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Construction in the UK.

Construction worker on a platformThe construction industry in the UK is a large and significant employer.

Currently between 2 and 3 million people are engaged in the industry, including housing, utility works, demolition, shop fitting, repair and maintenance, roofing, electrical, plumbing, highways, shop fitting, refurbishment, as well as construction of domestic and commercial properties.

There are approximately 200,000 companies, with the vast majority employing less than 10 people, yet the figures from accident, illnesses and deaths are still staggering compared to other British industries.

On average 50 workers a year will die in a construction related accident. That’s 1 worker every week who will leave home in the morning never to return to their family.

Over 250,000 workers will suffer serious accidents every year, some of them life changing. All of them costly in one way or another.

Thousands of workers will become ill and die every year from breathing in hazardous substances such as construction dust containing harmful silica particulates that cause respiratory diseases.

Over four thousand workers are still dying each year from asbestos related lung diseases. (Maintenance workers forming the largest group. Plumbers, electricians, shop-fitters, joiners etc.)

The most common cause of time off work resulting in lost pay and cost to the employer is from injuries caused by slips, trips, falls and manual handling injuries.

Muscular skeletal injuries are a major cause of lost time while the vast majority of fall from height injuries are actually caused by falls below head height!

 

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We all have a responsibility

 We all have our part to play in ensuring that we do not subject ourselves or others to injury or ill health through our acts and omissions at work, and it’s not just the sole responsibility of the employer to put controls and measures into place.
 
 
As employees we have a duty to act in such a way that is safe and responsible, and this is what we sign up to when accepting a job from an employer.
 
 
But occupational health and safety doesn’t just apply to the construction industry. It’s relevant to all areas of industry, business and commerce, whether it be a care home, a retail outlet, a technology company, transport, a low risk office or a high risk factory environment.Image of construction machinery
 
 
Although a requirement by law, a robust approach to good health and safety can be hindered by influencing factors such as pressure of production, targets, financial constraints or economic downturns.
 
 
This in turn can lead to decisions being made to reduce maintenance on machinery, or reduce safety training, or developing safe systems of work for example.
 
 
However, there are some very powerful incentives to achieve and maintain high standards of health and safety and these are Moral, Legal and Financial reasons.

 

The argument for good health and safety

 Moral. We all have a moral duty to ensure that when somebody leaves home for their place of work, they return at the end of the day in at least the same physical, health and mental condition as when they started the day. This is everybody’s right and nobody should go to work expecting or accepting that they might be injured, suffer illness or be killed.
 
 
Legal. Employers have a legal duty to provide safe systems of work, and a safe place of work. This is backed up by our legal system and can be punishable by punitive fines and jail sentences. Again, it also applies to employees to act in a safe and responsible way.
 
 
Financial. There are financial incentives for employers to provide a robust health and safety culture. These can be financial loss caused by accidents, downtime, loss of custom or bad press.
 
 
However, there are also financial positives through dealing exclusively with like minded customers who actively seek out other companies that meet their high standards.

 

Who is responsible?

Corporate Responsibility is a buzz phrase that can be easily banded about, but broadly speaking it refers to the way in which organisations manage their core business by adding social, economic and environmental value to produce a sustainable and positive impact on the business and society.
 
 
Man handling dangerous substancesThe HSE also play their part in encouraging corporate responsibility so that risks are properly managed and controlled, and encourage organisations to:
 
Improve health and safety management systems, thereby reducing ill health and injuries.
Demonstrate the importance of a robust health and safety policy at board level so that it can be driven from the top, down through the organisation.
Report publicly on health and safety issues within the organisation and be accountable.
 
It is the belief of the HSE that having effective management of health and safety can lead to:
 
Greater employee well-being.
A greater role in enhancing an organisation’s reputation and staff quality levels.
Will be financially beneficial to the business.We all have a role to play in effective health and safety, and for those actively involved in promoting safe working practices it can be a rewarding, interesting and varied role.
 
Please visit this site often where you will find a growing number of articles, resources, advice and opinion.
 
Whether you are a seasoned health and safety professional, or just getting started, we value your opinions and input so please feel free to comment on any of the posts