Your construction workplace needs to be safe from hazards to prevent accidents but your responsibility as an employer is much greater than that. You need to take all reasonable steps to promote health and safety and prevent harm.
If you work in construction or offer commercial cleaning services like Charles Piton Ltd, your team will be involved in high access and potentially dangerous work. CPL’s experienced cleaning technicians and senior technicians may be cleaning biohazards and undertake sharps needle removal from crime scenes. All the technicians at CPL are British Damage Management Association (BDMA) trained.
Health and safety in construction is even more important because the work is not simply precise, it’s dangerous.
Between 2014 and 2017, 3.5 percent of the construction industry’s workforce suffered from a medical condition they believe was caused or made worse by their work, according to research carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE.)
Sixty-five percent or 80,000 construction workers suffered from musculoskeletal disorders (broadly back, limb or muscle problems) but fifteen percent reported stress, depression or anxiety. Construction workers may also develop occupational cancer, lung problems and asthma, particularly if they are exposed to asbestos and silica.
During the course of the HSE study, the construction industry lost 1.9 million days because of work-related ill health.
Employers have a duty of care to protect health and safety in the construction industry and in all other sectors.
Making the case for health and safety is the easy part, the difficulty is promoting workplace wellbeing in a way that fits your business model. For the first time in 2012, the organisers of the London Olympics made a commitment to actively enhance the wellbeing of all those who worked on the project. This goes much farther than having an accident book that records near misses and ensures compliance with the Health and Safety Executive.
From the outset of the project, the Olympic organisers understood that health and safety in construction is of paramount importance. It involves developing a strategy to enhance wellbeing, not confining yourself to random and haphazard acts of kindness according to Lawrence Waterman who headed up the Olympic Delivery Authority.
In 2015 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) introduced new legislation called the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations. The role of the HSE is ‘to prevent death, injury and ill health in Great Britain’s workplaces.’ HSE shares this responsibility with local authorities which applies to the public as well as employers, staff and contractors.
The executive tends to inspect high-risk organisations and industries such as construction where there is evidence of poor performance or following a specific incident or complaint. An HSE inspection can result in prosecution if standards are not met and improvements made.
Don’t wait for HSE to inspect your workplace, promote health and safety and workplace wellbeing now.
In September last year the owner and manager of Stanmer Park were prosecuted by the HSE and the Police. The owner was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter with his foreman after one of their carpenters fell five metres through a void in the first floor ceiling of the stables. The carpenter was paralysed, in a coma and died a month later. The case against the two men was clear because HSE had warned the management a year before the incident that the stables were dangerous.
The owner was sentenced to five months in prison under health and safety law and told to pay court costs of £35,000. His foreman was sentenced to eight months in prison and made to pay £10,000.
Gail Purdy from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “This has been a complex case to bring to court. In addition to the manslaughter charges, careful consideration had to be given to additional charges under health and safety legislation. To do this, we had to prove there had been a total failure by the individuals and the company to undertake their responsibilities for the safety of their employees on site.
“From the evidence gathered, it became clear both men visited the site regularly and would have seen the conditions, which included work being carried out with voids that someone could fall through, but they did nothing to prevent this happening.”
By understanding health and safety you will identify and assess risks and take all reasonable steps to prevent harm.
To avoid this, employers must put in place health and safety audits or risk assessments. They are quite simply assessments of risk. You cannot always eradicate risks but you can control them.
At the heart of risk assessment is evidence that you have thought about what risks may harm staff, contractors and members of the public and what reasonable steps you have taken to prevent that harm.
For example, if you employ more than five people you are required to document regular checks of everything from kitchen appliances and fire alarms to testing high-tech and old construction equipment and building sites.
Commercial cleaning company Charles Piton Ltd has experienced technicians working in high access areas. In the construction industry protecting the safety of staff is as complex on wooden or metal beams on a roof, or on scaffolds on a building site and requires the greatest possible vigilance. If your business is high-risk, you may need to introduce control measures, for example if you work with flammable and poisonous chemicals.
There are five steps to risk assessment: 1) Identify the hazards 2) Decide who might be harmed and how 3) Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions 4) Record your significant findings 5) Review your assessment and update if necessary.
Appoint a director to take charge of health and safety
As a busy Managing Director, you would do well to appoint a conscientious member of staff at director level with responsibility for health and safety. And you need to develop an emergency plan, not simply for environmental accidents such as fires and floods but also to manage other risks including accidental damage and workplace ill health.