Health and Safety in Construction – Rules That Count!
Health and safety at work is sometimes considered a regrettable necessity. This article shows how Health and Safety can be far more than an obligation and how best practice can promote competitive advantage.
The fundamental purpose of improving health and safety in construction is, of course, to protect the 2.2 million UK workers in construction related jobs. It is the country’s biggest employer and has the potential to be the most dangerous. The government’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website states that over 2,800 people have died from injuries received as a result of construction work, and says that many more have been injured or made ill.
Every reputable company wants to protect its workforce. The HSE provides advice and guidance on construction safety and has powers of inspection and enforcement with which all construction companies will be familiar. Its guidelines allow employers to implement standards to ensure safe operation in all circumstances. Accidents at work affect not only individuals; they can delay projects, increase pressure on other workers and cause considerable fallout in terms of bad PR for the company concerned.
Businesses are obliged to have a core health and safety policy covering generic situations but each project will need site specific information and instructions, covering issues such as:
- Emergency actions (such as evacuation procedures and the location of fire fighting equipment)
- Key personnel and their responsibilities
- Behaviour whilst on site (such as the need to keep noise levels to a minimum)
- Location of first aid points and names of trained first-aiders
- Disposal of waste and environmental policies
- Explanation of construction safety signs
- Information regarding safety clothing/equipment and its use
Companies that can show a good record – not only in health and safety performance but also in documentation, training, induction and supervision – are likely to be viewed in a positive light by potential clients. Developers, architects, planners and site managers will not want to be burdened with the responsibility of ensuring health and safety policies are up to scratch in companies to which they sub-contract. Being ahead of the game will be a tick in the box when it comes to competitive tendering.
The same applies to environmental policies. Construction companies must meet minimum standards relating to waste disposal, recycling and energy usage, and comply with more stringent standards when working in brown field development areas.
Investment in health and safety training is essential. Construction Skills is the Sector Skills Council and Industry Training Board for the construction industry; it offers courses for workers, supervisors and professionals, including a professional development programme. The Construction Skills Health and Safety test is taken by more than half a million people every year and ensures a minimum standard of awareness for anyone working within the construction industry; site managers should have more advanced training – the CITB Site Managers’ Safety Training Scheme is a recognised standard throughout the construction industry.
The HSE says that one of its key aims is to promote a step-change in the attitude towards health and safety within the construction industry, moving it beyond minimum compliance towards full workforce engagement. Demonstrating your own company’s move towards this goal can only be good news for potential customers.
Phelan Construction has a rigorous health and safety policy that is reviewed and updated to reflect best practice. The company invests in staff training across the board and aims to achieve the very best in health and safety performance, ensuring that every worker understands his or her role and responsibility. Phelan Construction is a member of the Safe Contractor Scheme and ConstructionLine.
Click here to read more about our Construction Health & Safety policy>>
Hat-Trick of News Loos for Dovercourt Completed
Residents and visitors to Dovercourt will benefit from three new public toilets which have cost £370,000 to install.
“The toilets at West End Lane and Lower Marine Parade have been very well received and I am sure people will be very happy with what has been achieved at Cliff Park.”
The design of the building was influenced both by the Cliff Park bandstand and the nearby Orwell Terrace buildings.
There are nine individual unisex toilet cubicles, two of which have baby changing facilities included. One cubicle is specifically designed for disabled use and two are larger than the normal size.
“We have used high quality products and materials to ensure these buildings will be as vandal resilient as possible,” added Cllr McWilliams.
“The design also allows as much natural light in as possible to cut down on electricity costs.”
Also included in the project is a new kiosk for the sale of snacks and refreshments.
The Council will be advertising for someone to take over the lease shortly and the income will help off-set some of the costs associated with the facility.
The old toilet building at Cliff Park is due to be demolished. The area will be cleared and grassed over.
See more Public Sector Projects>>
Hard Work Over -Time To Play!
Essex based Phelan Construction has recently completed a refurbishment project that has transformed the University of Essex Lakeside Theatre complex.
The project – value to Phelan Construction of £560,000 – took the company 13 weeks to complete and involved the demolition of the existing entrance, the creation of a new entrance, staircase and lift, the installation of a mezzanine floor and refurbishment of the foyer area. The work includes new box office facilities and access for the disabled.
Alan Cansell, Sales Director at Phelan Construction, said: “We are very used to working in demanding situations – in fact it’s one of the aspects that we pride ourselves on – and this project was no different. We had to work around normal life on the campus and meet time critical objectives. The work required specialist skills, particularly in the construction of a bespoke water jet cut metal canopy that had to be lifted by crane into place over the entrance; another challenge for our team was to install a high tech concrete plank floor system in an extremely confined space.”
The theatre has an unusual dual purpose in that it helps to form a dam that prevents flooding from nearby lakes into the campus. Originally designed by Kenneth Capon in the 1960s, the theatre now provides a contemporary purpose-built space for film showings, comedy, concerts and many other artistic productions.
University Construction Courses
It is generally acknowledged that the climb out of recession will be slow. Few commentators believe that good times are just around the corner and many anticipate a continuation of limited choices for school/college leavers.
The government remains committed to encouraging more school leavers to go to university or other forms of higher education, whether academic or vocational. Recent figures show substantial increases in students of all age groups applying for this year’s intake. Any new government is unlikely to discourage this trend but is this good news for construction firms who build and maintain the fabric of higher educational establishments?
Undoubtedly, opportunities exist for competitive construction companies. Uncovering university construction opportunities and becoming a serious contender for the business requires a level of commitment and a plan of action.
The OpportunitiesThere are several government websites dedicated to construction opportunities. As well as 2012 related projects you will find a plethora of new build and re-fit works at colleges up and down the country. As universities aim to provide first year students with onsite accommodation, spend on building and re-fitting halls of residence is one of today’s key priorities. Technology labs and teaching environments are also high on the agenda as universities compete for recognition within areas of specialism.
The SkillsProcurement managers look for previous experience within the educational sector; seeking a proven ability to work within an environment where other people carry on their day to day business. Universities are seldom empty, even during holidays; external courses, extra curricula classes and other organisations make use of these buildings all year round so it will be important to minimise disruption, stress and noise to students and teaching staff. Expect to keep costs competitive and participate in a ‘beauty parade’. Don’t be surprised if the contract negotiations are long and drawn out but once you are a preferred and trusted supplier, you may be awarded contracts going forward.
Specialist AreasAs a government funded project, the university construction project will need to meet strict environmental specifications. Give the university examples of how you have installed energy saving materials/technology in previous projects and, where possible, use reference sites to illustrate success. Examples of how you have worked within confined areas, used new materials, adapted to workplace environments and provided a full range of construction, mechanical, electrical and other skills, will be plus points for your firm.
Partnership WorkingFlexibility is the name of the game! University construction will almost never be in isolation. Even on smaller projects you can expect to be working with other construction companies, engineers, designers, architects and, of course, the university’s own academic staff and management. In the same way that reference sites illustrate quality of workmanship, why not use other providers to show that you can – and do – work well in a large team.
And Finally….A small point, but it could be a decider – check out whether the university provides courses related to the construction industry! Why not make informal contact with the teaching staff to see if you could get involved should you be awarded the contract? You might be able to organise a seminar or facilitate a walk-round of the site for first year students (subject to health and safety considerations of course!). It’s just one way to differentiate yourself from the competition and show commitment to the educational aims of your client.
This article is based on the experience of Phelan Construction. An Essex based company engaged on projects nationwide, Phelan is regularly awarded work at universities, colleges and schools and has an enviable reputation for completing on-budget projects with minimum disruption, often working alongside other project contributors.
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