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The impact of prefabrication and pre-assembly on construction health and safety in South Africa
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The construction industry adopts various methods to bring about the required structure. Typically, in every construction project, health and safety of workers will remain a major concern on site due to accidents, fatalities and illnesses which occur regularly. Despite these incidents raising a concern, construction site activities still involve workers in manual handling of heavy material and repetitive body movements which constitute ergonomic problems; The purpose ofthis study is to investigate the potential impacts of prefabrication and pre-assembly on the health and safety of construction workers. The objectives of this study were (l) to examine the health and safety hazards associated with traditional construction methods in South Africa; (2) to investigate the merits of prefabrication and pre-assembly in terms of their impact on overall health and safety improvements when compared with traditional construction methods; and (3) to investigate how construction clients perceive the use of prefabrication and pre-assembly as alternative construction methods that positively impact the overall health and safety of construction workers on site. Literature pertaining to the content of this research was extensively reviewed. An exploratory study was undertaken to examine the merits of prefabrication and pre-assembly in reducing ergonomic challenges associated with traditional construction methods, where construction workers were observed and interviewed. A self-administered questionnaire survey was used for construction clients, designers and contractors. The study revealed that 80% of clients in the sample reported that they preferred traditional construction methods instead of prefabrication. It was also found that clients selected prefabrication and preassembly for other reasons which were not associated with particular improvements ofhealth and safety in construction project. The study found that labour intensive methods also commonly known as traditional construction methods exposed workers to physically demanding activities that posed risks to their health and safety. Reportedly, 76% of workers experienced pain in their waist areas, 70% had pain in their shonlder and 66% had back problems while they were involved in traditional construction. Workers sometimes had to handle heavy material manually, worked at heights and experienced noise caused by heavy construction equipment. However, a case study focused on bricklaying activities and prefabrication insulation wall fixing revealed that prefabrication reduced the exposures of workers to both ergonomic challenges and ergonomic problems. The findings also suggest that traditional construction methods were more hazardous than ones involving prefabrication. Further research is needed to determine whether the use of other forms of prefabricated and preassembled components would reduce ergonomic and health and safety hazards associated with traditional construction methods.