a long way in giving everyone confidence.

There is still a need to focus attention on the behavior of people towards health & safety.  I made reference to two basic approaches to improving the human factors in safety. One approach is changing the way people think and feel to change behavior and the second is to get people to do the right things at the right time. To achieve this objective, facilities management personnel will need to increase the ‘hearts and minds’ campaign and also put in place health & safety processes. Both approaches attempt to engage people in safety.

Risk Assessment is another area of attention that all stakeholders must embrace. This will identify who is likely to be exposed or exposed to potential danger. This will include, for instance, what type of materials have been used in the construction of a residential development. Cladding was identified as a factor in the Grenfell Tower fire incident that occurred in London as recently as 2017.There is a legal duty to manage the risk from FM companies, service providers and clients alike. In the work place, employers have a duty to protect the health of their staff, as well as reducing their civil and criminal liability.

We continue to read about fire and health related incidents that could have been prevented or well managed if all concerned had played their roles effectively and efficiently.

As the FM industry continues to grow, it is important that all stakeholders recognize and appreciate the need to give health & safety issues the utmost importance. This will go a long way to minimizing or eliminating the dangers posed to lives and property through fire incidents.

The horror of Grenfell Tower in London should be an eye opener for facilities managers of what can happen if care is not taken.

Tunde Obileya is the CEO of Great Heights Group- a total Real Estate Solutions Company operating in Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

A UK trained lawyer, he has vast experience in facilities management methodologies and best practices.

He is a certified member of the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM)

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