Safety first

It’s Thursday morning in Adliswil and Beate Holz and Sebastian Gertsch, Allreal’s two workplace health and safety representatives, have turned up unannounced at one of the company’s major construction sites. At least once every month, they conduct a safety audit at a construction site. Since introducing the safety audits in 2016, there are now significantly fewer safety risks and accidents at Allreal’s construction sites.

“Our visits don’t come completely out of the blue,” explains Sebastian Gertsch. We always let the site manager in charge know the evening before. The short notice ensures they don’t have enough time to completely transform their construction site. “But it does give them enough notice to plan their day,” says Gertsch. “It’s really important that construction sites are in their working state when they’re inspected.”

Beate Holz and Sebastian Gertsch really know their stuff. They are both site managers for Allreal who take on the role of workplace health and safety representative as an extra responsibility. “We may be checking up on our colleagues, but it never causes any problems,” says Gertsch. For one thing, their day jobs make them more credible because they have to face the same challenges in their own work. And they never go about with the intention of making their colleagues look bad. Their job is to offer help and support with everything to do with health and safety in the workplace. “We provide an external perspective and make recommendations to help our colleagues and make their lives easier as site managers,” says Sebastian Gertsch. There is also the added benefit of making everyone stop and think about safety, which can only improve the situation on construction sites.

Number of major safety risks halved

Health and safety in the workplace is a top priority for Allreal, with a focus on the construction sites. Since the introduction of regular safety audits and consistent accident logging on construction sites, the number of major safety risks on the construction sites has halved. During the whole of the past financial year, four people suffered minor injuries during working hours at Allreal, corresponding to 2.18 incidents per 200,000 hours worked. “Our goal remains to bring that number down even further,” says Beate Holz.

“We always start our safety audits on the roof,” she explains at the start of the tour. The trained draftsperson for construction engineering and qualified site manager has been working on the Allreal site management team for over four years now. There is also a focus on safety when site managers are completing their training. “When we took on the extra responsibility as workplace health and safety representatives, we completed the basic course for safety managers to make sure we were up to date with the latest requirements,” says Holz. The role means a lot to her even though it does involve her giving up more time and taking on extra responsibility. She enjoys having the chance to step away from the microcosm of her own construction site every so often. “It’s an important and worthwhile role that I’m delighted to take on.”

The legal framework conditions for health and safety in the workplace come from multiple regulatory sources. Several ordinances – including the Construction Work Ordinance – set out how the regulations should be applied. There is also plenty of documentation to help with the implementation, some of which is provided by SUVA (Swiss National Accident Insurance Fund). There are also eight essential rules of construction, which the safety audits are centred around: secure edges, cover holes in the ground, fasten loads properly, work with scaffolding, check scaffolding daily, ensure secure access, wear protective personal equipment, secure trenches and pits.