Managing Construction Health Risks - Part 1
Thursday, 29 November 2018
Posted by: Tasveera Singh
There have been big improvements over recent years in reducing the number and rate of injuries to construction workers. However, a number of serious ill-health issues continue to affect construction workers. These can be devastating for individuals and families. This article tells you about these risks and how to manage them.
Managing health risks is no different to managing safety risks. This page outlines the essential principles that you need to know.
You cannot properly control construction health risks without first having clear plans:
- Plan - your overall strategy
- Identify - the health hazards linked to your work
- Assess - the significance of these hazards
- Involve - workers in managing health risks
Remember - ‘Manage risk not lifestyles’
Clear plans are no good if you do not act on them:
- Prevent - risks before work starts
- Control - any remaining risk
- Train - workers
Remember - ‘Ill-health can be prevented’
You may already have the right controls in place but are they all working?
- Monitor - controls to ensure they are effective
- Act - to put any problems right
Remember - ‘Control the risks not the symptoms’
Everyone who works on a construction site must have access to toilets and facilities for washing, changing, eating and rest.
Contractors are required to provide welfare facilities and clients must ensure this happens. Decisions and action on this need to be taken at an early stage of project planning.
- Commercial clients – you must make sure contractors have arrangements for providing the right welfare. This applies to all construction work.
- Contractors – you must provide the right welfare for workers under your control while they are on site. Principal Contractors must ensure that this is done from the start of the project until it finishes.
Clients should co-operate with contractors and help them in situations where providing welfare facilities are difficult.
The Construction Regulations and Facilities Regulations lists the welfare facilities that should be in place at any site. This includes:
- Changing, eating and rest areas
The type and number of facilities you need depends on number of employees on site. You may need additional facilities (such as showers) to control the risks from hazardous substances like cement, lead or micro-organisms. Also, remember that separate facilities may be needed for men and women.
Consider the positioning of your facilities before starting on site. This will depend on the work you are doing. For fixed sites think about:
- Whether they will have to be moved during the project
- Access for cleaning and maintenance
- Encouraging the use of washing facilities by positioning them near to rest / eating areas
the distance from the furthest part of the site to the nearest facilities and how long it takes someone to get there (either walking or by vehicle). This time should be as short as possible.
- You may need additional toilets and washing facilities for workers in more remote parts of larger sites
- Arrangements for using any existing facilities. You can use those in a local café, public toilets or an occupied building. However, you need to make sure:
- You have proper agreement with the owner allowing their use (not necessarily in writing)
- They are available all the time that workers are on site
- There are measures for keeping them clean and replacing towels, soap, toilet paper etc
Temporary sites, like roadworks or repair work, and workers in remote areas, such as fields, require good welfare too. Where you put your welfare for this type of work depends on a number of factors such as how long the work will take, the distance from other available facilities and whether there will be any hazardous substances present. Options include:
- Central compound – workers should be able to access this easily and quickly. Take into account any likely delays due to traffic / distance. You may need ‘satellite’ compounds for more remote workers.
- Mobile units – a number of different self-contained welfare units are available. Remember when selecting these that they still have to meet certain minimum standards regarding toilets / washing and changing, eating and rest areas.
Welfare is a fundamental and basic necessity for workers. It is also is required by the Occupational health and Safety Act. Providing the right welfare sets the tone for a project and demonstrates a commitment to meeting workers’ needs.
Welfare facilities form an important control measure in their own right as well. They help protect workers against the risks from hazardous substances such as cement, lead or micro-organisms.
Source: OHS Act, MBSA Construction Manual and various websites.
Neil Enslin | Occupational Health and Safety Manager