Zurich head of construction shares his top tips for improving health and safety.
Health and safety is a constant concern for construction businesses.
Ensuring employees remain safe on site while keeping pace with changing regulation is an ongoing challenge – particularly for small businesses with limited resources.
What are the risks?
Construction businesses face many types of health and safety risks due to the environments in which they work and the type of work they do.
These risks can be varied, from slips, trips and falls to manual handling injuries, dust exposure and the chance that workers may fall from height.
Small firms often don’t have the same legal expertise, emergency plans or strictly applied health and safety guidelines that their larger counterparts have.
“More advice and support is needed, ensuring businesses feel more confident in implementing health and safety policies”
By not introducing such plans or testing health and safety strategies, construction business owners may leave themselves open to a number of risks, including enforcement action, prosecution, higher insurance premiums and workplace injuries.
Research recently carried out by Zurich revealed that 58 per cent of SME decision-makers in the construction industry view health and safety rules as one of the top three challenges their business faces at the moment.
This suggests more advice and support is needed to overcome this challenge, ensuring businesses feel more confident in implementing health and safety policies.
As the economy grows, risk increases
As the construction industry improves in line with the economy, small businesses will expand and need to recruit more workers.
Health and Safety Executive chief inspector of construction Helen Bryant told Construction News in April that with this growth, there will “definitely be a risk that injuries and fatalities will increase”.
This makes it a key time for businesses to address any health and safety issues they may have and to ensure the correct procedures are in place.
How do you mitigate those risks?
With injuries and ill health costing Great Britain more than £6bn a year, according to HSE statistics, it is important these risks are managed.
Here are a few simple steps that construction business owners can take to minimise risk and ensure their firm meets official requirements:
Regularly test your firm’s H&S strategy
As part of overall risk assessment of your business it is important to take time out to think about the risks you and your employees face at work and put a plan in place to mitigate these hazards.
The adoption of working practices and H&S measures that represent ‘good practice’ in the construction industry will assist in defending civil law claims.
You should also make sure to test strategies and H&S devices on a weekly basis – fire alarms and machinery maintenance, for example. Further regulations can be found on the HSE’s website.
Repair faulty equipment
Manual handling injuries from working with heavy, difficult materials and equipment are one of the most common causes of injuries on construction sites.
The risk only increases when this equipment isn’t properly maintained, leaving you the employer open to legal action.
Keep sites tidy and ensure employees wear protective clothing
It may seem simple but the main cause of injuries on construction sites is related to slips and falls.
If a site is well maintained it will ensure construction workers don’t incur unnecessary injuries from poor conditions.
As an employer it is also your responsibility to make sure employees are adequately protected. Take note of HSE regulations and provide workers with the necessary clothing.
Record and report accidents
If a work-related accident occurs and is fatal or causes major injury, ensure the accident is logged and reported immediately. Use this risk assessment template to start you off.
Engage employees in the discussion
Make sure employees are aware of any health and safety regulations. Not only will this ensure employees look out for colleagues, it will also encourage employees to tackle any hazards they may come across.
Small construction businesses need to prepare for a period of adjustment and change as health and safety reforms play out over the next three or four years.
The fact the HSE now recovers fee for intervention (FFI) costs from one in three sites if a ‘material breach’ is found suggests there is an even greater need for business owners to face up to the challenge regulations pose and ensure their health and safety policies stand up to scrutiny.
For more information please visit the HSE’s website.
Stewart Walker is head of construction at Zurich