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Health & Safety
The building trade has visibly expanded during the last decades, aiming to achieve quality, efficiency and, what is truly essential, to implement successful methods of accident prevention, which save lives on a regular basis and improve working conditions.
Historically, building has been one of the riskiest activities, carried out with little or no regard for hazardous factors; societal development on a technological, economical, social and judicial level has lead to workers being protected by law in any possible environment.
Health and safety laws
After health and safety laws became enforceable, the vast majority of business owners if not all have complied, thus significantly limiting the number of ensuing incidents. At UK building sites, the correct observation of these laws is supervised by inspectors form the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), who carry out regular onsite inspections and also clarify any uncertainties business owners or their employees might have. They also look into any complaints or incidents and take note of their findings.
It is understandably of vital importance for employees to be properly informed with regards to health and safety regulations, as the observing of certain rules depends directly on individual workers, for instance wearing protective equipment when necessary and checking that it is in order.
Also, employees have to be made aware to notify of any physical condition which is incompatible with working in certain environments, any illness or medication which may cause drowsiness or reduce alertness and therefore leave them and others prone to accidents. Safety training should be carried out again in case of alterations to the work environment and conditions. Written records of this training must also be kept.
For that reason it is compulsory for employers to either acquaint their contractors with these regulations through informative written materials such as leaflets or display related information onsite, for instance on posters or billboards. Moreover, standard procedure when debating adding or altering safety measures is for employers to consult their employees. Besides the fact that they will be affected by any changes, their annotations are a result of their direct experience, hence making their input being particularly valuable. This process typically involves employers conferring with workers’ representatives.
In order to ensure a thorough supervision of health and safety related aspect of their business, employers providing work to more than five contractors are required to have a written health and safety policy and also keep annotations of their risk assessments. Moreover, employers must verify, either personally or through appointees, that the regulations are being observed by their employees, particularly those with little experience, who are more likely to be accident prone due to a scarcer familiarity with their work environment.
In addition to this, employers must purchase protective equipment and make it available whenever necessary, as well as provide health supervision in certain circumstances, if suitable. A comprehensive first aid kit must be readily available in case an accident occurs. It is also the rule for all business owners employing contractors to purchase employers’ liability compulsory insurance, as well as display a certificate confirming this.
Reporting work related injuries
In spite of all precautions taken, work related accidents remain fairly common, with significant numbers reported every year. Businesses operating within the building trade have to notify the Health and Safety Executive every time there is an accident, which will result in an investigation. Litigation also occurs at times, with a great number of legal companies offering assistance to compensation seekers. This is yet another reason to be vigilant and make sure that every accident protection method is in place and all regulations are fully complied with.
When employees feel that their health is being avoidably and unlawfully put at risk, the first step to take is a direct confrontation with their employer. If they are faced with a refusal to investigate or remedy the faulty working conditions at hand, they can make a formal complaint to the relevant authority, in this case the Health and Safety Executive, provided that the issue at hand meets the requirements for an official investigation.
Building site inspections
When visiting construction sites, either routinely, following an accident or addressing a complaint, inspectors evaluate a number of aspects on a checklist, such as overall tidiness, workers’ safety training, supervision, the state and use of protection equipment, the correct use of tools etc. Aside from everything mentioned above, the routes workers take in order to arrive at and depart from the site are examined to verify that they are safe in terms of avoiding trips, falls or the risk of falling debris. The purpose of regular inspections is accident prevention, which is preferable to post factum sanctioning.