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Viewpoint: Continuing improvement

Bob Paterson

Health and safety continues to challenge.

With the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launching a new Workplace Health Expert Committee (WHEC) earlier this year, it seems that a fresh focus is being placed on health and safety in the construction industry.

It’s a renewed dedication that’s encouraging to see, and though construction fatalities in the last five years were 28% lower than they were in the previous five years, health and safety remains a pressing issue.

But it’s in attempting to address that issue that the industry has some of its best opportunities to innovate. In recent years, the industry’s awareness of and interest in health and safety issues has grown enormously, with the result that the number of construction worker deaths per year in the UK has dropped from 182 in 1975, to 35 in 2015.

Though bringing those numbers down to zero remains a challenge, it’s a welcome challenge, and one that’s seeing the industry as a whole improve immeasurably.

There’s undoubtedly still a long way to go; the International Labour Organisation estimates that every year over 2.3M people are needlessly killed due to injuries in the workplace or work-related ill-health - costing an estimated 4% of global GDP on top of the loss of human life.

Driving forward developments that will make workers and workplaces safer and more secure should be a top priority for all businesses in the sector, and it’s something that’s been at the forefront of our efforts this year at Mabey Hire.

Innovation in health and safety can take a range of forms and be implemented in any number of ways, from the small scale - like adjusting working times as daylight hours fade, or providing renewed training for staff - to the large - like introducing new, safety-specific products.

Using equipment that requires less manpower to operate, for instance, like Mabey Hire’s Pipelifter and High Clearance Strut with Aluminium

Trench Shield, is a simple way to reduce risk to people on the ground.

It’s up to businesses to look tactically at every part of their operation in order to continue making the improvements to health and safety that the construction industry needs to see

Even small changes, such as installing side sensors and safety alarms to vehicles can make a big difference, especially as injuries from moving vehicles caused the third highest number of deaths on construction sites in the last year.

Perhaps the biggest change we need to see, though, is in people’s attitudes to the problem - and that’s why it’s so good to see the HSE taking increased measures to protect our people.
There’s still plenty of room to grow in terms of revising and improving health and safety standards, and we look forward to seeing more innovations made to keep practices and people safe.

  • Bob Paterson is Mabey Hire director of SHEQ and compliance

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