Several serious injuries on construction sites have been reported recently, thrusting construction site health and safety dangers into the spotlight.
Last month, the BBC reported that a worrying increase in the number of serious injuries and deaths on building sites had prompted health and safety spot checks across the UK.
As construction site employees seek compensation, employers’ liability policies have been increasingly called upon. Causes of claims range from dangerous slips while using the wrong tool, to serious injury caused by a fall.
Recent figures from Simply Business’ claims department reveal that construction workers carrying out alteration and repair work on private properties have had the most injuries.
More than half of all construction deaths take place on these kinds of sites, possibly because less health and safety measures are put in place on jobs thought of as less risky.
A number of health and safety claims have also come in from commercial sites where alteration and repair work is taking place. Domestic heating, ventilation, and plumbing contractors have also recorded a number of accidents.
Most reported injuries in the construction industry are slips, trips, and falls, but serious cuts and fractures have also been quite common in recent months.
Cases like this highlight the importance of a comprehensive employers’ liability policy in the construction industry, but also underline the importance of taking proper safety precautions so that accidents don’t happen and claims aren’t made.
As an employer, you are responsible for the health and safety of your employees. So what can you do to keep your workplace safe?
1. Don’t Touch! Move things without manual handling
Lifting and carrying work causes many non-fatal construction injuries. If you can, use trolleys or trucks to move objects around the site, and try to plan ahead so that materials are delivered close to where they are needed. If manual handling has to happen, make sure that your workers are only working with weights they feel comfortable with.
2. Cherrypick the height work you do
Working at heights can mean significant risks and potentially large compensation claims from injury. The majority of deaths that occur on smaller building projects are caused by falls. If you can, avoid working at height, and complete the job from ground level using extending equipment. If it’s unavoidable, use equipment such as cherry pickers or scaffolding. Have nets or soft landing surfaces in place to limit the impact of a possible fall. Ladders should only be used when the risk is low, and when the work area’s layout means use of other work equipment isn’t possible.
3. Get scaffolding properly sorted
Scaffolding should be designed by a qualified person to make sure it’s strong and stable enough. Make sure it’s put up on a firm surface. It needs to be inspected regularly, ideally weekly, and after alterations or severe weather. It’s important to stop people accessing incomplete scaffolding, both by physically blocking the area and by putting up warning signs. Once scaffolding is complete and being used, you need to make sure all scaffolders are trained properly or are being supervised by someone who is fully qualified. Remember that you need to think about injuries caused to the public as well: keep scaffold boards clear so that there aren’t things that could fall on people passing, and try to carry out scaffolding work during quiet periods if you’re in a public place.
4. Clobber with clout – get the right clothing
Although hard hats are not always compulsory, you do need them if there’s a possible risk of head injury, for instance from falling objects hitting the head. You also need to make sure that your employees are wearing appropriate clothing to protect them against cuts, grazes and splinters, particularly as infection is likely on building sites. Employers also need to provide a basic standard of safety footwear depending on the environment; steel toecaps are recommended for protection against dropped objects.
5. Get everyone involved
Put someone trustworthy in charge of your health and safety approach. This could be you, a member of your workforce, or a professional from outside the company. Carry out a proper risk assessment, and discuss health and safety openly and productively with your employees. Your workers should understand the risks, and are also best placed to tell you about anything that they think has been forgotten or that needs improving. Once you have a plan, make sure that everyone knows it. You need to produce a written health and safety policy that includes the procedure for particular situations and the name of the appointed first aider. Post this in a prominent place like the site hut.
There are also a few little things you can do to help keep your employees safe:
- Be a stickler for a neat and tidy premises, making sure everyone gets into the habit of keeping the floor free of tools, materials and rubbish.
- Keep equipment up to date and make sure everyone is clear about which tools should be used for which jobs.
- Encourage an environment of safety-consciousness and risk awareness from the top
These are just suggestions for keeping workplaces safe. As an employer you should always check legislation and draw up a proper health and safety plan specific to your workplace and employees.