Health Awareness in the Construction Sector

Health Awareness in the Construction Sector

20th July 2015

We all know that safety at work is one of the most important issues in the construction sector and we’re lucky enough here in the UK to have some of the most stringent health and safety in the workplace regulations in the world. British safety legislation has resulting in the UK being one of the safest countries to work in and fatal accident statistics have been falling steadily year upon year.

When asked to list health and safety risks on a construction site, most people outside the industry would quite rightly refer to dangers like working at height or collapsing structures. However, what many people would not think of are the hidden dangers – the health issues that can often take years to be noticed. This is why the industry is currently focussing on health risks such as occupational cancer in a bid to raise awareness and make Britain an even safer country in which to work.

The statistics for these hidden health issues make for some pretty sobering reading. Who would think that every year there are more than 600,000 fatalities world-wide from cancers caused by the working environment – that works out as one death every 47 seconds There really is no room for complacency here.

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is campaigning to raise awareness on work-related health issues. Heather Bryant, chief inspector of construction at the HSE has pointed out that despite the fact that in 2012/2013, 39 construction workers and 5 members of the public lost their lives in construction related accidents, over the same period it’s estimated that there were as many as a hundred times more deaths from work related ill health and diseases.

A month long inspection initiative last year discovered that nearly half of the 1,748 construction sites visited had unacceptable conditions and used dangerous practices. With the inspection initiative specifically focussed on health risks, 35% of the notices served were for issues such as the management of asbestos and failure to control exposure to harmful dusts. We’ve already reported on the dangers on construction dust earlier this year and what can be done to counteract and control the risks.

As far back as 2004, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that there are more than 100,000 asbestos related deaths world-wide every year – making asbestos the biggest work cancer killer.

Last October the HSE launched a new asbestos behaviour-change campaign that should encourage tradespeople and construction workers to approach each job they do bearing in mind the potential dangers from asbestos. The campaign is calling for health awareness issues to be included in the relevant industry apprenticeships and trade-based training so that people will be aware of the risks at the beginning of their careers which should go a long way towards increasing health awareness throughout the construction industry itself.