There have been big improvements over recent years that have reduced the number of accidents and injuries on construction sites. Which is great news!
However, a number of serious ill-health issuers continue to affect construction workers. The HSE are looking at this area closely and are expecting employers and workers alike, to take steps to improve things. In other words start to “Treat Health like Safety”
So this week, along with launching a new course about this subject, I thought it appropriate to cover this in the newsletter. I would very much appreciate your views and ideas as to how we can tackle this issue.
The two HSE cases this week both look at tragic accidents that shouldn’t have happened
- Martin Walton, 27, from Blackhall Colliery, Cleveland was killed on 16 October 2010 at Morgan Stanley’s Heathrow Data Centre.
- HSE inspectors visited sixty stone businesses worryingly, serious breaches were found at over half (35) of the premises that were visited.
Treating Health like Safety
Every year, thousands of workers are made ill by hazardous substances, contracting lung disease such as asthma, cancer and skin disease such as dermatitis. These diseases cost many millions of pounds each year to:
- industry, to replace the trained worker;
- society, in disability allowances and medicines; and
- individuals, who may lose their jobs.
These can be devastating for individuals and families. This article is going to discuss these risks and look at how you can manage them.
Over the years Health Risks have not received the same amount of attention as Safety.
There are many reasons for this,
- they are not immediate and the fact that
- the consequences of exposure to harmful agents are often not visible,
- symptoms may be delayed by years and decades from first exposure.
Awareness and management of health has received far less attention than safety over the past 10 – 15 years but there is a great deal more activity now in the more enlightened areas of the industry.
The construction industry can respond to this as they have done to the serious injuries and fatalities, after all theyt did in 2001, when the the then Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott called the industry to arms.
Fourteen years on, fatalities from accidents has been reduced by two thirds.
HSE estimates that in 2014, 76,000 people whose current or most recent job was in construction suffered from an illness caused or made worse by the job they did.
Every week 100 people die from construction-related ill-health in the UK. In the UK every year, there are one hundred times more deaths caused by occupational disease than accidents across all industries.
In construction, the comparison figures are considerably worse: there were 42 fatal injuries to UK construction workers in 2013/14, yet there were 3,500 deaths from occupational cancer alone, and many thousands more from other diseases.
- For every fatality there are 100 deaths due to occupational disease.
- Over 40% of all occupational cancer deaths and registrations are to construction workers.
- Estimated 76,000 cases of work-related ill-health – COPD, hand-arm vibration, noise induced hearing loss and MSDs.
- Estimated 1.7 million working days lost due to ill health – 3 times that for injury accidents.
- Cost GB estimated £0.4bn in 2012/13.
So what are the main killers?
Construction has the largest burden of occupational cancer amongst the industrial sectors. It accounts for over 40% of occupational cancer deaths and cancer registrations.
It is estimated that past exposures in the construction sector annually cause over 5,000 occupational cancer cases and approximately 3,700 deaths.
The most significant cause of these cancers is
There are many tonnes of Asbestos still in buildings in the UK today and there are also many people disturbing this asbestos without realising the dangers or their duties. The law requires that everyone likely to come across asbestos in their work, (So everybody in the construction industry from architects and surveyors to site operatives) must have asbestos awareness training in the last twelve months. Have you received this training? All too often when I ask this question at site meetings I see many shaking heads, especially from the professionals. But this training is mandatory and, more importantly, may just save your life!
Silica is a natural substance found in varying amounts in most rocks, sand and clay. It is found in many of the building products that are used on sites every day of the week. For example,
- sandstone contains more than 70% silica,
- granite might contain 15-30%.
The law requires companies to make sure employees are breathing in levels of Silica dust well below the amount illustrated in the picture above.
So why is this common practice?
Diesel engine exhaust (6-7% each).
Exhaust emissions from diesel engines are made up of a complex mixture of gases, vapours, liquid aerosols and soot particles. It contains many known carcinogenic substances such as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (known as PAHs).
What is the risk to construction workers?
The major source of DEEEs on a construction site is likely to be from generators and heavy vehicles like lorries, excavators or telehandlers. The more significant risks are linked to longer periods of work with this equipment in enclosed spaces and / or situations where there is blue or black smoke.
So what can you do to reduce risks to health?
There are a number of things we can do to protect workers’ health
- “Wellbeing” is about ensuring workers are healthy when they come to work
- Risk prevention and control “means what it says on the tin”
- Health surveillance is about checking whether workers’ health is being damaged
The construction industry has tended to concentrate on wellbeing and health surveillance – Risk prevention and control has been neglected in many cases, but that is the most important thing.
There is no point in having healthy workers if they are made ill by their work and the real role of health surveillance is to check that the control measures are effective – hopefully it won’t detect disease. So the key is to focus on risk management – preventing and controlling exposure to hazardous dust and chemicals
For example: The Kerb stones shown in this picture are made of plastic thereby significantly reduces the risk of silica exposure during cutting. They also are much lighter so present a much lower manual handling risk.
Of course you cannot always prevent exposure so you then have to look at engineering controls to effectively reduce the problem.
As shown above, the adding of water to suppress the dust dramatically reduces the risk from materials containing silica.
Ensure that a Demolition and Refurbishment Asbestos survey is carried out to identify any asbestos containing materials BEFORE you start any works.
Personal Protective Equipment or PPE should be the last resort. Of course it may be the most practical, for example if you are carrying out a survey in a loft space or a plant room to ascertain whether the proposed works could be viable or are necessary.
So what can you do?
- You could go out and lead the way! – This way you will be ensuring you have a healthier workforce as well as not falling foul of the HSE when they next visit!
- Active influence up and down the supply chain – This is a golden opportunity for the clients to start laying down the standards that they expect from the contractors they use. Likewise the Principal Contractors to their chain of sub-contractors.
- Learning and sharing – Should you check that ALL of your staff have received the necessary training?
- Treat health like safety – Do the right thing – “Who cares wins”
“Who’s going to be the first contractor to appoint an Occupational Hygienist as part of the project team?”
One last thing – Are you sitting comfortably?
Well here are a few facts to consider:
- Up to 12 hours a day sitting
- Include 7 hours sleeping = a remarkable 19 hours a day being sedentary.
- Even regular exercise won’t undo the damage done by prolonged sitting.
Sitting for over 6 hours a day for a decade or two can cut away about seven quality adjusted life years. It increases your risk of dying of heart disease by 64 percent and your overall risk of prostate or breast cancer increases 30 percent.
Sitting has become the smoking of our generation.
If you would like further help on this topic or if you have any topic you would like us to cover in this newsletter please contact us by phone 01458 253682 or email.
FIRST-AID AT WORK 3-DAY COURSE
All employers in the UK have a legal obligation to make first aid provision for their employees. This course is ideal for those who are going to be a nominated First Aider in the workplace. This three day course meets the statutory requirements of the Health & Safety Executive. Candidates must be of a working age and intend to practice first aid in the workplace during the validity of the certificate.
- Smaller companies
- Offices and shops with less than 50 employees and other low risk environments
- Employees working off site
- Self-employed people
- Anyone who wants to learn first aid and assist in an emergency situation.
- Health & Safety Responsibilities
- Managing an Incident
- Priorities of First Aid
- Managing an Unconscious Casualty
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
- Low Blood Sugar
- Head Injuries
- Chest Pains
- Eye Injuries
- Injuries to bones, muscles and joints
- Burns & Scalds
- Moving Casualties
- Poisons, Gases & Fumes
- Care and Communication
Course Duration: 3 Days
COURSE REF DATE(s) LOCATION
WSG. FA . 1501 28th /29th /30th October 2015 Taunton Racecourse
Fee: £360 to include Course notes, mid-morning & afternoon refreshments, Finger buffet lunch on each day and a Certificate of Training (Fee subject to VAT)