Well, the main reason is that construction is a dangerous game! Okay; those of us in the building game don’t see it as being particularly dangerous, probably because we are all a bit thick! Health and safety weren’t the first priorities for many professionals in construction during the previous decades.
However, the HSE rate three occupations as being highly dangerous and a threat to life
The first two have almost been eradicated in Britain! That just leaves us lot!
Life on Site
On site we are well aware of some dangers – circular saws, falling from heights; sharp tools; structural collapse; moving plant, etc. With all these we go to great lengths to reduce risks:
- We keep always apart pedestrians and plant.
- We make sure the guys using dangerous tools are competent and observing the common sense things that ensure no accidents.
- Scaffolding and trenches have their safety barriers erected.
- We avoid walking under ladders and so on.
However, there are some more subtle and far less obvious dangers to our Health and Safety in Construction!
An obvious one we are aware of these days is asbestos! Back in the day we thought nothing of cutting it, sticking it in as insulation or anything else! Thirty years later people developed, and were diagnosed, with Asbestosis!
Excessive Burden of Cement Bags
Bags of cement and plaster used to be in 50kg bags. Wagon appeared with 20 tons of them and workers had to hump them off and stack them by hand! Many of those people who did that now suffer from serious back problems and pain! It seemed a bit poncy to reduce the weight of the bags to a mere 20kgs, but that was no more than an important long-term contribution to Health and Safety in Construction.
For a really long time, almost everyone in the field seemed to consider dust as an innocent part of our daily routine. However, something is just recently coming to light! A “rare” illness is becoming apparent, except the suspicion is that it isn’t rare; It is quite common and more and more of us oldies are suffering from it! That is Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) which is scarring of the little air sacks in our lungs and it means we get shorter and shorter of breath.
That’s why, a big contribution to Health and Safety these days is that people have to wear masks! Back in the days when I used to get my hands dirty we would never wear one! That’s the “warrior class” mentality we share! They can’t yet tell us exactly what causes it but know that it can be dust from metal, woodworking or construction – and we, without our masks, were exposed to all three! The adverse health effects of working MDF have yet to fully come to light!
These days I’m even more obsessed with Health and Safety in Construction than I was before I retired! If I’m walking past a site and see someone jeopardizing their own or other people’s health and safety I barge in and give them a telling off! If site management intervenes and asks what I’m doing there without PPE they get it from me, too. My status in the building game allows me to get away with it!
Why should I be so obsessed? Simple! I suffer from a wrecked back and my lungs are wrecked by IPF! Don’t I just wish we knew 30-odd years ago what we know now about Health and Safety in Construction! It is the subtle, long-term hazards we are trying to eliminate these days.
Make sure you stay safe then and enjoy your day on the construction site!