What concerns tend to dominate the modern construction sector? The use of relevant materials, adhering to demanding time frames and addressing the needs of the customer are obviously important. However, we also need to keep in mind the critical role by health and safety in construction. A handful of figures will serve to cement this point into place. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that 42 construction workers lost their lives due to on-site accidents between 2013 and 2014. While this observation is indeed disturbing, we also need to mention that an estimated 2.3 million working days were lost within this same time period due to work-related injuries and illnesses. It should therefore be clear that the notion of construction site safety and adhering to the latest guidelines needs to be taken very seriously. What are some other reasons why management needs to be cognisant of their inherent responsibilities?
A Legal Necessity
It is a dangerous myth to believe that on-site safety is an elective topic. In other words, regulations stipulated by the HSE as far back as 1974 clearly indicate that adhering to all of the relevant obligations is a legal responsibility within the workplace. Firms which do not follow this recommendation are placing themselves at risk of accruing civil and even criminal damages in the event that an accident occurs. Thus, management and similar stakeholders are obliged to provide their employees with the proper levels of training and equipment to minimise the chances of such a situation taking place.
The Ability to Proactively Identify Specific Hazards
One of the best ways to prevent injuries and to further enhance on-site safety is to appreciate any hazards that may be present within a real-time scenario. Some of the most common situations can include (but may not always be limited to):
- Falls from height
- Slips and falls
- Hazardous and noxious substances
- Complicated or challenging manual tasks
Fire is an obvious concern; particularly when dealing with flammable substances or those which could give off toxic fumes when burned. This is why dry (carbon dioxide) fire extinguishers as well as an on-site fire warden must be present at all times. Employees should likewise be provided with the proper training in the event that a fire occurs.
Falls from height are serious situations and it is estimated that up to 20 percent of all workplace fatalities are included within this category. Safety training must therefore address the use of the appropriate personal protective equipment (such as harnesses) as well as how to avoid falls via physical means (such as positioning a ladder at the correct angle).
Electrocution is another scenario often present within construction sites. Heavy equipment that requires mains electricity, the presence of live overhead wires and inappropriately connecting two or more power supplies can all lead to grave consequences. Employees must be aware of these risks as well as the means by which they can be averted (such as using lock-out tag-out procedures and knowing how to safely perform any maintenance tasks).
Hazardous substances can include liquids, solids, gases and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can release fums to the open air. Not only should these materials be properly labelled, but employees must be made aware of how they need to be safely handled. These substances are also required to be stored in specific locations to prevent dangerous situations such as a tank of petrol igniting due to its proximity to an ignition source. Additionally, workers should be provided with the proper equipment so they do not place their health and safety in jeopardy. An example could be the use of hazardous gas detectors or portable respirators if such substances are suspected to be present.
Manual tasks are just as relevant in regards to health and safety in the construction industry. As may be imagined, a wide range of scenarios will fall into this category. Improperly lifting heavy objects, operating dangerous machinery such as forklifts and even movements that may lead to repetitive strain injuries over time need to be adequately addressed via the proper training techniques. Management is also obliged to provide employees with the proper equipment so that the risk of an accident is reduced. Back strains, carpal tunnel syndrome and acute trauma to the head are all examples of situations which could have been averted with the appropriate amount of preparation.
Health and safety in the construction industry is an important topic which should never be glossed over. It is ultimately the responsibility of management to ensure that all of the proper practices are put into place. If you would like to learn more about your obligations or to book a reservation for an upcoming course, please contact Trade Safety Training.