2nd October Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

There’s always been concern over health and safety, especially in this industry. But, most recently, there have been issues with companies prioritising customer satisfaction over safety.

To me there isn’t much debate over customers vs. safety- there’s only ever going to be one clear winner.

There’s been some concern over Highways England’s customer focus and the risks posed to those workers on the roads. The focus should never be on the customer when there are workers so close to cars travelling at such a high speed.

Being told that the customer shouldn’t come first, isn’t something you often hear, but when it comes to health and safety, keeping the customer happy should be the least of your worries. In an ideal world we would have a fair balance between the two but the reality is that safety should always trump customer service.

I’m happy to see the newly appointed chief executive of Highways England, Jim O’Sullivan shares my opinion on this and as he said, ‘nobody needs a road so badly that someone has to die for it.’

However, not all responsibility should lie with the contractor; the client should do as much as they can to keep health and safety top priority. It’s a two-way street (no pun intended), and the client can ease health and safety risks by keeping the volume of traffic on the road at a reasonable level. Contractors would benefit from support from the Police and authorities, and it would make their jobs a lot easier.

Hopefully more attention will be given to health and safety in the coming months, following the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual construction refurbishment initiative starting this month. The nationwide drive aims to target unsafe work practices that make our industry one of the most dangerous.

I urge you all to take action now in protecting the health and safety of yourselves and your employees, before it’s too late to make a change.

Construction is only five per cent of Britain’s workforce but it still manages to account for 31 per cent of all fatalities, with 42 deaths being reported so far in 2014/15.

HSE Inspectors will be visiting sites across the country this month to challenge the poor standards that are putting the health and safety of workers at risk; a step in the right direction to improving health and safety risks within the industry.

I’ve heard many unnecessary complaints, this morning alone, after more disruption to the A19 was announced.  Drivers are set to face three weeks of disruptions when resurfacing work begins next month. Work will take place overnight from 8pm to 6am running throughout October, when the volume of traffic will be at its lowest, keeping disruption to a minimum and road workers safer, yet still people manage to complain.

A little reminder to contractors .. you can’t please everybody, but the important thing is that you do everything you can to keep everybody safe.