Any workplace has an element of risk, so every employer is legally responsible for identifying and managing any potential hazards within the work environment. Having said this all employees are responsible for their own safety and that of their colleagues. Everyone should be encouraged to report and record incidents, accidents and near misses in order that appropriate action can be taken to reduce the risk of it reoccurring.
The use of tools and machinery, handling of hazardous chemicals or working at height are three examples of higher risk activities that may be part of a work environment. In a typical office environment, these would not be an issue, so the risk of an incident is low, however in an environed such as a construction site, the risk is far higher.
Whilst a construction site remains a high risk work environment, improvements to health and safety has seen the number and rate of injury on UK building sites steadily decline over the past 40 years. Having said that, data produced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggest that working conditions still pose the greatest threat to employees in the construction industry.
Around 5% of the UK population is currently employed in construction and civil engineering, yet the industry accounts for 31% of fatal injuries in the workplace and 10% of reported major injuries. In the past year there were 76,000 cases of work related ill health from construction employees and this is said to come at a cost to society of £1.1billion.
The current Construction Design Management (CDM) Regulations were introduced in 2007 and they have helped to improve site safety. However, these regulations have been under review and a revised version will take effect from 6th April 2015. The revisions aim to ensure more companies fully embrace the requirements, rather than seeing CDM as another piece of paperwork to complete.
CDM Regulations 2015 will follow a simplified structure in a bid to encourage engagement throughout the industry, but specifically from smaller businesses. Any individual with responsibility for CDM will need to get up to speed with the revisions and implement the requirements within the workplace.
Another factor that has reduced the risks associated with working on a construction site is the introduction of the Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS). This scheme is designed for site managers and others with responsibility for planning, organising, monitoring, controlling and administering staff.
SMSTS helps those responsible to build a clear understanding of health and safety legislation, but aims to really clarify the benefits of making safe working a priority on any project. It addresses how managers can maintain optimum productivity by fulfilling risk assessments, introducing appropriate control measures and by encouraging open communication within the team.
With tight deadlines, supply chain issues and demanding clients, it is understandable that health and safety can get pushed aside, so it becomes a lesser priority, however, injury, illness and fatalities affect everyone on site. The injury or death of one member of a team can have a negative impact on the productivity, morale and well-being of others. Dealing with the aftermath will take up far more time, effort and cost than implementing good health and safety practices before something goes wrong.
Gaining a thorough understanding of CDM, SMSTS and HSE Regulations is far from a tick box exercise. The result of measures such as these is a greatly reduced risk to all employees as well as improved standards and productivity.
If you would like further information on SMSTS, visit: https://heffronsafety.com/smsts/. Heffron Safety offer courses at locations in and around London. For those people who have previously completed SMSTS, we also provide refresher training to help bring your knowledge up to speed.