15th July Journal Column

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

To children and people outside of the industry, construction sites might look like huge adventure playgrounds, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s the obvious dangers that most people are aware of, but there are many more unseen dangers that those not in the industry wouldn’t even consider.

According to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) the number of workers killed whilst at work in the UK construction industry rose by almost 23 per cent last year. The new figures show that between 2015-2016, 43 workers died onsite, compared to 35 deaths the year before. The death rate dropped slightly the year before to 1.94 per 100,000 workers, compared to a five-year average of 2.04, but the increase in deaths from last year brings the fatalities back to the five-year average.

The HSE statistics show 144 people were killed at work across all industries, and over one third of those deaths happen in construction. Britain might have one of the best health and safety systems in the world, but when there are still so many deaths each year, there’s still room for improvement. When it comes to health and safety you can never stop improving. One death is a death too many in my eyes.

Construction companies as a whole have been hit with almost £8m in health and safety fines since new penalties came into force at the start of the year. Statistics found that out of 101 health and safety fines issued in UK courts, 38 per cent affected those in our industry.

Fines are now proportional to the size of the company, meaning that both small and large businesses will feel the same impact. Fines are expected to stay high for larger firms that are charged with serious offences so businesses have another incentive (if an incentive was ever needed) to work harder to avoid incidents.

The three highest fines issued last year in construction totalled £5.6m, all of which involved fatalities of either staff or customers. It’s just not worth risking people’s lives and the reputation of your company.

There are worldwide campaigns 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 that’s not enough, the shocking statistics above show that there’s still a lot of work to be done.  I know that accidents do happen, but there are a number of ways to prevent them and measures that can easily be put in place, we just all need to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can be.