Working on a construction site is one of industry's most dangerous job
s, despite a raft of legislation which is in place to protect workers.
Last year, 77 workers, 10 of them from Scotland, died in the construction industry in the UK, and over half of these (39), were in the refurbishment sector where the number of deaths rose by 61%. Construction accidents, making construction sites safer
A good indication of the depth of the problem is the fact that a team of experts from the Health and Safety Executive launched a series of un-announced inspections of refurbishment construction sites in Aberdeen in the first week of February 2008.
Of the 11 sites visited, 10 were closed down, mainly due to people working unsafely at height
, or sites being in poor order.
Jim Skilling, an HSE principal inspector, said: "Our inspectors were appalled at the willingness to ignore basic safety precautions.
"We found poor standards across some quite basic things and considered that they were simply accidents waiting to happen, that could have resulted in serious injury or even fatalities.
"We will not tolerate poor standards and will take appropriate enforcement action proactively as well as when an accident occurs."
believe that it is a good sign that the HSE are actively trying to ensure the safety of people working on dangerous construction sites. Unfortunately some employers will only provide a safe place to work after such a body has visited them.
It is the duty of the employer and the controller of a construction site to ensure the safety of the workers and to make sure that the working environment is as safe as possible.
This means that if you are working as a sub-contractor on a site and you have an accident then it would be possible to hold the company in control of the site responsible for your injury provided you can prove negligence. However there is always a duty on your own employer to ensure that the place you are working in is as safe as possible.
In essence there are numerous duties placed on contractors and employers in relation to these sites.
Employers, the self-employed and controlling persons must ensure that they provide a safe place of work and that workers are not in danger when exiting or entering a site. For example care should be taken to try and keep workers and vehicles away from the each other as much as possible. At the very least there should be a walkway designated to workers.
There is also a duty to prevent workers from working at height, or if this is not possible, to ensure that working at height
is as safe as possible. Recent legislation, The Work at Height Regulations 2006, deal with this aspect of working and it is worth noting that they do not just apply to construction sites. They apply to all workplaces including offices and factories.
Essentially the law states that an employer should not ask a person to work at height unless it is necessary and if so then they should do everything they can to make it as safe as possible. This could mean providing harnesses and ensuring that people are properly trained and know how to use the harness.
There should also be a system of checking the equipment being used as a further step towards protecting people when they are working at height. This measure should prevent accidents from happening due to equipment failure through wear and tear or damage such as a missing buckle. Any defects in equipment should be reported immediately to the site management and they should replace or repair the equipment.
There is obviously a duty on people who go to work to follow the instructions of their employer and wear the protective equipment provided to them.
Another major cause of injury is falls from scaffolding. Again this is governed by the Work at Height regulations which have specific requirements in relation to scaffolding
. These include a stipulation that scaffolding is required to be checked and erected by competently trained scaffolders. This means is that in order to comply with the regulations the scaffolding must be put up by a fully trained company and not just a worker on the site.
The person erecting the scaffolding must have had full training and have the relevant qualifications, or the regulations have not been complied with. This is a very important piece of legislation and it is there to ensure that working at height is made as safe as possible.
The scaffolding must also be inspected prior to use. If an accident occurs and fault is found with the scaffolding and it is established that this fault caused the accident, then a breach of the regulations could be found upon. The consequences of someone falling from a height can be devastating and the HSE recognise that as many safeguards should be put in place as possible.
Work areas should be well lits to ensure that accidents are kept to a minimum. It is not acceptable that a worker has to walk around in an area and not be able to see exactly where he is putting his feet. Suitable lighting is required
under the 1996 Construction Regulations and if an accident occurs as a result of bad lighting the employers or controllers may be held responsible for the injuries.
In summary therefore it is important to remember that, as a worker on a construction site, you have to use any protective equipment which is issued to you. Similarly, as an employer, you should ensure that all relevant safety equipment is provided to your employees and that they use it.
Checks on equipment must be made on a regular basis and the appropriate documentation completed. It may take time but it could prevent someone sustaining a serious injury.
The construction regulations have been drafted in such a way as to make construction sites as safe as possible but they must be adhered to if they are to ensure the safety and wellbeing of workers.
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