Anyone who works in construction should understand the importance of having emergency response plans in place, as well as ensuring that all employees follow relevant health and safety legislation and standards.
However, with 43 fatalities among construction workers during 2015/16, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) believes that more needs to be done to prevent fatal workplace accidents.
As a result, the HSE has launched the second phase of its construction inspection campaign, with the focus squarely on well-known risks and preventing these as much as possible.
Well-known risks refer to the likes of falls from height, materials handling, structural safety and harmful dusts.
The HSE is particularly keen for more construction firms to raise awareness of harmful dusts that workers may come into contact in their day-to-day work, such as wood dust, respirable silica and asbestos, as well as provide the appropriate protective equipment.
Exposure to harmful dusts can be managed through the use of equipment, as well as with the right design and training, according to the HSE. The organisation adds that while exposure to these substances may not lead to an instant worsening of health, the long-term consequences can be “devastating”.
The HSE has been focusing on small sites to ensure they aren’t cutting corners and are abiding by HSE regulations.
Chief Inspector of Construction and the Director of the Construction Division at HSE Peter Baker commented: “Nearly half of construction fatal accidents and injuries reported to HSE involved refurbishment work.”
He stressed that the organisation will be targeting any small sites that cut corners and put workers’ lives at risk unnecessarily.
The importance of following health and safety legislation, whether you work in construction or another sector, was highlighted by a recent prosecution of a warehouse operator in Cannock, Staffordshire.
A member of staff was left with rain injuries after falling 4.5m onto a concrete floor in the warehouse. He had been attempting to access a storage rack using a pallet raised on a forklift truck at the time of the accident.
IOSH magazine reported on the case, which saw this business fined £240,000 and directed to pay a further £20,000 in costs.
Environmental health officers (EHOs) from the local district council had previously advised the firm of its health and safety failings, but these issues were not corrected and led to the serious injury of an employee. The firm’s insurer had also refused to provide cover due to the safety failings noted at the warehouse.
The prosecution was brought by the council’s EHOs, who revealed that risk assessments at the site were outdated and inadequate, the warehouse contained poor racking and was regularly overstocked, and that these factors, combined with a lack of mechanical handling, made it a “highly dangerous environment”.
The managing director of the firm was also fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs, bringing the total cost of this breach to nearly £300,000 for the business and its senior management.