Health & Safety First!
Image Source: Flickr
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 means that every employer has a legal responsibility to identify and manage any risks within a workplace. The Health and Safety Executive reports that over 200 people are killed every year in workplace accidents, and estimates that over one million workers are injured. For this reason preventing accidents at work should be a top priority for both employers and employees within the construction industry.
Health and Safety law states that employers must carry out a risk assessment, both to identify anything that could cause an employee harm during the course of their duties, and to decide what precautions are needed to prevent harm occurring. This means providing basic resources such as toilets and drinking water, as well as specialist protective equipment.
Carrying out a risk assessment will help you to plan your approach to Health and Safety properly. However, a plan is no good unless it is put into action. Where you have identified risk you should aim to either change the way you work, or remove the risk entirely.
If a risk cannot reasonably be eliminated, it is the employer’s responsibility to control the risk. Risk can be controlled by issuing protective clothing, having different workers rotate to complete the task, or by placing limits on the number of people who are allowed near the site when hazardous work is underway.
On the job training relating to health and safety and risks in the workplace can help to reduce the number of accidents and cultivate the development of a positive health and safety culture. While some employers might view training as an optional extra, the law requires that employees are provided with the information and training required to ensure their health and safety.
The workplace does not remain static. Although you may have carried out an extensive assessment and put in place adequate controls to manage any remaining risk, that doesn’t mean these measures will continue to be effective.
Employees should be supervised when carrying out work to make sure that they understand the risks within their specific area, and what they need to do to eliminate them.
All equipment should undergo regular maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer. There should also be clear procedures workers can follow to report any concerns about faulty or damaged equipment. Constructions sites are hazardous environments where equipment and machines can easily be damaged. Leaders in the construction industry are tackling this issue head on.
The law requires that you consult with your employees about Health and Safety in the workplace. This gives your workers a chance to influence the work that can affect their health, and to gain a better understanding of their risks in the workplace. The consultation also benefits employers by providing assurance that the risk assessments and controls are appropriate.
Remember, Health and Safety law is there not only to protect your employees while they work, but also to protect employers from unfair claims after a workplace incident.