The construction industry is one of the most hazardous sectors to work in. The injuries to those at work can be frequent and severe show figures from the HSE.
Dangers highlighted for construction industry staff
Members of the construction industry need to be fully briefed on their health and safety responsibilities.
The UK construction industry remains one of the most hazardous sectors in which to work, so it is therefore imperative all individuals employed in this area are up to date on their health and safety responsibilities and training.
Failing to safeguard the welfare of employees is not an option for businesses, as the high risk activities many individuals are tasked with mean there are many areas in which individuals can be seriously hurt of even killed.
Overall, statistics provided by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that despite the number of employees working in the UK construction sector standing at just five per cent, this group accounts for around 27 per cent of all fatalities in the workplace annually.
Furthermore, 39 fatal injuries were suffered by workers in this profession in 2012-13, while an estimated 1.4 million working days were lost due to ill health and injury related to construction activities.
Managing risks in construction
The HSE is carrying out a nationwide campaign to drive up safety in the construction sector at present entitled Safer Sites.
It includes targeted inspections of developments to ensure all members of staff are adhering to necessary health and safety legislation, including the use of all necessary safety equipment and that facilities and training for staff are up to scratch.
Enforcement actions open to the sector regulator are wide ranging and include the ability to shut down sites until areas of concern are addressed, through to the prosecution of both individuals and companies for activities that are either deemed to be hazardous or result in injury.
Jo Anderson, HSE principal inspector for the West Midlands Construction Division, stated: “Too many people die every year on Britain’s construction sites as a result of entirely avoidable incidents.”
As a result, developers need to ensure they are doing all they can to prevent accidents in the workplace, and this means mitigating the risk of falls from height, having sites in good order, ensuring all structures being used are stable and well built, any instances of asbestos are appropriately flagged and dealt with, and that all equipment is appropriately tested and certified for use.
Poor practice and what not to do
A number of examples of businesses lacking the basic health and safety principles required to safeguard their staff have been seen over recent months, with several construction businesses and contractors having been prosecuted by the HSE following injuries to their staff.
One such example is the case of a self-employed building contractor from Chippenham. Ian Pitman exposed three workers to a considerable risk of falling more than eight metres while carrying out the construction of a new barn at a property in Burton, Wiltshire.
A passing HSE inspector spotted the work in progress and immediately issued a Prohibition Notice for the site, as there was no sign of edge protection in place or of workers using safety gear.
Following a subsequent investigation of the working practices of Mr Pitman and his crew by the HSE, charges were brought against him as a result of the considerable risk the setup at the site posed to workers’ health.
Falls from height can be especially life-threatened and can cause an array of injuries, ranging from broken bones to paralysis and even death.
Following a hearing at Swindon Magistrates’ Court last month, HSE inspector Ian Whittles commented: “Ian Pitman neglected to implement basic safety measures to minimise the risks of falls, despite having been the subject of formal enforcement action by HSE on the inadequate planning of working at height on a previous occasion.
“The dangers of working at height are well known in the construction industry yet poor safety standards and lack of safeguards still exist among some contractors.”
The building contractor was fined GBP 10,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, highlighting the serious financial and physical consequences that can come about as a result of poor practices.