HSE has announced a concentrated two-week campaign starting late June that will inspect the conditions of construction sites across the country. The focus is to crack down on poor working conditions that have the potential to lead to ill health in the industry. The drive, that began this week, means unannounced visits will take place at construction sites, exploring hazards that affect both the long term and short term safety of the workers.
It is estimated that for every fatal injury on a construction site at least 100 workers are likely to die from diseases that are either caused or worsened by their working environment. Although working in construction has become much safer over the last 20 years, it still remains a hazardous industry. Each year around 3,700 occupational cancer cases are said to arise as a result of exposure in the sector, coupled with 31,000 new cases of of ill health related to working in the construction industry. On an economic scale, approximately 818,000 working days were lost in the construction sector in 2011/12 as a result of ill health,  meaning a lack of risk management not only affects the workers, but also the business.
In late 2013, a similar, spontaneous campaign was carried out by HSE, with the intention to crack down on poor construction site safety across the UK. Heather Bryant, HSE Chief Inspector, noted that there is an unnecessary amount of workers who are being exposed to severe health risks in the construction industry, an industry whose workforce are 4 times more vulnerable compared to other industries. One of the main objectives of the campaign last year was to communicate the message to construction workers that poor risk management in their sector was unacceptable and risking their lives.
The campaign running over the next few weeks follows on from a clampdown that specifically targeted the West Midlands in February of this year. This targeted similar issues but on a regional scale, making unexpected inspections to ensure high-risk activities in the construction industry were being carried out safely. Joe Anderson, HSE Principle Inspector for West Midlands Construction Division proposed that this regional campaign gave construction firms a chance to engage with HSE and understand how they can keep their workers safe and potentially save lives .
During the campaign, similar results are hoped to be achieved by providing a chance to communicate with construction firms, to help put measures in place to protect the workers and understand where the risks lie. According to Bryant, the construction industry has reduced the number of accidents in recent years but progress must now be made to reduce diseases and illness caused from exposure within the workplace. For this reason the inspections will specifically target areas that may cause ill health, in particular; dust control, using materials containing silica, dealing with hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint, manual handling, noise control and use of vibrating tools.
Although HSE is campaigning for better understanding, they have made it clear that companies with a lack of awareness, who cut corners and deliberately put the lives of their workers at risk, “will face the full weight of the law. ” Poor risk management is unacceptable, especially in such a hazardous industry.
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