How do you weigh up what is or isn’t sufficient?

Risk… harm… how do you weigh up what is or isn’t sufficient? Health and safety is a fabulous concept – let’s keep everyone safe, all the time.

In reality, there are risks and the potential for harm in nearly everything we do. However…, when you are a business, especially in industries which are at more risk of accidents occurring – Construction, Engineering and Manufacturing, for example, you have a duty under health and safety legislation to protect those you employ, and the public, as far as is reasonably practicable.

Increasingly, we see more and more prosecutions for accidents. The reasons are various, but the re-occurrence of incidents caused by lack of planning, resources and safe systems of work is very worrying.

Not only are sons and daughters, wives, husbands, parents – real people, being harmed or even killed, businesses can be ruined by the financial costs of prosecutions and claims, increased insurance premiums, mistrust of their integrity and damaged reputations.

Unfortunately, we are also seeing increased instances of prosecutions before an accident occurs.

Under the Sentencing Guidelines, since February 2016, Companies could be liable for prosecution, as there no longer has to be an accident for a prosecution to occur. The Sentencing Guidelines state:

“Harm – Health and safety offences are concerned with failures to manage risks to health and safety and do not require proof that the offence caused any actual harm. The offence is in creating a risk of harm.”

Custodial sentences, as well as fines, could also be awarded. If a case is made in court, the prosecution will be calculated by considering the seriousness of the harm risked by the breach and the likelihood of that harm occurring.

Whilst protecting people from the risk of potential harm can only be a positive thing, many instances could be prevented.

When calculating and arranging for works to be carried out, always consider “What if…” and don’t end up thinking “If only…”.

How will work be carried out? What risks are there? Consider the following, but the list will depend on the works:

  • Are you working from height?
  • Is there the potential for asbestos to be disturbed?
  • Is there gas or electricity involved?
  • Excavations?
  • Dust?
  • Fumes?
  • Vibration?
  • Have you put up scaffolding – is it checked at least every 7 days, is access removed to prevent unauthorised persons? This could be children, curious teenagers, anyone.

Remember, if you engage a worker and do not do everything that is reasonable to prevent harm occurring, you could be liable, even if something doesn’t go wrong. Perhaps you only need a couple of roof tiles fixing, it won’t take long, the roofer says he is fine up there, that’s what he does…

Your worker says not to worry, they are used to climbing that ladder, sitting on that roof. Maybe they’ve been excavating trenches, building walls, cleaning windows, cutting down trees, for years. They know what they are doing. That’s ok then, isn’t it?

Mmm… Are your workers trained to carry out the tasks they are working on? Have they been provided with a robust safe system of work to follow? Have you provided all the necessary protection measures?

Have you checked, and this means properly checking, that all persons engaged as Sub-Contractors have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to carry out the work safely?

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 place responsibilities on all Duty Holders to ensure works are planned, managed and executed safely. If you are unsure about your responsibilities, whether as a Client, Principal Contractor, Contractor, new employee at a company, give us a call.

“You don’t know what you don’t know” until it’s too late…

Get in touch with us if we can assist in any way. Life is precious. Your business is your livelihood.

We are Construction Health and Safety Consultants in Dorset.