4th December Journal Column

By Stephen Jones, Business Manager, Elas

I’ve always thought that businesses in the industry focused too much on safety rather than health. There have been big improvements and preventions put in place to reduce the number of construction related injuries, but health issues continue to affect workers. Thankfully, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have finally done something about it!

The HSE have produced specialist guidance in a bid to improve the management of health risks within the industry.
The new guide written by The Construction Industry Advisory Committee (ConIAC) with the help of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) offers practical advice on what health risks mean for the industry as well as offering advice on how to prevent such risks.
Whilst plenty is done to manage safety issues, serious health issues in the past have been ignored. I’m not saying people aren’t making the effort, I just think maybe there’s confusion over occupational health, about how serious risks can be and how they could be prevented.

A recent inspection across construction sites revealed that there was a misunderstanding of what occupational actually meant. During the inspection HSE more than 200 health-related enforcement notices were issued – proving there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Many employers are failing to meet the required levels of health screening for their employees. Regular health screening for Hearing Tests, Lung Function Testing and Hand Arm Vibration testing (HAVS) all being mandatory are being overlooked.

The main health risks relating to construction work range from; cancer to work related stress and asbestos. The Health and Safety Executive estimates that past exposures in the construction sector annually cause over 5,000 occupational cancer cases and 3,700 deaths.
When shocking figures are showing that workers are at least 100 times more likely to die from a disease that was made worse or caused by work, something must be done.

Those working in the construction industry make up only five per cent of UK workers; however they make up 27 per cent of work related fatality cases and 10 per cent of major injuries in the workplace, something must be done to change this figure – which is what I’m hoping the new guide can help with.

The guide raises awareness of occupational health and provides information about where firms can get help and assistance.
If the advice is followed, it could help to lower occupational ill-health rates and change the perception of careers in construction, to an industry that is safe and more attractive.

The guidance is there to be followed, and make working life easier and safer, so I urge all companies to take full advantage of it, use all the resources that are available to you and let’s make 2016 the industries safest year yet!

For more information on your legal obligations for occupational health and what you need to do you can contact Stephen Jones on 07747 626 139 or email Stephen.jones@elas.uk.com.