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Written by
on 08 August 2010

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Year after year over 3000 people die on the roads. So why is the construction industry so concerned?

Construction Industry is now the most Dangerous Industry in terms of Deaths

Firstly, as a caring society, we are surely all concerned at any death or injury. We do not categorise deaths, some being more important than others. The Government does in fact have a policy for reducing deaths from whatever source but the means, and ease of achieving this inevitably varies. One of the biggest changes to driving habits that has brought about a reduction in death is the use of seat belts. This has come about not just through a change to the law, but more fundamentally through a change in culture. A similar case can be made in respect of drink driving. The issue of culture is very relevant to the construction industry which historically has suffered from a rather macho culture.

Secondly, the major difference between death on the roads and those in the construction industry is that most of those that occur in construction are of persons at work. ( some members of the public are also unfortunately killed as a consequence of work activities however). The law pays specific attention to persons at work, recognising that they are more prone to exposure to risk and that this can be further exacerbated by employers who neglect to treat health and safety seriously, The very first examples of health and safety legislation made in 1802 were to protect children at work in the mines and mills during the industrial revolution. The primary source of protection now to persons at work in the UK is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. (Northern Ireland is in fact governed by a different Act, but the requirements are essentially the same).

Thirdly, construction is now the most dangerous industry there is in terms of deaths per annum.

Finally, although the law is framed primarily to protect people from a humanist viewpoint, there is another very important reason for controlling both health and safety risks. This is that the cost to the nation of work related accidents and ill health is estimated at £18bn per year. (Revitalising Health and Safety Strategy Statement published by DETR in June 2000)

This is a cost which the nation ie UK plc, cannot afford; in the same way companies and other organisations cannot afford to bear their proportionate cost. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and someone is paying the price for this in higher cost, insurance premiums, or in other ways. If we are to improve the standing of the industry, as a competitive world class player, we must tackle the causes of ill health and accidents.

The ‘business argument’ for strong health and safety management, integrated with other aspects of business management such as finance or environmental controls, is very strong and is increasingly recognised as a key element in corporate affairs.

So, in summary, the health, safety and welfare of persons at work is important from a moral perspective, a legislative viewpoint ie we must work within the law, and also from a commercial aspect ie the cost of accidents and ill health is unsustainable in a competitive market place.

Another great article from the Health and Safety Consultants

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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