The UK Construction Industry has made huge strides and improvements to site safety over recent years and risk assessments and safety prevention is now part of core working practices.
However, a national inspection campaign by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has found that the health risk to construction workers is still not being adequately addressed.
Not only does this put the firm at risk of prosecution, but it also significantly increases the potential of Employers Liability Insurance claims from site workers.
HSE Inspections find Construction Sites Failure to Prevent Health Risks
The HSE launched a targeted campaign over two weeks, focused on constructions sites across the UK reviewing and inspecting the health risks for constructions workers.
Inspectors targeted significant health risk issues, such as respiratory risks from dusts containing silica materials as well as exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint.
Other vital areas for review were manual handling processes and the impact of noise and vibration exposures.
Action Taken Against One in Six Constructions Sites
The HSE highlighted risk, which was significant enough to see enforcement action against one on six of over 550 sites visited.
Actions ranged from a notice to improve Health risks, to more severe cases where activities fell well short of expected standards, and work was stopped immediately.
A total of 239 Notices of Contravention (Health Related) were served by the HSE at 201 sites, and thirteen Prohibition Notices were served which stopped work or practices immediately until the required improvements had been made.
HSE to retain “Heath” Focus
HSE’s Chief Inspector, Heather Bryant confirmed that welcomed the improvements made in reducing accidents at construction sites, but underlined that Health would remain the key focus for the remainder of 2014, Bryant confirmed:
“We recognise the construction sector’s progress in reducing the number of people killed and injured by its activities. But it is clear from these figures that there is an unacceptable toll of ill-health and fatal disease in the industry.
“So, to encourage the industry to treat health issues in the same way as safety, HSE’s inspectors will consolidate the efforts of this initiative throughout the rest of the year by looking at the prevention and control of health risks in construction, alongside their continued assessment of the management of safety risk issues.
Increased Employers Liability Insurance Risk
When you run a construction site employing either direct employees or sub-contractors, you have a duty of care to protect and mitigate the risk of injury or damage to the health of your workforce.
Failure to take adequate precautions can lead to significant legal liabilities for damages, sometimes even years after the work has been carried out in the form of Employers Liability Insurance claims.
There is a significantly increasing trend for claims relating to industrial deafness and vibration injuries such as white finger.
The HSE estimates that approximately one million employees in the UK are currently at risk of developing industrial deafness, with the construction sector identified as a potentially high-risk industry.
As such, and it is vital that appropriate risk assessments and testing are carried out, as well as ensuring that the correct safety equipment is deployed.
Claims under a Construction Insurance policy for Employers Liability losses can drive a significant increase Public and Employers Liability Insurance premiums, not to mention the associated potential reputational damage which may impact a firms’ ability to compete on future tender responses.
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