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>>