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Accident prevention

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Construction
Wordcount: 1610 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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As described in the previous paragraph, the British law through its rules and regulations on health and safety in the construction industry sets up a framework organised to limit accident occurrences on worksite and more generally during all the phases of the construction process. However, the prevention of accident is not only based on the application of the law. It is necessary to develop systems of health and safety management that apply the law by thinking of what really happening instead of just applying rules. The objective is to promote the subject of safety, influence human behaviour and limit the opportunities for mistakes to be made. This way, the number of accidents and injuries can be reduced (St John Holt, 2005).

Several techniques had been elaborated to prevent accidents. The one described here contains seven principles (St John Holt, 2005):

Eliminate hazards : avoid risk

Tackle risks at its source

Work should be adapted to the individual

Use of technology : use new development of equipment, plants…

Prefer consider the protection for the entire workplace instead of only individuals

Make sure that everybody is aware of what has to be done to be safe and healthy at work

Ensure that everybody comply with health and safety management

Those seven principles aim to increase the way people behave towards health and safety matters. In order to apply these principles, the HSE recommends the system of management based on the control loop (Plan-Do-Check-Act). This system is composed of the five key elements as follow (HSE, 1997):

Policy – Organising – Implementing – Measuring performance – Reviewing performance – Auditing performance


Health and Safety Policy

Any company employing five or more persons is obliged to have a written safety policy statement. This liability is imposed by the HSWA. The purpose of this policy is to demonstrate the company’s commitment to health and safety. It is the responsibility of the most senior manager to sign and date the statement and make sure the policy is implemented by everybody in his company (Howarth & Watson, 2009).

(To be enriched ??)

Organising for health and safety

To reach a high level of organisation in health and safety, it is essential that both managers and employees motivate themselves and get involved an committed to build a safety culture in their company. This safety culture is defined by the HSE as ‘the culture of the four Cs’ (Howarth & Watson, 2009):

Competence : provide training, instruction and recruit adequately

Control: allocate good responsibilities on supervisors and secure commitment

Cooperation and Coordination: use representatives to represent employees and managers and coordinate activities between projects and resources.

Communication: inform about risks, hazards and preventive measures adopted

Planning and Implementing

Planning leads to prove that all efforts made to prevent accident work and to ensure health and safety issues are well identified and tackled. That could permit in a reduction of insurance costs, a reduction of absenteeism due to a healthier workers, an increase of productivity and quality. All those factors demonstrate that an efficient planning in the health and safety management can result in a more profitable project (St John Holt, 2005).

Measuring performance

Measuring the performance of the plan and its implementation allows to determine its weaknesses and find solutions to improve it. The information acquired by monitoring the system allow the managers to figure out how well is the health and safety culture they aim to develop (HSE, 1997).

(To be enriched ??)

Reviewing performance

Risk Assessment

In everyday life, hazards are present in many locations, many activities and can be encountered at every minute. By definition, the word ‘hazard’ means ‘the inherent property or ability of something to cause harm’ (St John Holt, 2005). It is important to make the difference between the words ‘risk’ and ‘hazard’. A risk can be define as ‘the likelihood of harm occurring and follows all the possible harms inherent in a hazard by reference to the severity and probability of that harm occurring’ (Fewings, 2005). The risk assessment is an important step in health and safety management. It is done during the preparation of the construction project. Most of the specialists define the content of the risk assessment in five steps (HSE, 2009) :

Identify hazards

Decide how hazards can harm people and who are those people

Evaluate and rank risks and take corrective actions

Record and implement the findings and communicate the remaining risks to every stakeholders

Review the risk assessment on a periodic basis and update it if necessary

Despite the risk assessment is carried out by Clients and Designers, every companies participating to the construction process should carry out their own risk assessment for the specific tasks they are going to execute and for the safety of their employees (HSE, 2006).

The risk assessment should not be done at the end of the design. By working on it at the beginning of the design, designers can integrate hazardous matters directly in their design and remove or reduce the risk at its source. In the construction industry, every site is different from another. That implies, no tasks are entirely repetitive, the design should be unique for one specific worksite and all the hazards appreciated every times (WS Atkins Consultants, rev A. Gilbertson, 2004).

Identify Hazards

Workplaces and construction sites more particularly are places where lots of hazards can be identified. It is then necessary for the safety of workers and the public to identify all the hazards related to the construction activity and then undertake an efficient risk assessment to eliminate or limit the risks associated with these hazards and prevent accidents (Howarth & Watson, 2009).

In the construction industry, the work zone is a high-risk environment where fatal but also nonfatal injuries are generated by accidents. Highway construction and maintenance is an even more hazardous work place because of the presence of traffic. Bryden distinguishes two kinds of accidents: construction accidents and traffic accidents (Bryden & Andrew, 1999):

¶ Construction accidents are those which are involved in the construction process and which are not related to traffic activity.

¶ Traffic accidents represent all accidents involving a motor vehicle intrusion into the traffic controlled zone of the work site and colliding with another vehicle, a pedestrian, an object or construction equipment.

More in detail, safety hazards encountered on construction projects can be split into five categories of origin (Howarth & Watson, 2009):

local environment: weather conditions (snow, extremes of heat…), contaminated ground, light level, presence of ground water….

work activities: excavations, working at height, insufficient supervision, falling objects, trench collapse, excessive noise, electrocution…

lack of knowledge and deficiency of attitude and behaviour: lack of awareness of hazards present on site, untidy sites, smoking and use of mobile phones on site, lack of knowledge of site rules and evacuation procedures, non-use of personal protective equipment, tiredness, hangover…

movements of people and equipment: no separation of vehicle and pedestrian routes on site and access at site entrance, lack of signage or suitable fencing, use of plants or vehicle by non-qualified personnel, insufficient maintenance, no traffic management system…

materials: storage, transportation and use of hazardous materials, removal of contaminated materials, fire…

During the hazards evaluation, Clients and Designers use to split the construction work into several activities corresponding to various tasks. Then they gather information related to hazards identified for those tasks which can be collected by old inspection or accident reports readings, by requiring information to insurance companies, manufacturers, consultants, government agencies… (St John Holt, 2005). This part of the risk assessment in essential to reduce the harm caused by these hazards.

To give an example of recurrent accident that occur on worksites, the HSE gives the most frequent causes of accidental death and injury in one of its practical guidance (HSE, 2006):

Falls : unsafe workplace, inadequacy of access to and from the workplace…

Mobile plant: poor visibility, reversing materials, pedestrian workers walking on the site…

Falling materials and collapses: people stuck by reversing loads or buried during excavation, unexpected structure collapses…

Electrical accidents: work close to power line or buried cables…

Transportation: trip accidents, transfer, access to and from sites…

It also provide a set of causes of recurrent diseases provoked by bad working conditions or hazardous substances (HSE, 2006):

Asbestos: respiratory diseases

Manual handling: back injuries due to repetitive lifting

Noise and vibration: hearing loss, hand-arm shaking syndrome

Chemicals: eyes and skin problems


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