Health and safety legislation in industrial workplaces
BY Roberts Jackson
According to statistics gathered by the Health and Safety Executive (detailed in their report), the number of major injuries sustained by construction employees has fallen by almost a third in comparison to five years ago. That said, with an alarming 1913 major injuries reported in 2012 – 39 of which were fatal – there are evidently still many risks present in construction and industry workplaces.
Employers are legally responsible for the health and safety of their employees. Given the dangers and hazards present in construction and industrial working environments, thorough risk assessments are absolutely fundamental to the minimisation of injuries, and should be a paramount priority of any construction employer.
Falls, slips and trips cause the majority of industrial injuries
Falls, slips and trips accounted for 56% of the major industrial injuries suffered by construction employees during 2012. There are a number of ways in which these sorts of injuries could be diminished, starting of course with personal protective equipment, but also by ensuring working areas are kept as tidy and uncluttered as possible, providing more cautionary signs (which are specific to the various hazards), and improving lighting conditions.
Industrial illness caused by exposure to asbestos
Occupational exposure to asbestos is one of the leading cause of industrial illness. When materials containing asbestos are disturbed, asbestos particles become airborne. That is where the danger lies: the inhalation of asbestos particles can cause serious long-term damage to the lungs and eventually cancer in some cases. According to HSE statistics, over 4700 people died in 2011 from various diseases and conditions caused by occupational exposure to asbestos.
Asbestosis is a chronic inflammatory condition which affects lung tissue and is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres. In 2011 there were 178 deaths to which asbestosis was recorded as the underlying cause, whilst 2012 saw almost a thousand newly assessed cases of asbestosis.
Measures employers must take to prevent asbestos exposure
By law, it is the duty of those responsible for the management of non-domestic properties to establish whether or not there are materials containing asbestos on the premises. If there are, the amount of asbestos, its location(s) and its condition must be ascertained. Work on or removal of asbestos materials must be carried out by licenced asbestos contractors.
Materials containing asbestos were commonly used in construction and industry until the discovery of its toxicity, and it was finally banned entirely in 1999. This means, however, that asbestos is still common in the general environment, and must therefore continue to be considered a serious health hazard for those who work in construction and industrial environments.