Can health & safety reporting reduce construction accidents?
The short answer is yes, the insight that health & safety reports offer means that it’s easy to find opportunities to prevent construction accidents.
For health & safety managers, the construction sector is an industry fraught with hazards and complexity. By its very nature, construction involves a certain level of risk. Heavy machinery, hazardous chemicals, working at height and the use of construction equipment all pose potential risks but despite this, construction workers have the right to be safe in their place of work.
Health & safety managers have a duty, along with senior managers, to assess workplace risks and put suitable and sufficient strategies in place to prevent injuries, as set out in Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Despite huge advances in health & safety standards in the past decades, the construction industry still has the second-highest rate of fatalities in the UK and 30 people lost their lives due to incidents on the construction site in 2019.
By taking a proactive and thorough approach to audits and reporting, health & safety managers can gain a better understanding of the risks posed to workers and the strategies that need to be implemented to prevent construction accidents.
Which types of construction accidents are the most common?
According to the HSE construction statistics report 2019, construction accidents fall into five main categories:
- Falls from height
- Slips, trips or falls on the same level
- Trapped by something collapsing or overturning
- Struck by a moving, falling or flying object
- Injury while handling, lifting or carrying
But not all workplace injuries are accidents. Work activities or conditions on-site can cause or worsen long term conditions and diseases. Some of the more common conditions associated with construction work include occupational deafness, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asbestosis.
Reporting construction accidents – it’s the law!
The most recent Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) came into effect in 2013. RIDDOR is law in the UK and the legislation means that employers need to report and keep records of certain accidents, incidents, diagnoses and dangerous occurrences. RIDDOR reporting is necessary for enforcing authorities to allocate their resources and to investigate areas of concern.
Businesses must report the following – by law (complete details of reportable conditions and incidents are available on the HSE website):
- Work-related incidents that cause death
- Certain reportable accidents that cause serious injury – including most fractures, amputation, loss or reduction in eyesight and serious burns
- Injuries that require an individual to be off work for seven days or longer
- Injuries to members of the public – if they need hospital treatment
- Certain diagnosed industrial diseases – such as carpal tunnel syndrome and occupational dermatitis, cancer or asthma
- Certain incidents that have the potential to harm – this covers ‘serious near misses’ and includes fires, explosions and machines overturning
- Reportable gas incidents – all Gas Safe registered gas engineers must report dangerous gas appliances that pose a risk
The responsible person, usually the health & safety manager, must report these incidents to RIDDOR, either through the website at www.hse.gov.uk/riddor or through the hotline telephone number, for fatalities and serious injuries.
Besides submitting a RIDDOR report, businesses must record any RIDDOR-reportable event. They also have to record any incident that requires an employee to take three days or more off work.
Reporting that goes the extra mile
RIDDOR regulations are law but it is also the very minimum amount of reporting required. For effective health & safety management, RIDDOR reporting should be just the beginning. To make health & safety a priority on the construction site, managers need to understand the complete risk posed to all workers and put in place robust and practical procedures, tools and practices to ensure worker safety.
The first step is to set a comprehensive, yet straightforward, audit process. Audit templates should be created by the health & safety manager, agreed with senior management and sent to assessors for regular completion.
PlanRadar contains a range of health & safety templates, fully customisable for each unique site. The templates are created and controlled by the health & safety manager and then available to assessors through their smartphone, via the easy-to-use PlanRadar app. Any completed assessments are sent to the health & safety manager and as a result, issues can be flagged for immediate remedial action.
Completed assessments form an audit trail. Audits show where individuals need more personal protective equipment (PPE) or where workers aren’t following procedures correctly. They can also show where concurrent projects pose risks to workers in other areas. Data from reports can highlight recurring issues. As a result, HSE Managers can plan more sustained intervention, process changes or education to prevent future incidents.
By providing evidence of health & safety issues, reporting can help to drive change within the business. For instance, this might be through the buy-in of senior management who can see the impact of health & safety measures. Alternatively, it may inspire ideas for new campaigns to drive home certain safety messages.
Moving towards a collective health & safety attitude
We all know that health & safety is the responsibility of everyone on site, but taking responsibility is sometimes easier said than done. To shift to a safety-centred culture, it must be easy for any worker to report a health & safety incident or construction accident and then see that it has been dealt with. Through PlanRadar’s ticketing functionality, any user with a smartphone can report an incident. Within tickets, they can then highlight the nature of the issue and include evidence to aid a quick resolution. With PlanRadar, workers can include images and notes with their ticket and mark it directly on the building’s digital blueprint for easy identification.
Starting with RIDDOR reports but aiming for more
RIDDOR regulations are the basic requirement for health & safety on a construction site. To adopt a safety-centric culture, health & safety managers need to actively assess site risks and build a comprehensive picture over time. Fact-based auditing and reporting provide evidence for change. By subsequently changing procedures, processes and activities to actively reduce known risks, health & safety managers can move construction sites to a place of greater safety. In turn, this can help reduce construction accidents, near misses and industrial diseases and helps to keep construction workers safe.