The UK’s Health and Safety Executive has shut down several construction sites. They found them flouting basic health and safety practices during a month-long inspection drive. Twenty-nine sites in the North West of England alone were issued with the Prohibition Order during the campaign. It comes amid concerns employees working at height are not being protected against the risk of injury.
The UK’s construction workers’ union is UCATT. They reported that over a fifth of all members believe their employers do not take their health and safety seriously. Sixty percent of the survey’s respondents are worried their work will leave them exposed to asbestos. Over thirty-seven percent of UCATT members have been involved in an industrial accident in the last twelve months.
These shocking figures leave the UK’s construction industry looking grim at best. But there are problems around the world when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of workers on building sites. CBC in Canada reports a man fell from a construction site in St. John’s. On Staten Island, a worker died when a concrete upper floor fell down on him. Negligence on the part of the employer has again been suggested by the press.
Things may appear to be worsening for construction workers. But there are initiatives to help improve awareness for employers and the public. In Horsham, the A24 infrastructure project team worked with local schools. This helped raise awareness of site safety through an artwork competition. There are lots of health and safety firms offering expertise and advice. Companies like Manchester Safety provide a range of safety equipment for employers and workers.
The HSE in the UK feels that there is a lack of planning within project management. It could be contributing to the higher risks workers face. In particular, working at height requires careful planning and consideration. Safety equipment has never been more abundant, but some employers fail to provide stocks of gear for workers. Some demand the workers provide the equipment, but do not enforce action if this is not done. Damage to the body from exposure to industrial materials and dust is irreversible. These particles are common on many building sites.
For all construction workers, having a job and being paid are the priority in these tougher times. However, with this line of work being one of the most dangerous to enter, health and safety must be paramount. Deaths occur every year that are investigated and reported as preventable. Former construction workers continue to live in fear of asbestosis. Other industrial related diseases can also affect them long after they retire.
For employers and companies that manage building projects, there are serious penalties for failing to look after the workforce. Fines and even prison sentences can be issued for serious breaches of legal and regulated health and safety requirements. Accidents do happen, despite everyone’s best efforts, but the risk can be dramatically reduced if guidelines are closely followed. It is the companies who blatantly flout these requirements that will be shut down by the HSE, for the sake of the public and workers safety.