October 2019 – Health & Safety
We all know that construction has the highest fatal accident rate of any industry (although agriculture, forestry and fisheries briefly snatched that dubious title from construction last year). But while efforts continue to be made to reduce the death toll on British construction sites, more attention is also being paid to other, longer-term, hazards which though less immediate and not so visible, also result in an alarming number of crippling injuries and premature deaths.
The HSE recently reported that musculoskeletal disorders are more common in construction that in any other industry. They accounted for 62% of all cases of work-related ill health in construction last year.
Then there’s asbestos. We all know it’s a killer, but there is still widespread uncertainty in the industry about the extent of the risk and how to mitigate it.
Meanwhile, silica dust – until recently considered little more than a nuisance – is now also recognised as a potential killer.
It all sounds pretty grim. But steps are being taken to address these problems, as we report in this issue of the magazine. The industry’s biggest union has launched a silica dust exposure register and is putting pressure on employers to act. Technology is even being used to create mechanical ‘exoskeletons’ to protect uses against musculoskeletal injury.
These things aren’t going to make the problems go away, but they’re a step in the right direction.