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Time To Think Health not Just Safety – For the Construction Sector
Posted by David Cant on September 8, 2014

Construction Sector – Think Health as much as Safety

Construction Sign on a building As we talked about last month, the HSE found one in six UK construction sites unsafe in their surprise spot checks a few weeks ago.  Let’s take a look at the main health problems sites still have.

Firstly, one in six isn’t so bad, compared to past figures.  But it’s still a lot!  Much too much in the HSE’s eyes.  And the regulator plans to step up inspections and clamp-downs over the rest of the year.  So contractors – pay attention.

When the HSE visited 560 construction sites they and served enforcement notices to 85 of them, demanding they shape up their health and safety standards.  And they closed down 13 sites on the spot.

How to Think ‘Health’ Not Just ‘Safety’

Firstly, the construction sector needs a round of applause for drastically cutting down on injury and deaths over the past decade.  But now the focus has to move to the more subtle and harder to see but equally dangerous, health risks of workers.  Not just the clear safety risks of falling down a hole or getting electrocuted.

As Heather Bryant, the HSE’s Chief Inspector, said;

“We recognise the construction sector’s progress in reducing the number of people killed and injured by its activities. But it is clear from these figures that there is an unacceptable toll of ill-health and fatal disease in the industry.

“Throughout the rest of the year we’ll be looking at the prevention and control of health risks in construction…. we’ll make sure the construction industry ‘thinks health’ as well as safety.”

What Health Threats Should You Look Out For?

So the clear focus of contractors should now be health risks, for the sake of your workers and your business.  The main threats found were related to;

Silica Dust Clouds

The extremely common natural substance Silica is found in stone of all sorts on work sites.  It’s released into the air during processes like grinding, sawing, demolition, power cutting, dumping, loading and plenty more.

When Silica is breathed in a lot over time, it causes all kinds of nasty conditions, from silicosis to lung cancer.  Read our quick guide on preventing silica problems on your site to keep your workers breathing free and easy; safe from silica

Bad Manual Handling

Construction more than any other industry, has workers taken out by musculoskeletal problems developed over time.

When bending, lifting, twisting, carrying, and dozens of small movements with heavy or even light loads are carried out repetitively over time, one day it takes its toll!

See our guide to good manual handling, and making sure your workers’ backs are safe.

Too Much Noise and Vibration

Feeling those bad vibrations?  Two million people in the UK are at risk of developing hand-arm syndrome (HAVS) or carpel tunnel syndrome from using power tools like sanders, hammer drills, grinders and dozens more.

There is a safe way to mitigate the threat of HAVS, check out our guide here

And the noise levels in a construction site is also a real threat to ear drums.  Again, there are systems you can follow to keep your workers’ ears free from ringing.  Read our post on safe manual handling here

Unsafe Exposure to Other Dangerous Materials

This includes common construction materials like cement, or lead paint.  Look out for our brief guide on dangerous materials, coming soon to a blog near you.

So, were you one of the 85 who got a slapped wrist?

Do you have any questions about improving health on your site?

Get in touch, we’d love to talk!


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner with a brain you can pick. Fluent in practical advice. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the Director of life at Veritas Consulting.

You can find him on – Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

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