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HSE clamps down on refurbishment planning

5th February 2018

Construction projects across Britain are being urged to ensure the health and safety of their workers is protected as the second phase of a targeted inspection initiative is now underway.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says 43 workers were fatally injured in 2015/16, and an estimated ten times that number died from construction related ill-health, with a further 65,000 self-reported non-fatal injuries.

The HSE is now asking every construction contractor, client and designer to ensure they are not adding to this unacceptable toll of harm by failing to manage well-known risks. In addition to things such as falls from height, the campaign will focus on control of harmful dusts including respirable silica from concrete, brick and stone, asbestos and wood dust, as well as work at height, structural safety, materials handling, good order and welfare provision.

With the HSE giving full notice of its intentions to clampdown on those involved in asbestos remediation work who do not comply with the safety regulations, it is crucial that contractors plan ahead and fully take into account the safety measures required on refurb sites. In this respect it is essential that a refurbishment survey is taken ahead of any intrusive works scheduled to take place on buildings and infrastructure that were constructed before 2000. Advance planning of all works is essential to reduce on-site risks and avoid the threat of potentially harmful fibre exposure among those involved in the refurbishment activities.

The HSE points to the misconception that health issues cannot be controlled in construction. It says harmful dust, whether silica or wood, is a serious issue and can be managed effectively with the right design, equipment and training. Health effects may not be immediate, but the ultimate impact on workers and their families can be devastating.

The HSE’s Chief Inspector of Construction and Director of Construction Division Peter Baker said: “In phase 1 of this campaign HSE’s inspectors found lots of good examples of small sites working safely and protecting workers health from exposure to harmful dusts, proving it can be done. Nearly half of construction fatal accidents and injuries reported to HSE involved refurbishment work. Some small refurbishment sites continue to cut corners and not properly protect their workers resulting in an unacceptable number of deaths and injuries each year.”

The HSE carried out over 2000 inspections during the first phase of the initiative early last year, with action being taken to address these issues in almost half of visits.

Time and again at Capita we have seen the result of poor planning, insufficient planning or no planning whatsoever in relation to refurbishment works, with resulting exposure to airborne asbestos fibre. The Capita Asbestos Team can assist with Project Management and Consultancy services in relation to asbestos R&D surveys. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you or your clients require assistance, even if it is just a phone call for advice.

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