Disturbing Findings For The Construction Industry

Disturbing Findings For The Construction Industry

31st July 2014

We all know that the UK is one of the safest countries in the world in which to work – our health and safety laws are designed to make sure of that.  Every employer in the UK is legally obligated to ensure that their work/business premises are safe for those who work there and that injuries sustained in the workplace are kept to a minimum.  The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 describes employers’ responsibilities in detail and makes clear that employers have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all their employees whilst they are at work.  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a Corporate Health and Safety Plan each year as it aims to be an exemplar organisation and lead by example.

However a recent blitz by the HSE turned up some rather surprising results that is of particular importance to the construction industry as one in six sites actually failed the HSE health checks.  Focussing on significant health risks, inspectors carried out a two week blitz, visiting 560 sites to check on issues like:

  • Respiratory risks from dusts containing silica materials
  • Exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint
  • Manual Handling
  • Noise and Vibration

Alarmingly, 13 sites had such dangerous conditions that work had to be stopped immediately.  Enforcement notices were served on 85 sites and Improvement notices were issued on a further 107 sites.  In total, the HSE served 239 separate health related Notices of Contravention across 201 of the sites visited.
Heather Bryant, Chief Inspector for HSE has said that although the construction industry’s progress in reducing the number of people injured or killed has been encouraging, there is still an “unacceptable toll of ill-health and fatal disease in the industry”.
In a bid to speed up progress, the HSE’s inspectors will consolidate the efforts of this recent initiative by looking at the prevention and control of health risks in the construction sector.  “We will make sure the construction industry ‘Thinks health’ as well as safety”, reiterated Ms. Bryant.  The HSE publishes a downloadable strategy for each sector, setting out a series of aim grouped under the goals of the HSE Strategy which would address what each sector needs to do to improve its overall health and safety performance.
The changes sought by the HSE involve using strong leadership and involving the workforce in order to create healthier and safer work environments here in the UK.  The document covers such areas as the importance of appropriate training, building competence and avoiding catastrophes.  The mission is to prevent death, injury and ill health in Great Britain’s workplaces but this is only achievable if the advice of the HSE is taken on board and employers across the UK take personal responsibility for the health and safety of those they employ...

With strong collaboration between the HSE, employers and employees, Britain could lead the way in being the safest country on the planet in which to work.