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The Evolution of Construction Safety Management: From Past to Present


two people in hardhats and safety vests, scaffolding, construction site

Construction safety management has undergone significant transformations over the years as technologies continue to advance and the industry gains a deeper understanding of workplace hazards. Traditionally, the construction industry was known for its high risk due to the manual labor and challenging environments workers faced daily. However, modern practices and regulations have increasingly prioritized worker protection, leading to a culture that emphasizes safety first. Let’s take a look at how this evolution in construction safety began.

The Late 1800s

During the latter part of the nineteenth century, significant shifts occurred in the approach to safety in physical labor jobs. Initially, such roles had minimal safety measures, but post-Civil War, workers began to proactively manage risks associated with their professions. Many started saving money to purchase insurance to cover potential job-related accidents. As they slowly recognized the importance of worker welfare and construction safety management, some employers also started offering insurance plans or alternative positions for those injured on the job. The growing awareness of job hazards led many workers to leave high-risk positions, prompting employers to increase wages for dangerous roles to attract and retain labor. This period marked a pivotal change, as both workers and employers actively contributed to evolving industry policies towards better safety standards.


1970s

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970 marked a pivotal moment in the history of labor rights and construction safety management in the United States. Passed with the intent to ensure safer and healthier work environments, the Act established enforcement mechanisms for safety standards and supported state efforts to protect workers. It also laid the groundwork for the creation of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is dedicated to conducting research and providing safety recommendations. 

A year after the Act's passage, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established. This body is tasked with assuring safe conditions by setting and enforcing standards and offering training and educational outreach. OSHA's effectiveness has been evident in its ability to lower injury rates and associated costs in the workplace without adversely impacting employment, sales, credit ratings, or the survival of companies.


1990s to 2000s

Initiated in 1996, the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) was established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to enhance construction safety management through collaborative research efforts. Its primary goal is to reduce the frequency of work-related injuries and illnesses by providing a comprehensive research framework that various organizations can adopt and implement. NORA actively engages stakeholders across different sectors to identify and address the most pressing safety and health issues in the workplace. By fostering collaboration among industry leaders, labor organizations, and safety professionals, NORA aims to develop innovative strategies and practical solutions that significantly improve construction safety management to ensure safer working conditions across the board.


Fast forward to 2004 in the Philippines, the Building Code of the Philippines (PD 1096), a pivotal legislative framework, underwent several revisions to adapt to modern safety and health standards in construction. These updates are integral to ensuring the protection of life, health, property, and overall safety management in the construction industry. The revisions include stringent guidelines on structural design, fire safety measures, and the use of appropriate construction materials that are crucial for ensuring safety during and after the construction process. Additionally, the code emphasizes the importance of regular safety audits, worker training in emergency response, and the mandatory use of personal protective equipment (PPE).


Following the approval of the Building Code of the Philippines is the approval of the Republic Act No. 11058, which aims to strengthen and ensure the rights of workers against occupational hazards resulting in injury, sickness, or death. Covered workplaces, such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Health, Department of Information and Communications Technology, shall establish an Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Program.


Safety First, Last, and Always

The journey of construction safety management from the late 1800s to the present day shows a remarkable evolution driven by legislative action, technological advancements, and a growing awareness of workplace hazards. Significant milestones such as the introduction of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) in the 1970s in the United States, the establishment of NIOSH, and the development of the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) have played crucial roles in shaping the framework of construction safety management. Moreover, the continuous revision of the Building Code of the Philippines and the enactment of Republic Act No. 11058 showcase a global commitment to enhancing construction safety standards. These efforts not only safeguard the health and well-being of workers but also contribute to the efficiency and sustainability of the construction industry.

Moving forward, it is essential for everyone in the construction sector to remain vigilant and proactive in adopting and implementing safety measures. By doing so, we can ensure that the industry continues to progress in a manner that prioritizes safety and exemplifies best practices in construction safety management globally.


To learn more about what we do, email us at technical@jcvassociates.ph or visit www.jcvassociates.ph/ehs-consultancy.


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