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Written by
on 10 August 2017


Lax health and safety standards may be amusing – until someone gets hurt.

When visiting a foreign country, It is always interesting to observe the workplace habits of one’s peers. So on a recent trip to Romania, a colleague snapped this photograph of a gang fitting a new sign to a building in the old town area of Bucharest.

When people talk about the “good old days” before “elf n safety”, they imagine a group of men doing jobs just like this, without bureaucracy or interference – they just get on with it. The trouble is that the health and safety regime in England is very important.

Consider the following risks you can see:

1. No PPE

Not one of the men pictured is wearing any personal protective equipment. There are no helmets, steel toe-capped boots or gloves, meaning that each is at risk of sustaining a potential injury. Apparently, a few minutes before the photograph was taken, one man was throwing six-inch steel spikes from the top of the platform to his colleague on the ground. Had one landed on the catcher’s head, he may have been very seriously hurt.

Every one of these men should be wearing PPE to protect themselves against injury, wouldn’t you agree?

2. No restraints

Neither of the men climbing the scaffolding tower, nor the tower itself is anchored. Should the weight of the sign shift significantly, or one of the men stumble, the whole tower could come crashing down on them all.

The scaffolding tower should be braced, tied or even outriggers to prevent movement. The men climbing the tower should go up the inside and not the outside.

3. No warnings or protections

The sign fitting is taking place in a public area – you can see pedestrians walking past in the foreground of the picture. There is also an open doorway into the hotel, and two cafés on either side of the scaffolding, but no measures in place to protect the general public. Anyone can walk into the work area, placing themselves and the construction workers at risk.

The area around the scaffolding needs to be fenced off to stop members of the public from getting too close. There should also be clear signage near by warning people of the risks. Finally, the doorway to the left needs to be blocked to prevent anyone from inside the hotel from being injured.

4. Lack of equipment

The men are attempting to pass a heavy sign from the ground to the top of the scaffolding tower using nothing more than brute strength and force of will. Should any one of the men lose his grip, the sign could come crashing down on to the workers and anyone else in the area.

To prevent problems, the team should be using an assisted mechanical lift to help raise the sign safely. This will prevent the sign from crashing to the ground, and to keep each of the workers and the public safe against a sign falling on them.

The good old days is a step backwards

There’s a very good chance the men in this picture finished the job without incident – but the risks outlined here are unacceptable in the UK. Every one of the risks outlined above could result in a serious injury or worse.

So when we talk about “the good old days”, we’re really saying it’s acceptable to dice with death every day in the workplace. Which isn’t acceptable at all, even in Romania.

For more help and advice on making your sites safer, please get in touch.

A chartered (fellow) safety and risk management practitioner with 20+ years of experience. David provides a healthy dose of how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. Get social with David on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

One Comment
  • Mihai Corescu says:

    This is a sad but very often happening situation in Romania but there are sites where the health and safety is stronger than in many UK sites. For example Ford Craiova where the level of health and safety is very high comparing with all the uk car plants i have benn to.

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