The importance of Health and Safety in Construction
There is a great emphasis on the importance of health and safety in construction. Many regulations are put in place to ensure construction work can be completed as safely as possible. Health and safety takes such a primary focus in construction, not only to protect the workforce, but also to apply with the law. This article is going to discuss why health and safety is so important and methods you can enforce to keep construction safe.
Why is health and safety important in construction?
The Health and Safety Risks
Firstly, there are a huge number of health and safety risks that can be present on a construction site.
To name a few…
- Working at heights
- Operating machinery
- Lifting heavy materials and objects
- Inhalation of dust
- Other serious health issues
There can be lots of materials used within a project that can have a negative effect on our health. Dermatitis is common with construction workers due to dust and chemicals. Injuries are also common if the rules and regulations are not followed appropriately. It is vital that all members of staff are trained in health and safety and understand the expectations of what they must do. A lack of training opens up opportunities for both risk and harm to all involved.
A lack of knowledge about health and safety procedures can mean that someone’s life is changed forever. Not following the appropriate precautions can cause risk of injury, or in some cases, death. There is also a big risk to the construction company being involved in a severe legal claim if there is negligence on their part. This alone highlights the importance of health and safety in construction.
Ensuring Health and Safety
It is a large part of a construction managers role to ensure that a project runs without risks. They are responsible for ensuring that all regulations are met and that all employees wear the appropriate protective clothing. This is especially important for those in site supervisory roles.
Health and safety is not only important for site workers. It is also important for those who may come into contact with the site. If they are not adequately protected then this could lead to large claims against the construction company.
The impact of health and safety legislation in construction
There is a range of different rules and regulations that are legally binding on construction workers and employers. These regulations are in place to ensure that all potential risks can be minimised. Furthermore, it outlines the actions that must be taken, should any risks occur, such as RIDDOR.
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) is one of the main regulations that covers managing health, safety and welfare in construction projects. Depending on an individuals role, this regulation outlines their specific responsibilities to ensure that they adhere to health and safety. Some examples are as follows:
Designers involved in a construction project should control, eliminate or reduce foreseeable risks during building, maintenance or after the building is complete.
Contractors must plan, monitor and control construction work. This is so that it can be carried out without risks.
In addition to the responsibilities of individual roles, the regulation sets out the general health and safety requirements throughout the construction site. Some of these include (not a conclusive list):
- Place of construction work
- Stability of structures
- Demolition and explosives
- Inspection reports
- Emergency procedures
- Emergency exits
Other Relevant Regulations
One of the relevant regulations is the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. It is a requirement under this regulation for a risk assessment to be undertaken to measure the level of asbestos exposure. Asbestos can cause a range of negative implications on the body. For example, it can cause asbestosis, cancer of the lungs and more. This regulation ensures that asbestos levels are not dangerous and to reduce contact as much as possible.
Secondly, the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 ensures that the risk of back injuries from powerful construction tools is minimised. These machines can cause full body vibrations damaging workers backs.
Additionally, the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 was created to ensure the safety of workers handling heavy materials and objects. This regulation makes it a legal requirement for employers to avoid the need to handle materials and objects which would be hazardous as far as reasonably practicable. Risks of handling objects and materials include injuries to the back. Employees must follow the practices suggested by the employer to reduce the risk as much as possible.
There are many more relevant laws and regulations which highlight the importance of health and safety in construction. Trained construction workers should be familiar with these regulations and follow them to avoid injuries or claims towards companies.
Responding to health and safety in construction
One of the ways that the industry responds to the importance of health and safety in construction is by conducting regular risk assessments. It is a legal requirement under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Site managers, project managers or health and safety personnel usually undertake risk assessments. Health and safety risk assessments should identify risks and evaluate those risks. Following identification, control measures should be put in place to minimise these risks as much as reasonably possible. Efforts should be made to minimise risks even when that risk is low.
Furthermore, risk assessments should be conducted throughout the project. For example, if the workers start using different machinery, then an assessment should be done to ensure that no new risks arise without controls. Additionally, if there are any accidents during work, a full assessment of risk will be undertaken to ensure it does not happen again.
Implementation of Protective Gear
Another method of ensuring health and safety in construction is the implementation of protective gear. Without many of these protective aids, construction work can be very hazardous. Therefore, wearing many of the below items is a legal requirement for many construction sites.
A very important item of clothing that construction workers should wear, especially in cloudy weather, at night or when working in potentially dangerous areas, is reflective clothing. This ensures workplace visibility. Construction workers are able to see one another clearly. This avoids the risk of materials falling on workers, collision with vehicles, and much more. In addition, reflective clothing ensures that workers are visible by pedestrians or cars. For construction workers who work on the roads, this is essential.
As well as reflective gear, hard hats are vital to protect workers heads from falling objects. It is not uncommon when building structures for materials to fall. It is also essential to protect from bumps when working in small spaces.
Steel toecap boots
Whilst working on site a construction worker will handle or work with multiple heavy objects. There is every likelihood that such items can drop and cause harm to those around it. To avoid heavy equipment falling onto feet and potentially breaking bones, steel cap footwear is very useful.
A serious complication of loud machinery on construction sites is the potential to cause hearing loss without appropriate protection. Therefore, those working with diggers and drills as well as other machinery must wear ear protection.
Gloves and other skin protection
Gloves are important when coming into contact with hazardous chemicals as well as help to protect hands from cuts and grazes. Skin protection is essential to stop conditions such as eczema and rashes from dust and other particles.
Respiratory Protective Equipment
When working with dusty materials or mixing powders for things such as concrete and grout, masks are essential. Without masks breathing in dust and gases can be very harmful. Lung disease was common before masks became an essential protective measure in construction.
Finally, eye protection is very important. There are multiple hazards that can affect your eyes whilst on site. Materials could enter the eye such as dust or chemicals. Furthermore, chippings or objects could enter eyes and if serious, could cause blindness. Eye protection such as goggles is ideal for use.
First aid kit
It is important to note that on top of all health and safety equipment available for construction workers, a first aid kit must be available at all times. Failure to comply with the provision of a first aid kit can mean devastating results for both employees and employers.
Studying health and safety in construction
Learning why health and safety is important in construction will be an eye opener. Health and safety rules and regulations are so prevalent due to the high risk of injury or illness on site. Without adequate training, the site would not be safe to work on.
For those who are thinking about going into construction or are working towards it, courses in health and safety are important. Additionally, many businesses that you work for require you to have a certain level of training in this area.
Furthermore, it is likely that you will become more employable if you have a number of health and safety certificates. This shows dedication and understanding of the importance of occupational health and safety.
The importance of health and safety in construction
Throughout this article we have touched on just how important it is to uphold health standards within the construction industry. Failure to do so can mean potential harm, or worse, to both staff, the public and the company. Compliance to procedures, expectations and rules and regulations is a must. Construction safety training is essential to all those involved in a project. Therefore, enrolling on a health and safety in construction course is vital for anyone looking to work in the industry. Here, at the College of Contract Management, we understand the importance of a safe working environment. If you are looking to work in construction, or already work in construction but are looking to increase your understanding of occupational safety, we strongly suggest studying with us.