Andy Mason, from the work-based training academy COSAC, which provides an online CSCS course, looks at the importance of ensuring all workers adhere to the same safety standards.
We are all well-aware of the potential dangers that come with working with hazardous materials, heavy objects and vehicles, at height and/or in underground spaces on building sites. Tight deadlines, and the pressure to keep costs down, only compound the risks further.
Sobering figures from the HSE show that there were 38 fatal injuries to workers, and six to members of the public in 2017/18. There were also 58,000 cases of work-related injury and 82,000 cases of work-related ill health, 62 per cent of which were musculoskeletal disorders, such as back pain.
It is a reminder, if ever one were needed, of why we need to protect anyone who enters, or walks past, a building site. Advances in PPE (personal protective equipment), along with more robust legislation, can all go a long way in safeguarding employees and members of the public – as long as every member of the team takes their responsibilities seriously and follows the rules.
Introduced in 2015, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations aim to drive up standards further by clearly setting out the requirements of a project. As a minimum requirement, all workers must have ‘the right skills, knowledge, training and experience’ to perform tasks safely.
Whether you rely on a trusted team of regular labourers, or temporary agency workers, the first step is to make sure they have the correct accreditation.
The CSCS Green (Labourer) Card, for example, demonstrates that a worker has passed the CITB Health, safety and environment (HS&E) test. Holding the Green card gives site and project managers the reassurances they need that someone can identify the most common safety signs, dangers and take appropriate action.
Accreditation extends to other roles too, with apprentices expected to have a red card, while skilled workers and managers should hold a blue or black card respectively. First aid training is also essential for managers and supervisors, while asbestos awareness training lays the foundations for working safely with this potentially lethal material.
Looking at the HSE figures, it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of maintaining the highest levels of site safety. But, even if it improves their employment prospects, busy labourers could be reluctant to attend a course, particularly if they have always preferred practical work to classroom learning.
However, it is worth pointing out that they can do the training for the CSCS Green (Labourer) Card completely online, rather than having to travel to a training centre, take a day off work and/or incur loss of earnings. With all the training materials provided, they work through the programme and then take the test at a time to suit them, all from the comfort of their own home. They need to dedicate an average of just three hours to study, which is time well-spent if it prevents accidents or ill health.
Theoretical training is only the first step in maintaining the highest safety standard on-site – but it is an important one. While most people, whether they work in construction or not, recognise warning signs and understand the importance of wearing a hard hat and high-visibility jacket, accreditation brings everyone up to the same level, covering dangers they may not have considered and providing a clear roadmap to work to.
As long as workers follow the correct procedures, and regularly refresh their training throughout their career, the risk of ill health, injury and even death could be drastically reduced.
For more details on COSAC’s Safe2Site online course, visit www.cosac.co.uk/safe2site-cscs.