Health and safety is a live issue and will remain in the headlines for the foreseeable future. As construction activity picks up, it should not fall down the list of priorities
Construction is, as we all know, a risky business – particularly on the health and safety side of things.
The recently published Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics for 2012/13 show that were 39 deaths in the construction industry for the period (as opposed to 29 and 10 in agriculture and waste, respectively – the next most dangerous industries to work in). This figure is sobering enough but even more so when you realise that, according to the HSE, whilst the construction industry accounts for approximately 5% of employees in Britain, it accounts for 27% of fatal injuries. This is also during a period when construction activity has, generally speaking, been less significant than in previous years when we might have hoped that the number of deaths would have been similarly reducing. Maybe tightened margins are seeing health and safety pushed down the list of priorities?
It’s not just on the construction site where health and safety is an issue. The London and national press has reported heavily on the number of cyclists killed by HGVs in the capital
The figures indicate that deaths resulting from working at height are the most significant contributor to those construction stats. HSE’s “drive” of inspecting refurbishment sites earlier this year highlights that failing to protect those working at height is a continuing issue, and I suspect this is an area which the HSE will particularly focus on over the coming months.
It’s not just on the construction site where health and safety is an issue. The London and national press has reported heavily on the number of cyclists killed by HGVs in the capital, and Building itself has highlighted the fact that a significant number of construction vehicles seem to have been involved (see here). There are now calls for HGVs to be fitted with “skirts” – or rather side bars – to prevent people being dragged underneath the wheels, better mirrors and cameras, and recorded messages warning cyclists (and pedestrians) when it is going to turn or reverse. It has also been suggested that HGVs be banned during rush hour. If implemented, the ban will impact on delivery schedules, programmes and consequentially costs for those involved in the construction industry. Improving safety features, whilst costly, would be a better option than restrictions on road usage.
Health and safety is very much a live issue and will remain in the headlines for the foreseeable future. As construction activity picks up, it should not and cannot be down the list of priorities for all those involved in a project.
Let’s keep our collective fingers crossed – but not as a substitute for commitment in the planning, training, resource and cost sense – for a little bit of extra luck for those working on our sites.
Stephanie Canham is national head of Projects and Construction at law firm Trowers & Hamlins