29th April Journal Column

APS Black logo 2015       By John Nielsen Director of CK21 and CIC/APS/CENE board member

Yesterday marked a big day for our industry, Workers’ Memorial Day, where we ‘remember the dead and fight for the living’. The industry remembered all those killed through work, while trying to raise awareness to make sure such tragedies are not repeated.

Around this day you often see workers campaigning for stricter enforcement with higher penalties for breaches of health and safety laws, so the results of the Electrical Contractor’ Association, the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and Constructing Better Health survey are a little surprising.

The survey, completed by nearly 400 people, found that less than half of companies in the building and engineering sector monitor occupational health among their staff, with 55 per cent admitting to not carrying out occupational health surveillance.

Of those who do monitor it, 75 per cent said that managing occupational health resulted in a net business benefit, with 41 per cent saying it was the main reason they did so. A net business benefit is obviously good news for any company, but it should never be the top priority, not when health and safety is concerned. It’s surprising to hear so many people look at this as their top priority, and even more surprising that they happily admit to it!

I would be wrong to say the industry hasn’t improved massively in terms of health and safety. The Association of Project Safety has been promoting health issues with help www.health-canada-pharmacy.com to the wider industry through up skilling of members and full involvement with the Health in Construction Leadership Group. That doesn’t mean we can all sit back and relax, we still have a long way to go. The data from such surveys is useful in looking at who is clued up, what exactly they are doing and what work still needs to be done across the whole industry. But it can also be useful for companies to look at internally, and carrying out occupational health surveillance will give them a good place to start.

According to respondents of the survey the main onsite occupational health hazard was manual handling (96 per cent), followed by noise (94 per cent) and asbestos (93 per cent). The main health risks relating to construction work range from cancer to work related stress and asbestos. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that past exposures in the construction sector annually cause over 5,000 occupational cancer cases and a shocking 3,700 deaths.

Yesterday was also World Day for Safety and Health at Work, another worldwide campaign promoting safe, health and decent work, so there’s really no excuse to not have something in place promoting health and safety at work. But, if not, the shocking statistics above show that there’s still a lot of work to be done, and there’s no time like the present to change things.