It was recently reported in the news that a Scottish building company were fined £30,000 for breaches of the Health & Safety Act that ultimately lead to the death of a lone worker.
George Wilson was carrying out drainage work with a mechanical excavator on his own in a remote location near Heriot Mill Farm, when the trench he was working in collapsed around him.
His employer Rodger Builders Ltd pleaded guilty at Jedburgh Sheriff Court, with Sherriff Peter Paterson noting that the company had failed “to ensure there was a clear communication policy with the employee in place while he was working alone” adding that the risk was “well known and readily identifiable” which proved to be an “aggravating factor.”
The maximum fine for the breaches would have amounted to £45,000 although this was reduced to £30,000 after the company’s safety record and working practices were taken into account.
Construction workers often face dangerous situations that can lead to potential injury and even death. Recent industry statistics from the Health and Safety Executive state that in 2015-16 there were 66,000 non-fatal injuries to those working in construction, with 23% of these due to slips, trips and falls.
It’s vital for employers to put in place procedures to safeguard their employees, particularly those that are working alone for periods of time. We have produced a list of recommendations to help those in the building trade to protect themselves whilst on site.
1. Always wear the appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) safety gear – for example helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety harnesses and footwear. If you’re not sure which equipment you need, ask your employer.
2. Double check that your working area is safe, this especially applies to those who may be working at heights. Make sure scaffolding is secure and correct safety fencing or fall protection nets are placed around holes and unsafe areas. Stay vigilant and report any issues to those in charge.
3. If you are working alone, make sure the relevant people are aware of your whereabouts. Checks should be carried out regularly to ensure everyone is accounted for at all times.
4. Carrying a mobile phone or personal safety device is recommended especially for lone construction workers who may be working in isolated areas so that they can send for help in the event of an emergency.
5. Keep a supply of basic first aid equipment on hand for minor injuries.
6. Take extra care with electricity and operating machinery, always follow safety precautions carefully and only use equipment that you have been properly trained to use.
7. Avoid leaving tools and heavy equipment placed at a height, especially on scaffolding. Be careful not to exceed weight limits and enforce rules to make sure hard hats are worn.
8. When using ladders, always maintain three points of contact, with both feet and at least one hand placed on the rungs at all times. Before climbing steps or ladders, inspect for signs of damage and replace if necessary.
Although it is impossible to eliminate all risks in construction, encouraging workers to take the above steps should help make their lives safer.