HSE investigation shows flaws within the construction industry
Construction Workers Still at Risk
A recent report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has highlighted that serious health and safety risks in the construction sector are still a very immediate cause for concern.
The investigation ran over the course of two weeks in which hundreds of construction sites were investigated. The report notes that the majority of sites did not raise a cause for concern however one in every six sites was placed under a more intense investigation – where improvements were demanded and in some cases the construction site was closed completely until safety improvements were made.
The investigation also shines a light on the more non-immediate but just as significant health risks, such as respiratory risks from dusts containing silica materials and exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint, manual handling, noise and vibration.
It was also noted in the report that on 13 occasions work had to be stopped completely due to the hazards that these sites presented. In the investigation over 107 Improvement Notices were served to various construction sites and a total of 239 health-related Notices of Contravention were served at a total of 201 sites.
With modern practices in the construction industry now being heavily scrutinised regarding health and safety, it does raise the issue that some construction workers are still being put at serious risk during their day-to-day work. Overall these stats represent that health and safety in the workplace is still an on-going issue.
How They are at Risk
Construction work will always pose certain potential risks as it involves manual work and the use of hazardous tools, however with the proper protection and training these incidents should be eventually non-existent.
In the report it notes several key areas where the safety of the workers was in jeopardy.
- Exposure to Hazardous substances – Hazardous substances include cement, dust and lead paint. These substances can cause a number of issues if not handled properly as they affect the skin and lungs.
- Strain Injuries – Manual Handling can cause issues to employees with back problems from lifting or repetitive strain injuries from repeating the same task in an unnatural position.
- Hearing loss from Noise exposure – In the construction industry, workers are surrounded by heavy and light machinery; this generates excessive noise levels which if the employee is surrounded by, on a continuous basis will eventually lead to hearing loss issues such as tinnitus.
- Nerve Damage – Vibration work covers the use of vibratory tools, especially hand-held tools such as pneumatic drills. This type of work if left unprotected can lead to Vibration White Finger (VWF) due to the damage of the hands.
- Respiratory risks – Similar to hazardous substances, respiratory risks are caused by exposure to certain substances such as cement and cement dust. This can lead to lung disease in later life and in extreme cases mesothelioma if the worker has been exposed to asbestos.
What to do Next?
The chief inspector of the HSE, Heather Bryant has commented on the report with the following
“So, to encourage the industry to treat health issues in the same way as safety, HSE’s inspectors will consolidate the efforts of this initiative throughout the rest of the year by looking at the prevention and control of health risks in construction, alongside their continued assessment of the management of safety risk issues.”
The HSE is working hard to prevent these kind of incidents happening, however it is up to the employer to regulate their construction site and ensure the safety of its workers. In nearly all incidents involving construction workers it is a lack of training, protection and awareness given to employees, that leads to the types of injuries noted above.
The promotion of these initiatives across the construction sector not only in site management but also in senior management are hugely beneficial and by bringing these issues to the forefront of the construction industry, it reinforces the point that employer’s need to meet the maximum requirements of HSE.
If you or someone you knows has suffered ill health or injury as a result of work in the construction industry you may be entitled to compensation.
If you would like to find out more information about construction based injuries or condition and how we can help you to get the compensation you deserve, contact us on 0800 001 4496 for a free initial consultation where we will explain the options available to you.
 “Construction inspections find sites failing to prevent health risks” HSE http://press.hse.gov.uk/2014/construction-inspections-find-sites-failing-to-prevent-health-risks/?eban=govdel-lung-disease&cr=22-Jul-2014