Lizzie Peterson, health and safety manager at Ambient Contracting Services in Edenvale, was recently honoured as the Gauteng Master Builders Association’s (GMBA’s) top Health and Safety Manager for 2010.
Women are succeeding as safety officers on building sites because “safety is part of a woman’s daily routine – whether at home or work”, Peterson says. In her view, the construction industry is now rapidly moving away from the traditional perception of it being a male-dominated industry. “Women are beginning to make their mark. We are already there in the safety field – and it’s just a stepping stone towards getting our hands on other duties.”
Peterson believes women succeed as safety officers because “our approach is tough, yet softer and, above all, showing respect for our fellow workers comes naturally”.
She says it is not easy for a female safety officer to promote health issues such as AIDS prevention, on site. “This is where a humble and professional attitude and empathy are required,” she says.
She also notes that, because of the environmental hazards such as cement dust, fuel, and toxic chemicals that workers are exposed to on site, the preservation of the workers’ health is a major challenge.
There are currently nine women among the 23 students in training as health, safety and environment (HSE) officers with the GMBA in its second annual training programme for HSE site personnel.
Last year’s top student, Sebenzile Magugu, was one of the top three performers in the GMBA’s 2010 award for Best Site Safety Officer. Magugu was honoured for her work on Giuricich Bros Construction’s new Toyota dealership site in Rhodesfield.
Other women in attendance at the Health and Safety Awards function included another GMBA graduate, Tsidi Mabunda, who officiated at an award-winning Stefanutti Stocks Building Inland site; Michelle Kok, the company’s new regional safety coordinator; and Bianca Swarts, safety officer for WBHO’s Clearwater Mall site.