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Health & Safety in Construction: Our 2023 Survey Results

Posted on 3/05/2023 at 4:12 PM by in Blog

Between expensive fines and legislation changes, health and safety has been a hot topic in the construction industry.

So, we decided to conduct a survey to find out exactly what you know (and don’t know) about the current health and safety legislation.

We surveyed consultants, principal contractors, sub-contractors and construction workers – and found some holes in their health and safety knowledge.

In the post, we will run through each question on the survey and explain why you might have gotten it wrong.

How often should you receive Health and Safety training?
Every two years

While there’s no hard and fast rule, most companies aim for an annual refresher course, with some specific areas requiring bi-annual training.

Only 70% of our survey respondents answered this question correctly. This is hardly surprising when there isn’t a set answer on how often you should receive construction health and safety training.

There are also exceptions to the annual rule. For example, if there has been an internal or external incident that could happen again and injure someone on site. You might also have new equipment that requires a new round of health and safety training for your team.

It’s good to remember that different training areas may be subject to legal requirements for refresher training, so check the relevant regulations at HSE.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, an employer must do the following:
Give everyone their very own copy of the company safety policy
Safeguard the health and safety of all employees
Provide a happy workplace
Offer PPE in every colour.

It is the employer’s responsibility to safeguard the health and safety of all employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

A whopping 94% of survey respondents answered this question correctly.

It’s the employer’s job to assess risks and provide information about any risks on-site to you. If you think your employer is exposing you to risks or not meeting health and safety requirements, you should report it to HSE.
What does CDM stand for?
Construction Design Management
Construction Designated Manager
Construction Defence Management

It’s important to understand the technical jargon in your industry and what each acronym stands for. That way, you can communicate effectively with those on-site and stay safe by understanding what they are talking about when they use abbreviations.

In this case, CDM stands for Construction Design Management. This refers to managing a construction project’s design, development and implementation by liaising with designers, engineers and architects.

Almost all of our survey respondents (97%) selected the correct answer for this question.

Who does the HSE consider responsible for health and safety in a workplace?
Directors of the business
Directors and employees
Directors, employees and contractors
Everyone in the workplace, no matter who employs them

When it comes to who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace, there is no one right answer.

87% of our survey respondents answered this question correctly, demonstrating that those in construction are aware of their responsibility to be safe on site – no matter their role.

Employers are responsible for meeting health and safety requirements and making the construction site as safe as possible. However, the employees and visitors are also responsible for paying attention on-site and acting as safely as possible.

Everyone shares the responsibility to make the site a safe place – but those with more responsibility in the business typically hold more responsibility for health and safety.

Consider the Working at Height Regulations 2015. When you climb a ladder, you must:
Maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times
Have two points of contact at all times
Use a safety harness
Have two people on the ladder

It’s no secret that working at a height is dangerous – but did you know that falling from a height is the biggest cause of death in the construction industry?

That’s why it’s important to maintain three points of contact with a ladder at all times. For example, two feet and one hand or if both hands are busy working, two feet and your body supported by the ladder.

Thankfully, 88% of survey respondents selected the right answer for this question, indicating those in construction are up to speed on how to work at a height safely.

The Working at Height Regulations 2015 are designed to keep you safe when working up high, whether on a ladder, flat roof or opening in the floor.

When was the Health and Safety Act published?

It’s important to stay up to date with current legislation and any changes that may be in the works.

Remembering the publish dates of health and safety legislation demonstrates a deep understanding which can help prevent accidents on site. And the better you understand legislation, the less likely you are to receive a fine.

The Health and Safety Act 1974 is a pretty well-known legislation, and 83% of survey respondents got the right answer.

Consider the following situation. You’re working on an uneven surface where a slip or trip is likely. Which of these is not part of HSE Guidelines:
Wear high-tread boots and walk carefully.
Designate a walkway with good conditions.
Ensure it’s signposted with good lighting.

Only 64% of survey respondents got the correct answer to this question.

HSE guidelines recommend signposting, good lighting and creating a designated walkway on an uneven construction site. Of course, however, high-tread boots and walking carefully can also help you navigate uneven surfaces and reduce the risk of a twisted ankle.

It’s important to understand the intricacies of health and safety regulations to reduce the risk of fines and injuries. Sometimes it’s worth doing a quick Google search to ensure you’ve covered your basis for a particular situation rather than just following your intuition.

When a company is found to have breached or contributed to an accident that resulted in injury or death. The directors of the company could face:
A potentially hefty fine
A possible prison sentence
Both of the above.

Health and safety legislation is there for a reason: to protect everyone on site and reduce the risk of injury or worse.
While everyone is responsible for health and safety on site, the directors of a company are responsible for meeting health and safety legislation requirements. From ensuring everyone has PPE to providing machinery training, the directors of a construction company must follow the legislation.

If they breach or contribute to an accident resulting in injury or death, the directors can face a hefty fine and a potential prison sentence.

97% of our survey respondents selected the right answer for this question, indicating most people in the industry are aware of the consequences at risk.

Are fines for breaches in Health and safety rules restricted?
Yes, a company will not be fined more than 2% of the turnover from the last financial year
Yes, a company will not be fined more than 4% of the turnover from the last financial year
Yes, a company will not be fined more than 6% of the turnover from the last financial year
No, there are no limitations to fines imposed.

There is an unlimited fine for breaching the Health and Safety Act 1974.

Almost all of our survey respondents (97%) selected the correct answer for this question, indicating this is common knowledge in the construction industry.

However, it is also quite an intimidating prospect – especially when construction legislation can be unclear and complex.

Construction companies must stay up to date with the current health and safety legislation and do their best to meet all the requirements.

Which ones of these regulations is not listed under those specific to the construction industry
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
The reporting of injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences regulations 1995
The control of substances hazardous to health regulations 2022
The Lifting equipment and Lifting operations Regulations 1998
The workplace (heath, Safety and Welfare) regulations 1992

This question was a bit of a curveball. In all the other questions, the answers were quite simple, especially if you can access the internet. The proportion of cases with infringements to health and safety legislation attributable to the construction industry is alarming.

As a result, they are well known to those placed in charge of these important areas. However, other lesser-known pieces of legislation may not be quite so obvious.

The Lifting Equipment and Lifting Operations Regulations 1998 is a case in point and places duties on people and companies who own, operate, or control lifting equipment. This includes all businesses and organisations whose employees use lifting equipment, whether owned by them or not.

The legislation specifically mentions Passenger lifts and escalators, vacuum lifting equipment, car lifts in garages, and magnetic lifting equipment, but it also includes anything that lifts people, including cranes.

Only 10% of people got this question right, and looking back, it was a little mean of us to add this in, but it did create quite a lot of discussion and highlighted a very important area that some might have missed.

Does the HSE guidance for avoiding danger from underground services consider ground penetrating radar sufficient when doing a health and safety assessment of a construction site prior to digging?
Yes, as long as the equipment is under 2 years old and is from the list of suppliers approved by the HSE.
Yes, Ground Penetrating Radar can be used, but only by someone with sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to do this safely.
No, Using Ground Penetrating Radar on its own is not sufficient as part of an assessment of a safe system of work on a construction site.

To avoid danger from underground services, you must obtain service drawings from the relevant utility companies and other organisations to see what may be disturbed.

You should also survey the site, review planned work, allow time to do the work safely and record the location of any services.

HSE does not mention using a Ground Penetrating Radar as a sufficient assessment of the existing underground services.

Only 83% of our survey respondents got this question correct, which is an important part of any digging work.

Which of the following is not one of the three basic elements of HSE guidance when identifying and managing dangers from underground services?
Planning the work
Detecting, identifying and marking underground services
Documenting and reporting all underground services
Safe excavation/safe digging practices

HSE guidance does not specify that you must document and report all underground services when working on or near them.

However, you must follow the three basic steps of a safe work system for an excavation. You need to plan the work; detect, identify and mark underground services; and follow safe digging practises throughout the excavation.
Just over half (55%) of the respondents got this question correct.

When it comes to health and safety in construction, some topics are more well-known than others. Underground services were a tricky subject for many of our survey respondents – but fortunately, it’s what Cornerstone Projects does best.
If you need an underground utility search for electricity cables, gas pipes, water mains and more, contact our team to find out more.

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