• 5 September 2014

How health and safety in construction can save you money

Construction can be a hazardous business with recent statistics revealing it is one of the most dangerous industries to work in. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), despite construction only making up 5% of the UK workforce, it accounts for 22% of the workplace fatalities.

The report also found that last year alone, 49 workers in the UK construction industry suffered fatal injuries and there were 2,230 major injuries reported in the construction industry. What’s more, there is a worry that these statistics could become even worse if the HSE sees large budget cuts. Given these worrying figures and potentially huge cuts to the HSE, it is clear why health and safety is vitally important for anyone working in this trade.

How can it cost you?

Failing to invest sufficient time into ensuring you have thorough health and safety procedures will not only risk the safety of your workers, but could also cost your business large sums of money.

Based on survey data from recent years, it is estimated that in the construction industry roughly 2.3 million working days per year are lost because of workplace injuries and work-related illnesses.

Whilst it may seem more efficient just to cover the basics with your workplace health and safety protocols, in the long term, a minimalist approach to health and safety could end up costing you a lot more.

Furthermore, last year there were 700 cases and offences prosecuted within the construction industry pertaining to workplace injury. Having stringent health and safety criteria in place will lessen the likelihood of an accident, and if there is an accident, the company is less likely to be at fault.

There has been recognition from officials that there needs to be an improvement in health and safety awareness in construction. The Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) altered its criteria in July 2014 – the criteria to gain a construction work green card is now far more stringent.

Previously, to obtain a green card that demonstrates ability to perform basic construction site skills, individuals had to pass a multiple choice test and have an employer’s reference. It has now changed and in order to gain this type of certification, individuals have to go through more extensive, construction specific health and safety training, consisting of 40 hours of learning. This demonstrates how industry officials are stressing the importance of health and safety.

So in the interest of the wellbeing of workers as well as the productivity, cash flow and reputation of a construction company, it is important to ensure health and safety on construction sites is of the highest standard.

What you can do to avoid accidents

There are a number of important steps you can take to be proactive when it comes to health and safety on a construction site. One is ensuring that your company and individual workers have relevant training and safety qualifications. The aforementioned green card system is a good way to make sure that the workers employed on a construction site have at least a basic level of training and awareness of health and safety. It is also a good idea to have regular reminders or refresher training sessions to ensure that health and safety measures are in the forefront of all workers’ minds.

Falls are responsible for the most major injuries (29%) and fatal injuries (51%) in construction. This is why it is essential to have safety measures in place. Ensure that scaffolding is erected properly - there are various ways to make sure that scaffolding is secured safely. For instance, you can gain qualifications such as the Construction Industry Scaffolds Record Scheme (CISRS certification).

Another option is to ensure you are using workers with National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC) credentials. NASC saw an improvement in the number of workplace accidents of their members - with the number of accidents falling by 8% year-on-year. In addition, stats show that their members tend to have fewer accidents than those in the industry who are not members.

It is also good to bear in mind that different sites and jobs are going to have different risks associated with them. While there are a lot of broad health and safety measures which can be applied to most construction jobs, it is still worthwhile to access each jobsite individually and try to come up with measures to minimise any potential risks.