HSE inspectors will be visiting building sites up and down the country from the 14th of September to the 9th of October to investigate and challenge unsatisfactory standards on building sites that could cause injury, illness or even death to workers.
The initiative is part of the HSE’s annual construction refurbishment initiative and is backed by Newman Scott. Newman Scott is a national interiors fit company who had previously been penalised by the Health & Safety department.
In 2013 Newman Scott were found to have poorly erected scaffolding on an escalator. Although the scaffolding was erected by a subcontractor it was Newman Scotts responsibility to ensure the scaffolding was safe and fit for purpose.
The new Joint Managing Director John Graham explained that he was mortified when he became aware of the situation and had always thought the company was good at health and safety.
John Graham explains:
“We had a choice, we could consider ourselves lucky there were no injuries or we could hold a full and frank internal investigation, understand what had gone wrong and make sure our sites were safe for our workers.”
Newman Scott had the processes in place but they were not being followed. Their decision to get to the root-cause of the incident has created a sea change in their organisation’s health and safety culture, an example HSE hopes other construction companies will learn from.
“We focused on improving the already positive safety culture in the company through better communication, more training, more competency checking and giving more ownership of health and safety to our employees. Most importantly our employees knew they could say no, without fear of retribution, to any request from a client or director if they felt it could not be carried out without risking their health or their safety.”
“Of course HSE has an enforcement function and this may make them appear formal but there was a genuine desire from them to help us make the workplace a safer, healthier place. We were treated with respect and courtesy and that helped us approach the whole experience in a positive way, maximising the improvements to the benefit of everyone on our sites.
“We cannot say that we will have no more lapses in the future. We can say that all our people sleep easier in their beds knowing that we are all doing all we can to make sure we have safer, healthier sites. That peace of mind is priceless.”
HSE’s Jo Anderson – lead for the construction initiative, said:
“We are grateful to Newman Scott for sharing their experience and for how they have responded to the prosecution.
“We hope everyone can learn from their lessons and realise it is vital when carrying out construction work that the right management systems are in place so risks to workers’ health are controlled just as effectively as safety. Workers within construction are paying too high a toll on their health and safety when it is completely avoidable by planning the work, providing the right kit and making sure it is used properly.
With the HSE’s initiative and the startling figures that show although building sites make up only 5% of the UK’s workforce they are responsible for 31% of deaths at work. Hopefully building and construction firms will take all possible measures to make sure the health and safety of their workforce is a priority.