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updated 6:54 AM SAST, Mar 14, 2031
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Culture is at the heart of a safe workplace

Culture is at the heart of a safe workplace

By Hardie de Beer, Executive: Technical & Lime, PPC

Creating a safe working environment is a complex issue and requires a concerted effort by all stakeholders over a sustained period of time. It is this understanding that is at the core of PPC’s approach to safety at all its operations.

Our industry is particularly hazardous, and the environment lends itself to employees being exposed to dangerous machinery and adverse environmental factors like dust and noise. Health and safety are thus pressing issues for us, and we give them a lot of thought and attention.

We have learned that there is no single formula for creating a safe workplace — but there are certain basic principles that can be adapted to create the all-important safety culture without which the desired behaviours will never take root. To achieve this, the company has to engage effectively with the workforce, and empower them to identify risks in their work environments and take appropriate action. The aim is to make employees and managers partners in the creation of a safe workplace. 

It is vital to move towards behavioural safety, which requires employees to act with safety in mind as a matter of course. To achieve this requires a sustained effort from everyone.

There are several principles that are key to achieve this. Everyone should understand the SMART goals of the safety programme. The SMART goals must be specific, measurable, applicable, relevant and should take place within a designated time frame.

It is also very important to create a safe environment that is both inspirational and empathetic. Safety has to become internalised into the way people approach their work. A key element is the quality of the corporate leadership. In particular, executives and managers have to show that they have internalised the safety culture. Talking about it is not enough. Companies have to create a safety culture that will result in colleagues being able to jointly assess and suggest mechanisms to ensure a safe working environment.

A third foundational principle is that everybody in the company has to buy into the safety culture; it must become the way everybody does things at work. One group cannot opt out. Education and communication are thus key levers in building the culture as well as helping people to acquire the specific competences they need to act safely.

At PPC, we use a simple yet highly effective way of actualising these principles. We call it Snakes and Hazards, and it uses well-known characteristics of three common African snakes to make people aware of the kinds of safety risks they face, and what to do about them.

The puff adder denotes the concealed hazard that an individual must point out to colleagues. The python, by contrast, is the hazard that can start off as small and harmless, but that can become life-threatening if it is allowed to grow. A third hazard is denoted by the cobra, just as this snake rears up in threat and warning, this type of hazard is both obvious and very real.

This hazard typology makes it very easy to assess the risks in any plant, and has the virtue of being readily understandable across cultures as we have found in our plants across South Africa, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, the DRC, Botswana and Ethiopia. More importantly, it starts meaningful discussions about workplace safety that are conducive to the creation of a safety culture that is integrated into working patterns.

When it comes to safety, regulation and physical safety equipment have roles to play, but they will always have limits. For genuine workplace safety, there is only one approach that works - ingraining safety into the way people behave at work. That takes time and effort but then a safe workplace is a priceless asset.


About PPC Ltd

A leading supplier of cement, lime and related products in southern Africa, PPC has 11 cement factories and a lime manufacturing facility in six African countries including South Africa, Botswana, DRC, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. The recent commissioning of PPC’s milling depot, located in Harare, Zimbabwe and new plants in the DRC and Ethiopia bring PPC’s capacity to around eleven and a half million tons of cement products each year, compared to 8 million tons in 2015.

As part of its strategy and long-term vision, PPC is expanding its operations in South Africa with the modernisation of its PPC Slurry complex outside Mafikeng in the North West province.

PPC’s Materials business, comprising of Pronto Holdings (including Pronto Building Materials, Ulula Ash and 3Q Mahuma Concrete), forms part of the company’s channel management strategy for southern Africa. PPC’s footprint in the readymix sector has grown to include 29 batching plants across South Africa and Mozambique and also has the capacity to produce half a million tons of fly ash.  PPC also produces aggregates in South Africa and Botswana.

PPC Lime, one of the largest lime producers in the southern hemisphere, produces metallurgical-grade calcitic and dolomitic lime and sinter stone used mainly in the steel and related industries.

Follow PPC on Twitter @PPC_Africa, like us on www.facebook.com/PPC.Cement and visit us at www.ppc.co.za.

  • Published in News

US prosecutors target construction firms that “institutionalise theft” from their own workers

A recent spate of criminal prosecutions in New York and California against builders who don’t pay their workers the agreed wage suggests a hardening mood against corporate graft in the country.

In one case, a luxury home-builder in Manhattan has been charged with stealing more than $1.7m from 500 workers through payroll tricks. Previously, failure to pay the correct wage was treated as a civil matter, putting the onus on the worker to bring a suit against their employer. But now state prosecutors seem more willing to treat the issue as a violation of criminal law.

Diana Florence, an assistant district attorney (DA) in Manhattan, said the aim was to stop companies in industries that rely on lots of low paid workers from “institutionalising theft as a business model”.

The new approach was illustrated most recently last week when authorities in New York announced that a Brooklyn construction company had pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny for underpaying 21 employees. The Urban Group then made full restitution of $303,411 to the workers, all of whom were immigrants.

Contractors on public sector projects often commit to paying wages as a certain rate, and this case revolved around Urban’s falsely certifying that it had paid employees on a public schools contract at the prevailing wage rates of $63 an hour when in reality it had paid between $10 and $17, and had offered no overtime or benefits.

The discrepancy was revealed when the company was forced to post the legal wage on signs around its worksites. As well as making restitution, Urban was debarred from public work in New York state as a contractor or subcontractor for five years. The Manhattan DA’s office signalled a construction wage-theft crackdown in December last year, news site ConstructionDive reports.

In the biggest case so far, a luxury home builder called Parkside Construction was charged in Maywith defrauding more than 500 workers out of $1.7m by Manhattan prosecutors. The DA claimed that Parkside had altered time-keeping records and paid workers through expenses to avoid payroll taxes. Parkside is also accused of committing workers’ compensation insurance fraud totalling approximately $7.8m.

Outside New York City, ConstructionDive notes that in February, prosecutors in Orange County, California, charged a group of contractors with underpaying workers, and the resulting payroll taxes, to the tune of $200,000. It seems prosecutors in New York and California are leading the way for other states by viewing wage violations as crimes.

“Companies take criminal cases more seriously. If you’re an executive and the cops come to your door, you don’t soon forget it,” said Rena Steinzor, a University of Maryland professor who wrote a book about corporate criminal prosecutions, in an interview on the topic with Bloomberg Law, which has also picked up on the trend.

Prosecutors are also beginning to “bundle” underpaying investigations with wider look at a company’s practices, including health and safety and tax compliance.

“If a bad actor is doing something dishonest in one area of the business, there’s often a common theme of dishonesty across the board,” said Manhattan assistant DA, Diana Florence, to Bloomberg Law.

  • Published in News


A £420m joint investment from the sector and the government in new technology and techniques is at the heart of plans to improve productivity in the UK construction industry.

The so-called Sector Deal announced at the end of last week – six months later than originally planned – will build on existing initiatives such as the Centre for Digital Built Britain to boost digital technologies and offsite manufacture to speed up housebuilding and infrastructure.

It is also advocating a standard approach to how built assets are procured, based on whole-life asset value and digital designs, with benchmarks that will allow performance to be measured clearly; and a new, fairer approach to contract and payment practices to ensure SMEs are not unfairly disadvantaged, reducing risk to SMEs and supporting collaborative supply chains.

The government will give £170m to the project as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, with £250m coming from companies in the construction industry.

Greg Clark (pictured), business and energy secretary, said: “Major infrastructure projects like Hight Speed Rail 2 and the commitment to deliver 1.5 million homes by 2022 mean that we need a construction sector that can drive innovation, delivering homes and infrastructure quicker.

“As buildings account for around 30% of total emissions, we also want to ensure that we are at the global forefront in designing and building smart, energy efficient and affordable homes and buildings through the Clean Growth Grand Challenge, saving families money on their bills.”

The Construction Sector Deal sets out an ambitious partnership between the industry and the government that aims to transform the sector’s productivity through innovative technologies and a more highly skilled workforce.

The Deal sets out plans that include:

Developing digital building designs for use in procurement for all projects.

Continuing the development within the product and manufacturing sector of tools to allow accurate, repeatable, machine-readable product information to be used across the sector.

Industry funded and led initiatives such as digital object indicators as well as LEXiCON from the Construction Products Association that can significantly increase construction speed and confidence in product performance and overall building safety, supporting productivity improvements.

Developing a common metrics methodology for the capture and analysis of data on the use of smart construction in the housing sector – starting with a data dashboard and a series of case studies in spring 2018.

Development of digital technologies, including BIM, sensors, data analytics and smart systems technologies and the Information Management Landscape, which will increase the efficiency of construction techniques.

Andrew Wolstenholme, co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council, said: “We are an industry that must be at the forefront of the UK’s drive for future growth and prosperity – and I’m confident that this deal will help to achieve that.”

Build UK chief executive Suzannah Nichol said: “Today’s announcement sets out a bright vision for the future of UK construction along with a plan that the industry can, and should, all get behind.”

  • Published in News

Kenya to construct US $30m modern Gikomba market

The government of Kenya has set aside US $30m for the construction of a modern Gikomba market, the region’s biggest open-air market in bid to prevent perennial fires such as the last fire incident that left 16 dead and at least 60 injured and provide a safer and better environment for traders.

The deputy president of Kenya, William Ruto,confirmed the statement and said that small-scale traders would be prioritized in the Nairobi regeneration plan and that hawkers will not interfere with the business of the traders.

“We have a challenge with Nairobi traders and the largest market has been burning every year,” said Dp Ruto.

Also Read: Maluti Crescent project in South Africa is well under way

Defying Directives

Area chief issued the directive given by deputy County Commissioner Moses Lilan barred businessmen at the Gikomba market from rebuilding their stalls and kiosks to pave way for the construction which is set to take two years.

These plans and restrictions came in the thick of rumors that the frequent fire outbreaks were an act of arson to grab the land where the market sits. However, the traders defied the government’s directive and threatened to hold protests against the order arguing that the government has not found an alternative land for them.

  • Published in News
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