Hans Versteeg

Freelance Piling/Civil and HSE Specialist.

Written by: on 21 August 2011 @ 16:36

At first sight these two issues do not have anything to do with each other but in practice they do indeed have much common ground.

Many Dutch contractors have assigned these two tasks to one department, the KAM department (quality, health and safety at work, and environment).

I do indeed think that, to a certain extent, this is a very logical and good choice since in the area of safety as well as in the area of quality everything revolves around meeting commitments made, complying with the rules of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (with respect to safety) and the rules as agreed and laid down in various standards and regulations (with respect to quality).

I have experienced that if a project meets the requirements of safety this automatically leads to good quality. Unfortunately, the reverse is also the case: an “unsafe” project also often leads to problems in the area of quality!

One of the causes often lies in the lack of expertise of “managers”. I think that too many people are placed in positions where they simply do not belong. In order to lead a (big) building project you should possess thorough knowledge and practical insight, you should have a feeling for technique, and most importantly, you should have a vision, keep one step ahead and take action if things do no go as planned, in whatever area. Too often, for the sake of progress, managers fail to take action if things go wrong, leading to quality and safety problems. An example of this is described below.

In an arbitrary building project (seemingly) simple sheet pile walls must be driven. For this purpose, the contractor has drawn up a plan of action, all as it should be. During the work, however, this plan is not adhered to. Contrary to what is in the plan, the planks are placed without making use of purlins (heavy steel beams that force the planks in the right direction). So the (approved) original plan is not followed but the responsible manager does not intervene (inexperience, lack of knowledge and practical insight, no feeling for technique???). The contractor simply continues his work (in spite of the fact that this has not been agreed) resulting in pile walls that do not interlock, lacking planks, a bracing that can only be placed with great difficulty but above all, sheet piling that delays a large part of the project for many weeks!

Sinking these sheet piles will surely involve many risks: because the pile walls do not interlock and therefore, do not form an unbroken unity, there is a likely chance that it will “collapse”. So there is not only a problem in the area of quality, but also in the area of safety.

This problem could have been prevented if the manager had not deviated from the agreed method, if he had intervened and had ordered the contractor to stop working in this way.

For the sake of progress this did not happen (in that case a number of precious days would have been lost making purlins). Of course, it is very sad to see that the consequences after the placing of the planks are much more serious! 

In order to assess these situations correctly, a manager must possess the aforementioned qualities and should not be distracted by progress and budget. Common sense and insight could have prevented this!

You could say that the manager in question has learnt his lesson because of all this. The above example should have taught him that sticking to a plan and method agreed upon beforehand, is the start of a good product. That frequent checking and maintaining (the well-known circle of Plan, Do, Check, Act) can and will prevent many future problems in the area of safety, quality and progress. Unfortunately, I can tell from personal experience that this is not the case!

 Hans

Catogories: kwaliteit, Safety

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