How do we build a safety culture for construction workers?

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Next time you’re walking around a UK city, look up and marvel at the buildings you see. Take time to appreciate the immense skill that went into designing and building these steel, glass and concrete structures. Then think about the lives that may have been lost in the process.

Modern economies need modern infrastructure – but, all too often, it comes at a dreadful human cost. More than 760 construction workers died on British building sites between 2001 and 2014. That’s almost double the number of British soldiers (448) killed in action in Afghanistan over the same period, as the Guardian reported.

The latest HSE statistics reveal the grim toll for construction workers in 2017 alone was 38 fatal accidents and a further 58,000 non-fatal injuries. This is in line with the previous five years, which saw 39 workers killed on average each year. As a result, the construction sector remains the third most dangerous, in terms of deaths per employee, behind Agriculture and Waste Water Management.

The UK construction industry has made huge improvements to the wellbeing of workers since the introduction of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. However, there is still more that site managers and company bosses can do to protect their colleagues. Acting on known risks would be a good start.

Accidents are preventable

Adrian Rascarache was just 36 when he suffered horrific ‘life-changing’ injuries to his pelvis in an avoidable accident. He’d been working on the track at Whitechapel Station in London when a maintenance vehicle crushed him against the edge of the platform. The investigation found there was no ‘safe system of work’ in use, despite the known risk of letting workers walk along the track in front of the machine.

As the Chief Inspector of Railways, Ian Prosser, said after the recent court case, “corners were cut as a response to perceived time pressure.” Prosecutors also said that workers had not received the necessary safety briefing at the start of the shift. The companies involved, London Underground and Balfour Beatty Rail Limited, received fines totalling £433,000.

What can you do to make your construction site safer?

Getting the basics right is the first step. That means ensuring all workers receive relevant, frequent training, follow all procedures and wear appropriate safety clothing. It requires site managers and supervisors to conduct thorough risk assessments before letting work start – and throughout the project.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 also stress that managers should allocate “sufficient time and other resources” to the project. We believe this should include knowing where everyone is at all times, particularly on large, complex construction sites. That’s why we’ve developed our guardian portal, to help teams track colleagues and alert them if a lone worker gets into difficulty.

Discover more about the Safepoint lone worker solution by starting your 30-day free trial today or registering for updates.

The Safepoint TeamComment