In our latest blog post, Adam Wilhelmy, Member of our Construction National Practice Group, considers the importance of a Health and Safety policy within the construction sector.
Unfortunately, every year, many employees are injured whilst working in the construction industry. The rate of fatal injury in construction, is around 4 times higher than across all industries in the UK, and around 80,000 construction employees suffer work-related injuries each year.
Whilst all organisations have a duty of care to their employees, and a responsibility to protect them from harm while carrying out work duties, this is perhaps more important due to the inherent risks in construction than almost any other industry. Whilst it is not possible to zero out risk, an effective approach to Health and Safety will identify and minimise risks on construction sites, and help protect staff, contractors and the public. The key to achieving healthy and safe working conditions is to ensure that Health and Safety issues are planned, organised, controlled, monitored and reviewed.
The need for a Health and safety policy
All organisations where there are 5 or more employees should have a written Health and Safety policy. Within the construction industry, it is commonplace for organisations to supply this written Health and Safety policy as part of the tender documentation and for the quality of Health & Safety to be scrutinised more closely than in other industries, often this level of control may be viewed as a competitive differentiator.
A written health and safety policy is not only a requirement of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) but will also be a requirement of your insurance and in most cases it will be required under contracts with developers, main contractors and principals.
Adopting good practice in health and safety throughout your organisation brings benefits to your employees and your business.
A robust approach to health and safety will:
- Help protect your staff against accidents and medical issues
- Help reduce staff absence and sick leave
- Help promote your reputation as a responsible employer, and aid staff retention
- Help boost productivity and company turnover
- Help reduce legal costs and insurance premiums.
The HSE produces a variety of guides and checklists to help you implement and maintain a healthy and safe workplace – visit their website to download their range of resources for the construction sector.
Failure to comply with Health and Safety regulations
The failure to comply with legislations can lead to injury or even death, and all construction employers have a duty of care to staff. It is your responsibility to ensure working conditions meet health and safety legislation.
In a recent court case in September 2018, a construction company was fined £80,000 for breaching its Health and Safety responsibilities. The HSE conducted an investigation into construction company, C J Langs Limited, after an employee died after falling from height at a London building site. They found evidence of poor health and safety conditions on site including untrained operatives working without adequate supervision, and a lack of working at height safety equipment.
The HSE report found that the company had failed to adequately plan, manage or oversee work on site, and the HSE therefore initiated court proceedings against the company and its Managing Director, Kewie Doherty.
C J Langs Limited of Ruislip pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 15(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, and was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,000.
Mr Doherty pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid community work and to pay costs of £1,673. Mr Doherty was disqualified from being a company director for a period of 3 years.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Kevin Smith said, “Dutyholders should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards”.
Talk to us
Clearly the risks in construction will be ever present and with an ever increasing trend of litigation and prosecution where there are failures, it is important that businesses and directors are appropriately protected.
We have many years’ experience working in the construction industry, and have specialist understanding of the risks and challenges within the sector.