- 4,000 people die every year from asbestos related diseases[i]
- 500 people die every year from silica related diseases[ii]
- 50% of all workplace cancers appear in construction[iii]
The need to focus on long-term health issues
Despite the fact that only 1-4%[iv] of fatalities linked to Construction are due to on-site accidents, historically there has been a focus on this type of risk rather than on the long-term health problems that account for 96-9% of deaths. This imbalance points to a lack of understanding within the industry and is something we all need to address.
Start with your company’s safety culture
An organisation’s culture can have as big an influence on safety outcomes as the safety management system. Culture can be best understood as “the way we do things around here” and strong positive leadership can help encourage employees to take necessary health and safety precautions.
The fact is, long-term health problems can usually be traced back to the decisions and behaviours of leaders, not workers. As a Health and Safety Manager, you are a powerful role model and your attitude and commitment could be the single most influential factor when it comes to the safety on your site. Your Supervisors play a vital part too. If they are not ‘on message’, their attitude can act as a bottleneck, preventing important advice and information from reaching the workers.
Getting your message across
Try to balance the negative messages about the potential consequences of unsafe work behaviour with positive messages about the advantages of working safely. It is not enough to tell your workers to behave more safely; they need to understand how to do this and, above all, appreciate the benefits for themselves. Be aware that it is much easier for a worker to understand the causes and implications of an on-site accident than health problems such as cancer, silica and asbestos related diseases and hearing loss where the symptoms are anything but immediate.
Avoid sending out mixed messages
Something you can easily forget is that sub-contractors should follow the same rules and standards as your workers. If they don’t, there is a danger of sending mixed messages to your staff and your health and safety programme could well become compromised.
Equipping your workforce
Having created a work environment that supports safe work practices, you must make sure that your workforce has all the equipment they need to allow them to work safely. If PPE is required, it is well worth calling in an expert to advise you as to the most suitable respirators, hearing protectors and coveralls for your specific needs – particularly as new and improved products come onto the market every year. As well as training your workers how to wear and use Personal Protective Equipment, certain items will also need to be fit tested to ensure they are providing the level of protection required for each individual.
Built to last
Just like the structures your company constructs, your health and safety programme needs to be maintained on a regular basis to ensure ongoing effectiveness. Training with new workers and regularly reviewing and refresher training with existing workers is essential. You should also ‘freshen up’ your programme from time to time to prevent it becoming outdated and to keep engagement levels high with your employees. Above all, make sure that health and safety concerns always visibly remain your priority over other operational challenges.
If you’d like to know more about the long-term health and safety issues in the Construction Industry and how best to deal with them, call the 3M helpline on 0870 60 800 60 for an expert opinion.