Despite the construction industry representing only 6 % of the UK workforce, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) it accounts for circa 25 % of fatalities in the workplace.
In 2014/15 a reported 35 deaths and over 69,000 cases of injury or ill-health emanated from the construction industry. Many of these incidents will result in either employer's liability or public liability insurance claims under a Construction Insurance policy.
Annual HSE Initiative
Due to the disproportionate number of deaths, the HSE conducts an annual construction refurbishment initiative. During this period each year, inspectors visit construction sites that are working on refurbishment projects to identify potential risks of injury or other safety hazards.
In the 2014 HSE campaign, a staggering 35 per cent of all enforcement notices that the HSE served were for health and safety violations.
Common Safety Issues
The most common violations typically involve hazards in respect of:
- Work at height
- Site organisation
- Welfare facility hazards such as toilets and washing facilities as well as changing, eating or rest areas
- Exposure to carcinogens, such as silica and asbestos
- Manual handling, noise and vibration
- Exposure to other hazardous substances
Risk Management is Critical
Constructions firms cannot rely on the HSE inspections to highlight risk areas, failure to implement a structured risk management framework puts your business at risk of prosecution and Construction Insurance Liability claims.
Shopfitting Firm Learns from Mistakes
Newman Scott, a national shopfitting contractor, was found guilty of unsafe working at height practices in 2013, suffering prosecution and a fine of £9,599.
In response, the company conducted a thorough investigation to uncover the root cause of the incident. This examination led to a complete change in the company’s health and safety culture - The changes are typical to construction firms could benefit many firms.
The following changes were implemented to improve health and safety at Newman Scott:
- Increased communication across all employee levels and throughout the construction project
- Conducted regular health and safety training
- Conducted periodic training on proper equipment and machine use
- Submitted employees to regular competency checks
- Provided more ownership of health and safety to employees, such as give them the freedom to say ‘no’ to any client or company request that they feel unsafe completing
Newman Scott Managing Director John Graham admitted that he cannot say there will be no issues in the future: “We live in an imperfect world and mistakes happen,” he says. But despite the fines and prosecution, he has no regrets. “The whole process has cost the company in excess of £50,000. We probably should have spent that before,” Graham added, “But I don’t regret it. I’d much rather spend it on a tough learning experience than on lawyers.”
Not all of these health and safety improvements will apply to your firm, but they do provide a basis in which to discuss your company’s health and safety culture.
For more information on the HSE campaign along with guidance and best practices, visit.
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