Saturday, 18 August 2012

Working (safely) on the roads

Currently HSE is consulting with a wide variety of individuals and organisations in an attempt at improving the health and safety of workers involved in the paving and road repairing industries. Working groups are looking into the dangers posed by such work and at any means of overcoming most of the potential hazards. But without the co-operation of the UK workforce this well-meaning initiative will be doomed to failure.

It is of little use if level headed people, after much debate, come up with appropriate safety measures and Approved Codes of Practice if the workforce then blithely ignores the results. It is absolutely useless to pass laws that cannot be monitored or imposed, and that will always be the difficulty when trying to impose any health and safety legislation on transient sites. Unless someone stands over every worker in the UK for every working minute of every day, and that is never going to happen, then compliance with H&S laws is often a voluntary matter.

Looking at many small to medium construction sites and especially transient sites, the voluntary aspect of H&S is obviously being exercised by workers, but in totally the wrong way. I am a little tired of seeing operators using noisy machinery without the benefit of hearing protection, and I am fed up with being verbally abused by workers to whom I have offered a suggestion that they should wear suitable eye protection and face protection when using disc cutters at the roadside. Worse still is that their fellow workers are also being exposed to the same dangers as the operators, and yet nobody says or does anything to improve matters!
The fault obviously lies with the workers who choose to ignore any sensible suggestions about their own personal health and safety, but their employers, supervisors and managers all share an equal responsibility for not ensuring their workers take better care of themselves and their fellow workers.

The lack of supervision at transient road works is a given, but that does not make it right! If you are an employer you must emphasise to your workers that they need to improve their personal safety every day and in addition instigate a programme of health monitoring within your company. Catching a disease or affliction early will save time, money and lives, later on, so take a deep breath and the plunge. Talk to your H&S consultant or in-house ‘expert’, agree a new safety policy, involve staff members and get started today – in the long run it’ll save you loads of money!

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