Posted on 16 December, 2014
IT is disturbing to read that a recent series of construction site inspections by the Health & Safety Executive revealed that 17 per cent of sites had to be subject to enforcement action due to lack of proper health and safety standards.
Ignoring legislation and health and safety guidelines can be an expensive and dangerous business.
In general, 25 per cent of major injuries in the workplace are as a result of falls from height, and 50 per cent of all falls were in the construction industry. In 2012/13 the most common cause of fatalities as a result of an accident at work was from falls from height 31% (approximately 47 people).
Recently a construction company in London and a roofing firm working on the site were fined after a self-employed worker fell six metres, suffering a number of serious injuries including a fractured spine, which left him requiring extensive hospital treatment and seeking alternative employment.
Finding a number of fall-related H&S failings, it cost the construction firm over £20,000 and the roofing company £8,000, along with the bad publicity and significant damage to the reputation of both businesses.
And earlier this year a church in Liverpool was fined £65,000 for health and safety breaches after a volunteer died falling through the church’s roof while installing insulation. There are plenty of other similar examples around.
Obviously part of our business – installing and maintaining public clocks – involves significant risk. Risk to the worker who is at height, often involving a long ladder, risk to us as his employers, and certainly risk to the client, be it a council, church, private company or charity. It is particularly tricky in winter months when the weather is bad and surfaces slippery.
The HSE defines working “at height” as, broadly speaking, any workplace that is accessed without the use of stairs. There used to be a two-metre cut off point (ie above two metres) but that was abolished in 2005.
As a business, implementing the full raft of HSE demands can be seen as a bit of an expensive luxury. Companies can think, mistakenly, that their insurance covers it all, but it doesn’t. They have legal responsibilities as well, which for small businesses or churches can have a catastrophic effect. Prosecutions can lead to fines, compensation payouts and even prison.
To us at Smith of Derby it presents both a dilemma and an opportunity. A dilemma because when companies see a quote from us and a quote from a small firm or one man band, the alternative quote can appear cheaper.
Often, that comes down to the fact that at Smith of Derby, we are proud to offer the absolute safest working practices for our staff, clients and contracts, whereas, to be blunt, very few of our competitors do.
It is a hefty investment and one we are actually increasing with the recent appointment of Michelle Bayraktari, an H&S consultant with major health and experience in the construction industry.
Michelle will work alongside our other experts in this area, including Justin De-Vere, one of the country’s leading H&S consultants, to ensure that we our commitment to all H&S issues is absolute and we are at the forefront of compliance in the ever-changing landscape of H&S legislation.
The opportunity is that when I say “cheaper”, of course in the long run, as we saw from the example above, it is anything but cheaper when things go wrong. I’m sure the companies mentioned above thought it would be cheaper to fail to mark and protect roof voids and other fall risks, but it ended up costing them thousands and some very damaging headlines, as well as the moral pain of seeing a workman seriously injured.
Working pragmatically and effectively means balancing a cost effective operation with adherence to an ever changing landscape of legislation requires expert knowledge, which is why we are continuing to invest in H&S.
Our clients can be assured that any Smith of Derby job comes with the absolute best practice in terms of health and safety, minimising the risk to our clients and contractors, both financially and in reputational terms.
Our question then is simple: is settling for less worth the risk when it comes to protecting your business, your finances and your reputation when it comes to be a responsible employer and contractor?
For information on our clock servicing and clock maintenance service feel free to contact us here