Curbing Crime and Violence on Construction Sites

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Open any South African newspaper and it will inevitably be filled with stories about the crime and violence resulting from low income and education levels, protest action, political unrest and xenophobiathat plague the country. Unfortunately, crime and violence are majorproblems facing South African society in general and businesses in particular.

“With crime statistics on the rise and an increase in violence,it is important for businesses to prepare themselves and their employees onhow to deal with such problems,” says Ryan Binedell, Group Health and Safety Manager at the Gordon Verhoef and Krause Group of Companies, a leading specialist in the field of building, renovation, restoration and the recycling of buildings.

“Dealing with crime and violence on construction sites is generally handled during the inductionprocess where it must be stated that crime and or violence will not be tolerated in any form. Employees must be informed that any criminal or violent behaviour will result in their removal from site and into police custody. Prior to gaining entry to site, employees should be checked for weapons at the gate by security,” shares Binedell.

“Furthermore with the tendency towards crime and violence often being exacerbated by substance abuse, early prevention can also be done through alcohol and drug testing before gaining access to the workplace to ensure that employees are not under the influence when they are at work or about to start work. Medical testing of employees prior to employment can also be done to identify usage and a potential problem before and during employment,” suggests Binedell.

To further prevent criminal and violent incidents from happening he stresses the need for awareness, education, an understanding of the workforce by management and familiarity with external pressures which can be brought into the workplace.

He elaborates, “In order to promote a peaceful working environment, it is advisable for supervisors and employees to enrol in courses that cover issues such as communication, problem solving, building effective working relationships, stress management and other related or similar course topics. These will help all parties to learn more about working harmoniously with each other.”

“Additionally,” shares Binedell, “organisations can offer Employee Assistance Programmes to their staff members. While these support programmes are aimed primarily at assisting the employee with work-related difficulties, they can also help employees with problems that originate outside the workplace and which could have an impact on their behaviour at work.”
He also suggests that employees can inform their supervisors or site safety practitioner in writing and anonymously should they be confronted with violence or crime on site. The matter can then be addressed with the necessary personnel to curb the issue or measures can be put in place to prevent the possibility of the occurrence.

“The key to preventing crime and violence in the workplace is to reduce the opportunity. However, like a natural disaster or freak accident, a violent or criminalact is an unexpected event and in the case of it occurring,it is vital to reduce the impact on employees and company property. Training should be provided to site supervisors on protocol to follow in terms of isolating the incident and dealing with it privately until the authorities arrive,” states the Health and Safety Manager.

“Business cannot afford to ignore the effects of violence and crime on their employees. The costs are far too great. Besides the obvious loss or injury, these elements have a tremendous impact on staff morale, can increase absenteeism,instil a culture of fear and affect how management will be seen by employees in terms of their ability to curb the crime/violence or not. All these factors have a direct impact on production and ultimately the bottom line,” concludes Binedell.

About GVK

Gordon Verhoef & Krause is a leading specialist in the field of building, renovation, restoration and the recycling of buildings. From humble beginnings as painting contractors in the early 1960’s, founders Gordon Verhoef and Earl Krause have built a substantial national business that boasts an impeccable track record and sound reputation. Over the years the company has been associated with high profile, landmark projects such as the restoration of the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the City Hall in Cape Town, as well as numerous contracts involving prominent government and public buildings, national monuments, commercial buildings, corporate offices, churches and schools. Visit more information.

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Issue 58