Introduction. health risks with regards to the substances used,

Introduction.

 

Health and safety in the construction industry has taken a
sharp turn for the better since the mid 1970’s, it has encompassed government
legislation and has become a massive part in the construction industry.
Government legislation comes mainly in the form of the Health and Safety at
Work act 1974, but also includes regulations including, but not limited to:
RIDDOR (Reporting of Incidents, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences
Regulations), COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health), and PUWER
(Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations). These regulations are built
on the legal framework of the Health and Safety at Work act, referring to it
within the specifications and building on certain aspects that aren’t covered
in detail within the Health and Safety at Work act.

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RIDDOR, COSHH and PUWER.

RIDDOR is the regulations that govern how and when accidents
and dangerous occurrences are reported and also governs the reporting of work
related illnesses and diseases. These are only reportable to the RIDDOR
database if the accident, dangerous occurrence or illness is related to work
activities and is applicable to both workers and non-workers. (HSE, 2013).
COSHH is the regulations that indicate what precautions must be taken when
working with substances that could cause injury or danger to workers and non-workers.
This requires employers and employees to evaluate health risks with regards to
the substances used, ensure that these are properly contained and prevented
from causing harm to health. It also involves planning for emergencies in which
substances have caused harm to health. (HSE, 2012). PUWER governs the use of
equipment in the workplace, including plant equipment, handheld tools and
factory machinery. These regulations apply to equipment used by both employed
and self-employed people, however does not apply to equipment made available
for use by the general public, for example a garage forecourt carwash would not
be covered under the PUWER Regulations. (HSE, 2013).

 

CDM Regulations.

Health and safety has now become an integrated part of the
construction industry. It has done this by the use of the CDM (Construction
Design and Management) Regulations. From 1985 to the present day over 2,800
people have died from injuries while working within the construction industry,
and it is estimated that 4,000 people die each year from asbestos related
diseases. These statistics, along with EU directive, caused a huge push with
regards to health and safety, and as a result the CDM regulations were
introduced in 1995, working alongside the Health and Safety at Work act, to
give additional direction with regards to health and safety and roles and
responsibilities of duty holders within the construction industry. (Griffiths,
O et al, 2011 p. 6).

The CDM regulations were heavily revised in 2007 to give
more guidance with regards to project team roles and to improve clarity with
regards to what the regulations covered. Alongside the 2007 revision, the
Approved Code of Practice was introduced to work with the CDM in improving the
management and practical aspects of working within the construction industry,
these include the earlier mentioned RIDDOR, COSHH and PUWER. The CDM
regulations have now since been revised in 2015.

The CDM regulations also require that all construction
projects that last longer than 30 working days, and have over 20 workers
involved simultaneously, or have more than 500 man days on the entire project
need to be notified to the HSE by the use of an F10 form. This is a form which
states the address of the construction work, the expected duration, the type of
work being carried out, contact details of all parties involved and the contact
details of the local authority of which the construction project is situated,
this ensures that the HSE is aware of all projects and possible risks or
hazards applicable to each project. (Designing buildings WIKI, 2017) CDM
regulations also require that every construction project produces a
Construction Phase Plan, this is a plan which sets out the plan for the entire
construction project. The phase plan needs to include, start and finish dates,
details of responsible parties, details of service and utilities connections,
stages of the project, details from the property (asbestos presence or environmental
issues). The phase plan also needs to introduce the site rules and the health
and safety information along with management details and who will be
responsible for making key decisions on site. “The plan should not contain every
conceivable health and safety procedure, but only those applicable to the
site”. (Perry, P, 2015 p. 141).

 

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The Health and Safety at Work act sets the benchmark for
health and safety in the work environment, however now most companies sometimes
require that its employees and working areas have a standard well above the
minimum requirements from the Health and Safety at Work act. The HASAWA was
introduced in 1974 by HM government as an initiative to improve the terrible
statistics regarding accidents, injuries and fatalities in the work place. It
involves legislation regarding employer’s and employee’s requirements, including
the health, safety and welfare at work of employees, people who visit or access
the site and also the health and safety of members of the public/neighbours of
the site that are affected by working activities.

However in 2004/2005, the fatal injury statistics for
working in construction was still relatively high compared to the rest of the
industries in the UK. In 2004/2005 there was a ratio of 3.4 fatalities for
every 100,000 workers in the construction industry (compared to the industrial average
of 0.8 fatalities for every 100,000 workers). (Hughes, P, 2011, p. 21). The
push for more recognition and action with regards to health and safety in the
construction industry since then has had a dramatic influence on these figures.

 

The fatal injuries statistics provided by the HSE for 2017
states that the number of fatalities in the construction industry, per 100,000
workers has dropped from 3.4 in 2004/2005 to 1.37 in 2017. These statistics
show that more than half the number of fatalities occurred in 2017, as opposed
to 2004/2005. (HSE, 2017). The HSE reports that each year (based on findings
from 2014 to 2017) 80,000 people are injured or encounter work related
illnesses at work each year, the majorities of these are musculoskeletal
disorders, and stress/depression and anxiety issues. (HSE, 2017).

 

Health & Safety and its integration with BIM

The construction industry is rapidly changing with regards
to the way it manages, designs and delivers projects, due to a process called
Building Information Modelling (BIM). Building information modelling is a
collaborative way of working that assists in all stages of the buildings
lifecycle, from conception to handover and in-use. It uses 3D modelling to
visualise and aid management of logistics and workforces so as to ensure the
project runs smoothly and efficiently. BIM is rapidly changing and developing
new ways that it is implemented in the construction process, and it is
currently doing this in the way that it helps the users to manage health and
safety. The use of 3D models helps designers and contractors to virtually walk
through the building on pieces of software such as Revit and Tekla, and
therefore identify hazards and risk in particular areas and stages of the
buildings.

Clash detection software is also very useful in the
implementation of health and safety on site. Clash detection is the process of
checking elements of a building against other elements (e.g. a structural steel
beam and electric wire cable trunking) and identifying any areas that the
building materials would clash when they are constructed. This is useful for
health and safety as this will reduce the amount of remedial work that would be
needed (e.g. drilling, manual handling, working at height and with electrical
components) as they would be correctly constructed first time. BIM will also
help potential Facilities Managers, as it uses the process of AIM (Asset
Information Modelling) to store information and models relating to elements in
the building, which Facilities Managers can then access and make arrangements
for potentially hazardous working activities within the building (e.g. work
relating to hazardous substances or high electrical voltage). (Health and
Safety at work, 2016).

 

 

The role of Communication in Health and Safety

Communication is essential to maintaining a high standard of
health and safety around the construction industry, as multiple teams can be
working at different areas and stages of the project. Communication in the form
of meetings and risk assessments are the most commonly used within health and
safety preparations, and these form the basis of the precautions needed for the
health and safety standards that are required by HSE. Risk assessments are an
analysis of potential risks that are associated with the particular work that
is being done, these are a legal requirement for all companies (for companies
with less than 5 employees risk assessments are not required to be written
down). Risk assessments also need to identify reasonable precautions and
countermeasures to ensure that the least amount of risk is encountered with
regards to the severity of the risk according to the assessment matrix
(pictured below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Just get
PMP, 2012)

 

The matrix assesses the level of risk, and works by
combining the probability of an incident happening, and the impact or severity
of the injury/incident, to give a level of risk from Low to Medium to High. For
example, an office worker is at risk of getting a finger cut while handling
paper, the probability of this happening is fairly low, and the severity is
very low (or trivial), meaning that the risk of this activity is rated low.
However if a road worker needs to cross a motorway on a regular basis, the
likelihood of an incident (e.g. getting struck by a car) is fairly high, and
the severity of injuries obtainable or a fatality is very high, this means that
the risk of this activity is very high, and precautions and/or changes to the
activity need to be made before any activity of this sort is to take place.

 

Conclusion

The changes in health and safety since the implementation of
the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the CDM Regulations (1995, 2007
& 2015) have dramatically improved the ethos and image of the construction
industry, as well as reduce the number of fatalities and injuries by the use of
safe working practices and approved codes of practice. However this may not be
the only reason that statistics and image have improved with regards to health
and safety, as there could be a number of other factors that have impacted
figures. The amount of training in health and safety has greatly increased in
recent years, and the penalties that arise due to a lack of health and safety
precautions are now very high. According to HSE in a report detailing
prosecutions for negligence of Health and Safety at work there was a combined
total of over £32 million worth of fines were issued due to a lack of health
and safety precautions, which caused a breach in health and safety and in many
cases injuries were sustained. The average fine in the construction industry in
2016 was £74,231 and this figure moves up to £409,729 in the utilities
industry. (Airnite, 2017).

Due to this fact, many employers are now putting more
funding, training and more emphasis on complying with health and safety in the
workplace. On average companies employing over 5000 employees spent over
£920,000 on ensuring that they are compliant with health and safety. (Airnite,
2017). This money will involve securing adequate and safe equipment along with
PPE for employees, developing risk assessments, training employees in health
and safety and going over and above standard health and safety regulations.
These main drivers for health and safety, along with the 1974 Health and Safety
at Work act, CDM regulations and Approved Code of Practice regulations need to
be kept foremost in the minds of the construction industry leaders, and these
need to be continuously updated and revised, to keep up with the fast paced
change that other industries are implementing. These need to be upheld to
maintain the decline of accidents and fatalities in the work place which has
taken place since the implementation of the Health and Safety at Work Act and
the CDM Regulations introduction.

Health and safety needs to be implemented in everything we
do, so that it is an ingrained and integral piece of every aspect of the
working industry, meaning that newer generations of workers understand the
requirements of health and safety better from the start of their working
careers while continuing to implement health and safety throughout their
working lives. The current situation of health and safety in the construction
industry is improving and it currently working to a very high standard of
health and safety, and this is helped by the continuous revisions of health and
safety legislation and Approved Codes of Practice. However there will still be
issues within smaller companies with regards to maintaining a high standard of
health and safety, as many smaller companies and self-employed workers cannot
afford to educate themselves and their employees in health and safety, and many
do not have the funds or capabilities to maintain high standards of health and
safety in the workplace.