The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently announced that 40 per cent of working sites failed to properly protect workers. This was found as a result of a month long inspection initiative at almost 2,000 building sites. Nearly half of these were undergoing dangerous practices, yet the HSE claims that many of these issues could easily have been prevented.
Areas of on-site failure
Of the notices that were issued, 35 per cent were for poor asbestos management, failures to control harmful dust, having insufficient welfare operations, and having excess noise and vibrations. One of the more common issues was failing to provide for people working at dangerous heights, with 42 per cent of notices focusing on this area alone.
Philip White, Chief of Construction at the HSE, stated that although most companies get it right, there are still significant amounts who are failing to fulfill their legal obligations toward their employees. He added that, in addition to visibly physical hazards, another issue was health. The effects an environment has on health are overlooked because they cannot be seen. Particular dangers to general health include silica. The effects of this are ‘irreversible’. Yet ensuring that there is protective equipment available and that there are methods of dust suppression will go a long way to protecting employees.
What employers and employees must do to improve site safety
By law, all employees have the right to work in environments whereby risks to health and safety are controlled and monitored. As such, there are numerous legal responsibilities that an employer has.
Firstly employers need to undertake a risk assessment. To do this, they need to think about what might cause harm to people and decide if reasonable steps are being taken to simply control those risks; there is not a requirement to remove risk.
It is then important that they consult with the employees on health and safety. This should constitute health and safety training, as well as making provisions for protective clothing and equipment. In addition, employers should provide them with a copy of the health and safety requirements. Moreover, they need to consult with any potential contractors and self-employed individuals working on the site. All of them have the right to health and safety information.
Should an accident occur, first aid facilities should be at hand, and there should be someone assigned to be in charge of the first aid procedure. Meanwhile, insurance needs to be in place to cover any employees should they get injured. Any major injuries should be reported to the HSE’s Incident Contact Centre (08453009923).
Aside from physical risk, health and welfare needs to be considered. This will include the provision of toilets and hand basins, drinking water, breakout areas, ventilation, a reasonable working temperature (at least 16 degrees), suitable lighting, and a clean environment.
Of course, even when appropriate measures are taken by employers, employees also have individual responsibility to control risk. They should remain cooperative with health and safety training, take reasonable care when undertaking out work duties, and help identify any inadequate precautions.
For specialist advice in relation to health and safety obligations or to make or defend health and safety claims contact contact Peter Gourri today by email PGourri@rollingsons.co.uk or telephone 0207 611 4848.