The number of deaths in the workplace has, thankfully, consistently declined over the last eight years. Unfortunately, the number of working days lost through serious accident injuries and related accident claims has shown a marginal percentage increase.
Despite nearly a 10 per cent reduction in reported serious injuries from 24,726 to 22,433 between 2010/11 and 2011/12, a total of 111,164 reported non-fatal injuries and 49 fatalities were still reported. In 2011/12, around a quarter of non-fatal injuries resulted in absence from work for more than seven days.
In the construction sector, the most common type of workplace accident still involves slips or trips (40 per cent), and falls from a height (more than 20 per cent). According to construction industry observers, it is no longer major building projects responsible for keeping casualty figures high but instead, the smaller renovations of existing homes and workplaces.
It’s an observation borne out by the almost weekly reporting of common accidents, such as slips and trips and falls on commercial or residential sites. It has been estimated that more than six in ten of all fatalities involve falls from ladders, scaffolds, working platforms and roof edges, as well as falls caused by stepping onto fragile roofs and skylights.
In February 2013, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sent out their inspectors on a month long campaign of “unannounced” visits to around 400 sites with the aim of “improving standards” and reducing death, injury and ill health on “targeted” construction sites, known for being one of the most dangerous environments.
According to the HSE, most of the sites that were visited did comply with legal requirements and compliance procedures, but a quarter of the sites also failed health and safety checks and “a sizeable minority of sites letting down the rest of the industry.”
Committed to holding to account those who put others at risk, HSE are particularly concerned to identify those firms who deliberately disregard the law in a bid to gain competitive advantage. Consequently, HSE’s Construction Division Plan of Work 2013/2014 state their main operational activity is to target key safety areas, such as small sites/projects and refurbishment with a focus upon: Work at Height, provision of welfare facilities, site conditions, respiratory risks and the adequacy of PPE use, asbestos risks.
HSE aims to reinforce the statutory duties a small builder must fulfil to be compliant with ensuring the safety of his workforce and members of the public. A small builder is defined as an individual who “undertakes work on private, domestic projects such as extensions, repairs and refurbishment work but also smaller business projects, typically involving short duration repairs and refurbishment for businesses involving less than 30 days of construction work.”
Under the law, a builder has three main duties to:
HSE are continuing to also focus on construction company leaders, how they raise awareness, manage risks and encourage worker involvement. A particular emphasis is placed on Contractor Competence and Temporary Works.