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Renārs Griškevičs, Chairman of the Board of SJSC “State Real Estate” (SRE): We have the necessary tools and the responsibility to improve safety on construction sites


In the culture of SRE, safety and health are ingrained values, and we are firmly committed to bringing them into all areas of the company's operations. In addition to the supervision of quality, we have set high standards of safety and are creating a safe environment in our managed properties and in the construction of objects of public importance. We can achieve this by raising awareness of safety and health issues in our internal environment and in cooperation with stakeholders – especially contractors and construction workers.

Changing the safety culture is a challenge for all players in the construction industry. The overall picture of the industry remains harsh – according to the operative data of the State Labour Inspectorate, in 2021 the construction industry in Latvia was in second place in regards to the investigation ratio of fatal accidents (behind only the transport and storage sector) – six out of 34 fatal accidents were found to be in the construction industry. As long as such statistics are maintained, the SRE will insist on strengthening the safety aspects by cooperating with all players in the industry.

As one of the largest customers in the construction industry, SRE has the opportunity to work with a wide range of cooperation partners, which allows us to see the interconnections and trends in compliance with occupational safety requirements or, conversely, in ignoring them. As a customer of construction work, we cannot always influence how the construction contractor controls the development of the construction projects under our management or how the employees themselves comply with the labour protection regulations and the use of the necessary protective equipment. At the same time, we have the tools to increase safety – we can work with contractors, educate, explain, introduce stricter requirements and penalise non-compliance with safety requirements.

In 2022, the company has approved the Occupational Health and Safety Policy and the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations for the providers of outsourced services in real estate management. This means that we have set ourselves the obligation to control the observance of occupational safety requirements not only in the internal environment, but also in the facilities supervised by the SRE. When concluding cooperation agreements with service providers, we set mandatory requirements at our facilities, and the contractor is fined for non-compliance. Emphasising the need to educate rather than punish violators, SRE plans to invest the proceeds from penalties in the improvement of the labour protection at construction sites – providing information posters, organising educational activities for construction site employees, investing in innovative solutions for recording work violations.

Already today, SRE, as a customer in the field of labour protection, is doing more than required by the regulations – in recent years, the company has paid increased attention to this and strengthened its internal resources. Although, according to the legislation, occupational safety on the construction site is the responsibility of the construction contractor, we have introduced additional occupational safety supervision in the objects under construction. The start of work on the construction sites supervised by SRE is possible only after verifying compliance with our safety requirements. Prior to the commencement of work at each construction site, the SRE occupational safety expert in the seminar introduces the general contractors and subcontractors to the labour protection requirements and the most frequently detected violations, and the SRE experts perform a site safety inspection. In total, we manage the construction of 1,100 buildings of national importance and 46 infrastructure development objects – in the largest construction projects of national importance, construction supervision is performed by SRE experts instead of outsourced service providers.

We can look positively at the impact of the control measures introduced by the SRE in recent years – we are seeing a decrease in the number of dangerous violations. In 2021, 187 supervision visits were carried out at the construction sites under the supervision of the SRE, and in the four months of this year, already 63. While in 2021 we detected 126 significant and 764 insignificant violations, in the four months of this year we detected only 11 significant violations, but the number of insignificant violations reached 186. As a common trend in detecting significant violations, we see systematic disregard for safety requirements in working at height – employees are working without an anti-fall system, in incomplete scaffolding and using hand tools without mandatory protection. This forces us to more closely monitor the facilities where the roof is being replaced.

The current picture in the field of occupational safety in construction requires active action, therefore we are creating a network of construction occupational safety experts for professionals who work in the facilities under the management of SRE. We appreciate that 17 occupational safety experts have responded to our first call to jointly strive towards higher standards in health protection and safety. We intend to continue such exchange of knowledge and experience, as well as to support the solving of security-related challenges in SRE construction sites on a daily basis.

In addition to our own activities, SRE also supports the commitment of other companies to make the work environment safer and prevent accidents – in April of this year, with other like-minded employers, we joined “Mission Zero”, the social initiative proposed by SCHWENK Latvija, which strives to bring accidents at the work environment to zero. SRE also joins other initiatives that offer innovative solutions and promote good practice in occupational safety. For example, taking into account that labour protection specialists cannot simultaneously ensure compliance with the requirements in all construction sites in order to detect violations, SRE is looking for a solution by participating in the DEMOLA Latvia project. Within the framework of it, together with industry and academic experts, the possibilities provided by the available technologies were evaluated in order to ensure comprehensive and high-quality monitoring of safety requirements both indoors and outdoors with minimal involvement of human resources. Currently we continue the work on the practical testing of innovative solutions.

While SRE, the largest customer of construction works in the country, is committed to strengthening occupational safety in all areas of the company's operations and following a zero-accident culture in the construction industry, we consider any player in the industry with whom we have a common goal as our ally – healthy employees in a safe work environment! It is important to us to speak not only with the entrepreneurs, but also employees at the construction sites. In order to constantly remind of the need to protect oneself, SRE places visual materials in each site. For two years already, we have been implementing an information campaign on the importance of occupational safety, in the framework of which we personally remind those working on construction sites about occupational safety requirements with the message “Work safely, you are expected at home!”.