Changes to The Highway Code for 2022

An update to The Highway Code has introduced a hierarchy of road users, which creates ‘clearer and stronger priorities’ for pedestrians.

The Department for Transport claims that the changes, which are split into three main rules, ultimately aim to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders. The changes are due to come into force on 29 January.

Below, we run through the major changes laid out in the updated The Highway Code, plus we have details on smaller additions that might affect your journey from A to B.

At a glance: How has The Highway Code changed?

  • Drivers of large passenger vehicles and HGVs now have ‘the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger posed to other road users’
  • Drivers at a junction should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road that they’re turning into
  • Drivers should give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing, and pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing
  • Cyclists should give way to pedestrians that are using shared-use cycle tracks
  • Drivers should not cut across cyclists going ahead when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane
  • New ‘Dutch Reach’ technique tells road users how to open the door of their vehicle while looking over their shoulder

Three new rules added to The Highway Code

Rule H1: Hierarchy of road users

The first (and most significant) rule in the refreshed The Highway Code sets out the hierarchy of road users. Road users who can do the greatest harm (those driving large vehicles) have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they pose to other road users. Pedestrians (children, older adults and disabled people in particular) are identified as ‘the most likely to be injured in the event of a collision’. Here’s a look at what the hierarchy of road users looks like:

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Horse riders
  4. Motorcyclists
  5. Cars/taxis
  6. Vans/minibuses
  7. Large passenger vehicles/heavy goods vehicles

As you can see, cyclists and horse riders will also have a responsibility to reduce danger to pedestrians. Even so, the updated The Highway Code emphasises that pedestrians themselves still need to consider the safety of other road users.

The Department for Transport says this system will pave the way for a ‘more mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use’.

Rule H2: Clearer and stronger priorities for pedestrians

This rule is aimed at drivers, motorists, horse riders and cyclists. The Highway Code now states clearly that, at a junction, you should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road that you’re turning into. Previously, vehicles had priority at a junction. Drivers should also give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing, and pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing (a combined pedestrian and cycle crossing). Meanwhile, cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared-use cycle tracks, and are reminded that only pedestrians (including those using wheelchairs and mobility scooters) can use the pavement. Pedestrians are allowed to use cycle tracks unless there’s a road sign nearby that says doing so is prohibited.

Rule H3: Drivers to give priority to cyclists in certain situations

The updated The Highway Code urges drivers and motorcyclists not to cut across cyclists when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane. This rule applies whether the cyclist ahead is using a cycle lane, a cycle track or simply riding on the road ahead.

Drivers are meant to stop and wait for a safe gap when cyclists are:

  • Approaching, passing or moving away from a junction
  • Moving past or waiting alongside still or slow-moving traffic
  • Travelling on a roundabout

Are these rules legally enforceable?

These updates are aimed to keep road users as safe as possible, but not everything in The Highway Code is legally enforceable.

While some of the rules are legal requirements (and you’re committing a criminal offence if you disobey them), many simply serve as guidance.

If you scroll through The Highway Code, you’ll see some rules include ‘must’ or ‘must not’ – these rules are supported by existing laws. For example:

  • You must give way to pedestrians on a zebra crossing, an pedestrians and cyclists on a parallel crossing

Those that include ‘should’ or ‘should not’ are only guidance and not supported by existing laws, but may be used in evidence to establish liability. For example:

  • You should give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing

What else is changing?

Rules H1, H2 and H3 aside, there are some other changes to The Highway Code in 2022.

The ‘Waiting and parking’ chapter of The Highway Code has been updated to describe the ‘Dutch Reach’. This suggests you should open your door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you’re opening. So, you would use your left hand to open a door on your right side – this naturally makes you turn your head to look over your shoulder.

Meanwhile, EV owners are being reminded that the charging cables for their cars can present a trip hazard for pedestrians.

Source: Which.co.uk

BSG Safety Alert: HAVS

A man has received a £100,000 payout after a glazing firm he worked for was fined for breaching health and safety laws.

The man developed Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) after years of using powerful glass cutting tools. He is one of twenty people diagnosed with the condition to take legal action against the firm.

The company failed to ensure the safety of staff who used a Fein cutter – a handheld tool that vibrates – and ruled a £200,000 fine.

Alex Shorey, the specialist industrial injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing a number of those affected, said: “HAVS has a severe effect on a person’s daily life and future employment prospects.

“Sufferers go on to develop a loss of feeling, pain and a lack of fine motor skills in their hands which results in them struggling to work, particularly within the same industry.

“In addition, the condition often deteriorates over time and there is currently no cure.” For further details about this case, please visit: Metro

New SOP Guide published

In response to the Omicron variant, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has republished the Site Operating Procedures guide to provide up to date advice for sites. The Site Operating Procedures – Version 9 document incorporates the following key changes:
 

  • A revised introduction to recognise that working with COVID-19 is now ‘business as usual’ for the industry
  • Appropriate language to reflect the current situation on site, for example ‘managing’ rather than ‘restricting’ numbers of workers
  • Removing out of date references, e.g. when to go to work, shielding etc.
  • Links on the front page take the reader to relevant guidance on social distancing, going to work, face coverings and self isolation

To view the latest guide, please login into the BSG Hub, click on BSG InTel, Health and Safety Documentation followed by COVID-19. 

BSG Hub – Mobile App

We’re pleased to announce that the BSG Hub is now available to use as a mobile app. Members will be able to use tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices to access BSG Hub services.

The app has been created as part of our continuous service development programme and will be provided exclusively for BSG members. Users can complete risk assessments, method statements and COSHH assessments by logging into the app with the same username and password currently used for logging into the desktop version of the BSG Hub. 

Health and safety documents, toolbox talk videos, HSE Blitz notices and safety alerts will also be available to view.

The app is presently available to download on the Android platform through Google Play (An iOS version will be available to download soon).

 

Top 10 expert-opinion pieces of 2021

From the challenges of a post-COVID-19 world, to climate change and new legislation, here are some of the top 10 expert-opinion pieces of 2021.

10) Building Safety Bill may leave contractors feeling exposed

Lawyers Catherine Gelder and David McCoy of CMS London

Partner Catherine Gelder and senior associate David McCoy, from law firm CMS, examined the potential implications of the Building Safety Bill, which the government introduced to parliament in July.

The draft sets out plans to overhaul fire-safety regulation in the wake of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, introducing a new regulator, changes to the building-control profession, a new regime for duty holders and more stringent sanctions.

Of most relevance to the construction industry, Gelder and McCoy noted proposed changes to the Defective Premises Act, and that the bringing into force of Section 38 would extend the limitation period for claims from six to 15 years. They suggested these elevated risks for liability may put upward pressure on the pricing of construction work and the insurance policies needed to allow work to proceed.

Meanwhile, a survey in October suggested that more than half of contractors, clients, architects and engineers knew how they would approach new ‘golden thread’ rules, set to be introduced by the Building Safety Bill, which is expected to come into force in 2023.

9) Lessons learned: ditching diesel to cut carbon

Ben Griffiths - Rye Group

Ben Griffiths, safety, health, environmental and operations director at Rye Group, described how the demolition contractor had switched from using diesel to hydro-treated vegetable oil (HVO) in order to cut its carbon footprint.

Griffiths assessed some of the challenges involved in making the switch, including maintaining supply and the cost implications for the business. However, he also said his firm was changing to HVO because it was “the right thing to do” in the face of the impending climate catastrophe.

More recently, coinciding with the COP26 event, the UK Green Building Council has warned that new regulations should be introduced for construction to avert the risk of missing net-zero goals. Perhaps more firms should be following Rye’s lead on adopting HVO.

8) Stalled insurance market fuels contracts that share pain and gain

Andy Desmond, UK construction industry leader at Marsh

While buzzwords about alliancing have been bandied about since the Latham report in the mid-1990s, a new wave of advanced insurance-backed alliancing (IBA) contracts are showing how more collaborative working can eliminate many of the negative outcomes seen in the traditional design and build process.

Andy Desmond, UK construction industry leader at insurance broker and risk adviser Marsh, explained how IBAs bind the project owner and all other stakeholders contracted to deliver it (including main contractor, subcontractors, architect and engineer), to optimise capabilities, remove conflicts, and encourage efficiencies through transparency and collaboration.

Desmond identified that IBAs also provide greater resilience to harsher insurance-market conditions – a desirable factor since major claims in 2017-18 triggered a hardening of the insurance market, which has since worsened amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

7) Insurance hikes make supply chain scrutiny an absolute essential

Richard-Roberts_NG-Bailey-2.jpg

Insurance was also the focus of another comment from earlier in the year by NG Bailey group insurance manager Richard Roberts, in particular professional indemnity insurance (PII).

Roberts noted that, in construction, PII premiums have soared while coverage exclusions have increased. He identified a number of factors driving this, including an increase in historic claims in the sector and the cyclical hardening of the insurance market.

He also recommended paying attention to the insurances of supply chain partners, and offering support where possible to ensure appropriate cover is always in place.

Roberts concluded: “Construction PII is under the microscope. We all have a duty to ensure risks are managed effectively now and in the future.”

6) COVID and Brexit have increased the risk of slavery – it’s time to fight back

Joanna-Rees-portrait.jpg

Blake Morgan construction partner Joanna Rees warned that economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of clarity on immigration, post-Brexit, have increased the risk of people being exploited through modern slavery, particularly in the construction industry.

She cited a report by Unseen UK, the UK’s leading charity on modern slavery, which revealed that 57 cases with 209 potential victims had been reported to its national helpline in 2020 – up 12 percent on the same period in 2019.

Rees called on the industry to stay aware and work together to “put a stop to the exploitative practices that have escalated during the last year”.

As recently as September, 13 men have been arrested on suspicion of modern-slavery offences relating to building sites in north London.

5) We can’t build back better without the builders

Mark Farmer CEO Cast Consultancy

Mark Farmer, Cast chief executive and author of the construction industry review Modernise or Die, warned that the decarbonisation agenda will only be delivered when the sector has solved its skills crisis.

Farmer referred to a report by the Institute for Public Policy that showed significant action is needed from both industry and government to deliver the skills required for a successful green economic recovery.

The skills crisis continues to be a thorn in the industry’s side with the Building Back Britain commission saying last month that major regional training hubs should be founded across the UK to increase the construction workforce.

4) Beyond time, cost and quality – the unforeseen benefit of MMC

Stephen-Wightman_UK-MMC-lead_Faithful-Gould.jpg

Faithful+Gould’s UK MMC lead, Stephen Wightman, outlined his theory on how modern methods of construction can not only improve delivery in the build process, but also boost diversity in construction, thus opening the industry up to a wider talent pool and helping with the skills crisis.

Wightman admitted the industry still has a way to go, referencing a GMB survey that said only one in eight construction workers are women, and only 5.4 percent come from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. He also cited Construction News’ LGBT+ survey, which showed over half of LGBT+ respondents did not feel comfortable being open about their sexuality or gender on construction sites.

However, he said that by taking more of the build process offsite, firms could offer more reliable shift patterns, more accessible workplaces, and create more accepting working environments. Wightman wrote: “MMC on its own won’t solve our diversity and inclusion issues, but it can help.”

3) The new hiring hurdles for recruiting EU workers

John Hayes employment lawyer Constantine Law

At the beginning of the year, Constantine Law managing partner John Hayes described the effect that Brexit would have on the workforce, in terms of employing workers from the EU.

“The new rules are complex and detailed, and will create significant resourcing issues for the construction industry during 2021,” he wrote. Hayes described in detail the administrative hoops that construction firms would now have to jump through to recruit EU labour.

“These changes will create a real resourcing issue for the construction industry during 2021 unless the industry campaigns to add all construction workers to shortage occupations,” he added.

In September, vacancies in the construction industry hit an all-time high and topped 40,000 for the first time since 2001, when the data was first recorded.

2) Contracts: 5 NEC changes to be aware of

Chris-Dickson_partner-CMS.jpg

CMS senior associate Christopher Dickson issued guidance on the second set of amendments for its NEC4 suite of contracts, issued towards the end of 2020.

Points he focused on in this legal commentary include: delay damages and Triple Point v PTT Public Company; dates for payment and Rochford v Kilhan Construction; contractor/subcontractor liabilities; early contractor involvement; and project bank accounts.

1) Construction must adopt manufacturing to build better

Writing in March, Mace Construction chief executive Gareth Lewis looked back over the previous year, noting: “I have seen UK contractors changing their operations at a scale and pace I never expected. When the 2016 Farmer Review urged rapid construction modernisation or risk extinction, this is what it meant.”

Lewis went on to outline his vision of how construction and the wider built environment sector could respond to the unprecedented problems the world is currently facing – from “the great challenge of our generation in climate change”, to emerging from the post-pandemic economic crisis.

Ultimately, he sees the solutions to these problems lying in the industry adopting modern methods of construction, such as Design for Manufacture and Assembly, as well as a greater emphasis on building safety, with more attention paid to quality and compliance.

He ended his comment piece on a contemplative, optimistic note: “We live in a time of great challenges and, if our industry is going to rise and meet those challenges, we must redefine the boundaries of ambition.”

Source: Construction News

Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19): Omicron Variant

For your information, guidance documents for the construction industry, other outdoor work and working in offices have been updated following the emergence of the new ‘variant of concern’, Omicron.

The two documents that have been updated are;

Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) Construction and other outdoor work

Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) Offices

The key change relates to what happens if NHS Test and Trace notify someone that they are a close contact of a person with a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant. Should this occur, the person will be instructed to self-isolate regardless of their age or vaccination status. 

If you would like further guidance about this update or have any other questions about the best ways to reduce the risk of COVID19 spreading in your organisation, please don’t hesitate to contact us at BSG:

E. enquries@bsgltd.co.uk

T. 0300 304 9070

Happy holidays from all of us at BSG!

As we bid farewell to 2021, we’re looking forward to sharing many more exciting things with you in the New Year.

Please note, our offices in Bristol will be closed from Thursday 23rd December 2021 at 17:00 and will re-open on Tuesday 4th January 2022 at 08:30.

BSG Awards 2022

The Building Safety Group is planning to hold its sixth annual Health and Safety Awards ceremony during the late Spring of 2022. The day will also include a keynote speaker.

Further details about the event, and how to submit your nominations for an award will be available on our website in the coming months.

Categories will include:

  • Project Award for Best Health and Safety in Planning and Design
  • BSG Innovation Award
  • BSG Environmental Award
  • Occupational Health and Wellbeing Initiative of the year
  • Contractor of the Year
  • Best COVID-19 initative
  • Small Business of the Year
  • Best Use of Technology in Health and Safety
  • Training Award for Exceptional Achievement in Health and Safety

The BSG Hub mobile app

We’re very pleased to announce that the BSG Hub will soon be available to use as a mobile app. Members will be able to use tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices to access BSG Hub services. The app will be exclusive to BSG members only.

Users will be able to complete risk assessments, method statements, and COSHH assessments by logging into the app with the same username and password currently used for desktop devices.

Health and safety documents, toolbox talk videos, HSE Blitz notices, and safety alerts will also be available to view.

The app will initially be made available to download on the Android platform through Google Play. An iOS version of the app will follow shortly after.

A note will go out to all existing ‘BSG Hub’ users as soon as the app is live and ready to use, so please lookout for an email in your inbox or a message on one of our social media channels.

If you’re not already registered to access the BSG Hub, please complete this form and send us your details.

Contractor pre-qualification service

BSG is developing a new service for members, by offering to evaluate your sub-contractors’ health and safety competence and whether they meet the industry standards as set by PAS 91.

As many of you will be aware, your business has a duty to ensure that any contractor you appoint is competent to perform tasks safely, without unacceptable risks to other employees, members of the public, as well as others on site.

CDM 2015: Legal obligations

Where accidents do occur on-site through the incompetence or negligence of a contractor, you could also be liable if you did not take steps to appraise the contractor or carry out management checks to ensure that agreed standards of operation were being carried out correctly. Contractors should only be allowed to carry out work on-site if they have been vetted and approved by you. Even if you have used the same contractors for a number of years, you may still need to regularly assess them in order to ensure that you are adhering to your legal obligations. Detailed guidelines relating to the appointment of contractors are provided in regulation 8 of the CDM guidance document: Managing health and safety in construction (L153).

Contractors that meet the required health and safety standards set by PAS 91 will be approved by BSG to work with you. We hope this will save your business considerable time by allowing you to focus on your core competencies during these challenging times.

If you have not already expressed your interest in this service, please send an email to buildingsafetygroup@bsgltd.co.uk and let us know approximately how many contractors you would like BSG to prequalify.

CPR and AED training course

In 2022, we plan on launching our new CPR and AED training course, designed to equip first aiders and non-first aiders with the necessary skills and knowledge to use or assist in the use of Automated External Defibrillators and perform or assist in performing CPR.

…Watch this space!

Site managers across the UK are set to lose their Black CSCS

Under the removal of grandfather rights from the scheme, many are now wondering whether they can continue to work in the industry.

Grandfather rights allowed workers to attain their CSCS Cards based on a strong employer recommendation rather than using a CSCS recognised qualification. CSCS terminated the Industry Accreditation route in 2010, but the cards could still be renewed if the applicant was an existing cardholder.

CSCS now wants all cardholders to be qualified with a construction-related NVQ, therefore from January 2020, all cards will expire by December 2024 at the latest. This has also led to CSCS removing cards such as the Construction Site Visitor card.

Graham Wren, Chief Executive at CSCS said:

“Following the closure of the Construction Related Occupation card and the Construction Site Visitor Card, cards gained by Industry Accreditation are the only cards in the CSCS scheme which do not require the cardholder to achieve a recognised qualification. Industry Accreditation does not support industry’s desire for a fully qualified workforce and as such it will be withdrawn.”

Do you need the Black CSCS card?

The CSCS Card Scheme is seen as the passport to construction sites as it is often essential for access. Although CSCS Cards are not legally mandatory, they do comply with CDM regulations.

CDM regulations, as you’ll know from the Manager’s Health and Safety Tests, specify that employers must ensure that all employees have the appropriate training required to work safely in their environment.

As well as the CDM regulations, you’ll know that for any job role in construction, you will require the CSCS card as the principal contractor will usually specify this as a requirement. This allows them to lower injuries and deaths caused on site as they will know that all employees are competent in their role.

As a manager of a construction site, the principal contractor will want to ensure that you are competent to look after a large number of staff working in a construction environment. This reduces their own liability as they will know that there is a responsible site manager in place with industry experience. The CSCS card does exactly this.

How do I renew my CSCS card?

Without the NVQ, you may be wondering about the next steps for keeping your Black CSCS Card. CSCS has a list of recognised qualifications that can be used to apply for the Black CSCS Card which can be found on the Card Finder. Simply put, you will need one of the following:

Achievement of a relevant Construction Management/Technical related NVQ/SVQ level 5, 6 or 7

An SVQ Level 4 in Construction Management/Technical related qualification or

You will also need to have passed the CITB Health, Safety and Environment Test for Managers and Professionals within the last 2 years.

Level 5 NVQ Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety

Complete our NVQ Diploma, demonstrating the ability to put theory into practice within the workplace. Contact us today.

Call: 0300 304 9080

Email: Training@bsgltd.co.uk

HSE Safety Alert issued: Swing-up stabilisers on lorry loader cranes

At least one and possibly two people have been killed after being struck by the type of lorry crane stabiliser legs that swing up (also known as ‘tilting’ or ‘rotating’) rather than retract.

The Association of Lorry Loader Manufacturers and Importers (ALLMI), which promotes safe use as well as represents industry interests, has been alerted by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) following a fatal accident investigation. The HSE has also informed ALLMI of a more recent fatality that is still being investigated and which may have similarities with the first.

ALLMI, in turn, is spreading the lessons to the construction and haulage sectors.

The completed HSE investigation found that: the operator was using the hold-to-run levers at the crane base and was not watching the stabiliser as it was being retracted. The stabiliser leg was in a horizontal position when it struck the operator.

Swing-up stabilisers are fitted to lorry loaders predominantly to negate the need for widescale relocation of chassis furniture during installation and have become increasingly common over the last 15 years. They may be either manually or hydraulically operated. Operation is either by levers at the crane base or via remote control, dependent upon specification.

ALLMI and the HSE says that the recent incidents reinforce the importance of locking swing-up stabilisers in the vertical (upright) position before the stabiliser beam is deployed or retracted.

The warning continues: “It is essential that operators fully observe the operation of the stabiliser leg during deployment and stowage. Operators must be made aware that the operation of the swing-up function must be separate from the movement of the stabiliser beam (i.e. they should not use both functions simultaneously).”

It explains that the risk of crushing is increased on the side where the swing-up stabiliser tilts towards the operator/levers at the crane base. Other instructions include read the manual and don’t stand in the wrong place.

“Operators must be fully conversant with the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the deployment and stowage of swing-up stabilisers. There can be considerable variation between different manufacturer systems.

“Operators must not be positioned in (or lean / reach into) danger zones where there is a risk of crushing.”

It adds: “If swing-up stabilisers are used on sites where the stabiliser is only partially deployed, there is an increased risk of creating a danger zone where the swing-up stabiliser tilts towards the operator/levers at the crane base. In this case, consideration should be given to repositioning the vehicle to ensure further extension of the stabiliser beam is achievable prior to the swing-up leg being deployed/stowed.”

*If your company has any questions about using Swing-up stabilisers on lorry loader cranes, please don’t hesitate to contact us at BSG: enquries@bsgltd.co.uk, Tel 0300 304 9070

Substance use during the holidays

Seasonal holidays can often create stressors, social influences, environmental factors, and other challenges for people. Sometimes, these can bring on alcohol and/or drug use.

The consumption, use, and abuse of alcohol or drugs pose huge safety risks for the construction industry, where the slightest lapse in focus could result in a life-threatening accident, particularly when working in an environment where heavy machinery and vehicles are used.

Workers may use alcohol and/or drugs and develop an addiction due to a variety of reasons, including social pressures to use alcohol or drugs, easy access to alcohol, isolation from social settings, stress (whether from home, workplace, or both), work overload, family difficulties, isolation from families and loneliness.

At times, these associated problems that come with drinking or taking drugs to excess can extend to the workplace. Employees who abuse alcohol or drugs are more likely to become absent from work, display poor performance and/or have an increased risk of accidents.

Maintaining a safe working environment is of utmost importance for any employer; this not only applies to the workforce but also to the surrounding public and anybody else who may be affected.

If you’re unsure of whether drugs or alcohol are present within your business, or to what extent they’re being used, you may find it useful to understand some signs of alcohol and drug misuse:

  • Sudden mood changes
  • Unusual irritability or aggression
  • A tendency to become confused
  • Abnormal fluctuations in concentration and energy
  • Impaired job performance
  • Poor timekeeping
  • Increased short-term sickness absence
  • A deterioration in relationships with colleagues, customers, or management
  • Dishonesty and/or theft (arising from the need to maintain an expensive habit)

The signs shown above should be regarded only as indications that an employee may be misusing alcohol or drugs. A table showing the most misused substances by adults in the UK can be found on our website: https://bsgltd.co.uk/most-commonly-misused-substances-in-the-uk/

Your legal responsibility

You have a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSW Act) to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare at work of your employees. You also have a duty under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, to assess the risks to the health and safety of your employees. If you knowingly allow an employee under the influence of drug misuse to continue working and his or her behaviour places the employee or others at risk, you could be prosecuted. Similarly, your employees are also required to take reasonable care of themselves and others who could be affected by what they do at work.

Working safely in the winter

Winter weather has the potential to hit the UK hard, with strong winds, freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and lots of rain. All these elements can cause hazards for construction workers on site. As the weather is uncontrollable and unpredictable, taking precautions to ensure site operatives stay safe is essential.

Low temperatures

Temperatures that fall to near or below freezing can be dangerous to a person’s health. They can cause skin and internal body temperatures to drop. In addition, if rain causes the skin to become damp this will contribute to heat loss from the body, and the body may not be able to warm itself up. All of this can cause serious illnesses that can result in permanent tissue damage or, in more serious cases, death. Trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia are potential hazards if workers are not properly protected from the elements when working outside.

Slips, trips, and falls in ice, frost and snow

Falls are one of the most common construction site accidents and they can happen all year round. However, winter weather increases the risk of falls due to ice and wet, slippery surfaces. When surfaces become cold, ice can accumulate on scaffolding, ladders, walkways, stairs, and work platforms. If these areas are not treated correctly, they can cause workers to slip and fall, sometimes from height, causing injuries such as broken bones, fractures, traumatic brain injuries, and even death.

  • To reduce the risk of slips on ice, frost, or snow, you need to assess the risk and put in a system to manage it
  • Identify the outdoor areas used by pedestrians most likely to be affected by ice, for example: building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas, and areas constantly in the shade or wet
  • Monitor the temperature, as prevention is key
  • You need to take action whenever freezing temperatures are forecast. Keep up to date by visiting a weather service site such as the Met Office or the Highways England
  • There are also smart signs on the market, available to buy at low cost, which display warning messages at 50 and below
  • If warning cones are used, remember to remove them once the hazard has passed or they will eventually be ignored
  • Put a procedure in place to prevent an icy surface forming and/or keep pedestrians off the slippery surface
  • Use grit or similar, on areas prone to be slippery in frosty, icy conditions
  • Consider covering walkways e.g., by an arbour high enough for people to walk through, or use an insulating material on smaller areas overnight
  • Divert pedestrians to less slippery walkways and barrier off existing ones

Driving incidents

Driving incidents don’t just happen on the roads, they can also happen on construction sites. Being on a construction site, it is easy to forget that winter driving rules for the road still apply. It is also important to remember that construction vehicles aren’t usually as agile as cars because of their size and weight. It’s a good idea to carry a survival pack in your vehicle(s), including food, water, an extra blanket, and extra warm clothes. Here are our top 10 tips for winter driving:

  1. Ensure your phone battery is fully charged and you have an in-car charger.
  2. Put a shovel in your boot – in case you need to dig yourself out of trouble.
  3. Consider fitting winter tyres, but even if you don’t, have your summer tyres checked. Winter driving means that tyres should have no less than 3mm remaining tread.
  4. Have your battery checked. Batteries have to work extra hard in the cold and are more likely to fail.
  5. Make sure your windscreen washer fluid is topped up with the correct concentration of screen wash. Windscreens get particularly dirty in the winter months and screen wash will help prevent the liquid from freezing.
  6. Have your coolant checked – the antifreeze needs to protect your engine against the lowest of temperatures.
  7. Have your air-con system serviced. It’s not just for summer – an effective air-con system will demist windscreens much more quickly, helping visibility.
  8. Adjust your driving style to the conditions – be sensible in the rain, snow, and ice.
  9. Above all, in bad conditions consider whether your journey is necessary.

Preventing accidents on a construction site

Limit any exposure to the elements by shielding certain work areas from the weather, protecting the construction workers from potential harm.

Keep updated with weather reports, giving enough time to carry out any procedures necessary to ensure workers stay safe. Such measures could include:

  • Shielding any areas that could be worst hit by the weather
  • Creating warm break areas so that construction workers can warm up
  • Scheduling outside work to be carried out in shorter durations, ensuring employees do not have to face the elements for long periods of time
  • Providing the correct gear so when employees are working outside, none of their skin is exposed and they are fully insulated to retain body heat and prevent the cold weather affecting them
  • Educating employees about how to work safely when the bad weather hits and what to do to prevent any accidents
  • Checking the site for any new hazards that could have been caused by the bad weather

Gritting

The most common method used to de-ice the ground is gritting because it’s relatively cheap, quick to apply, and easy to spread. Rock salt (plain and treated) is the most used ‘grit’. It’s the same substance that’s used on public roads by the Highways authority.

Salt can stop ice from forming and can cause existing ice or snow to melt. It’s most effective when ground down, but this will take far longer on pedestrian areas than on roads.

Gritting should be carried out when frost, ice, or snow is forecast or when walkways are likely to be damp or wet and the ground temperatures are at, or below freezing. The best times are early in the evening before the frost settles and/or early in the morning before workers arrive. Salt doesn’t work instantly; it needs sufficient time to dissolve into the moisture on the ground.

If you grit when it’s raining heavily, the salt will be washed away, causing a problem if the rain then turns to snow. Compacted snow, which turns to ice, is difficult to treat efficiently with grit. Be aware that the ‘dawn frost’ can occur on dry surfaces when early morning dew forms and freezes on impact with the cold surface. It can be difficult to predict when or where this condition will occur.

Working outside any time of the year can be extremely dangerous. Always make sure employees are safe, helping to reduce onsite injuries and fatalities.

Sources: HSE and Designing Buildings

Securing your site over Christmas

When the Christmas shut-down approaches, many people in the construction industry prepare for a well-deserved break, and construction sites across the country are left uninhabited over the festive season.

In previous years, members of the public have been killed or injured in construction-related incidents. Incidents included materials being blown off-site, scaffolding collapsing, or children gaining access to poorly protected sites.

By following these simple steps, and minimising the risk of access by unauthorised individuals, injuries can be prevented during the Christmas shutdown. Since every site is different, you need to assess your own site for the security risks that may be present.

Arrange regular checks

Should the site be closed for a significant period, it may be sensible to arrange for regular checks to take place to ensure that the site remains safe and secure.

Have emergency contact numbers ready

You should have emergency contact numbers displayed or available should anything urgent need attending to, such as a break-in or hoarding damage over the closure period.

Prevent potential financial loss

Ensuring that your site is secure could prevent financial loss from damage or thievery during the Christmas break. To reduce the risk of theft, make sure you remove any highly valuable items from your site or at least remove them from view. Lock vehicles, plant, tools and equipment within a secure compound or storage area.

Assess the safety risk

Conduct a risk assessment. Evaluating the site risk is crucial before you secure your site over Christmas. If your site is located in a densely populated area such as a city centre, it is likely that your site would be considered at higher risk than those located in areas that are more rural.

Greater measures of security can include:

• Alarmed fencing

• Security cameras

• Heavy-duty locks

Some high-value projects will need to be manned over the break, often a security guard acting as a deterrent to casual thieves. However, all employees on-site will need some basic health and safety training to protect themselves while on-site alone

If you already have fencing, ensure that this is secure and undamaged. Check that your locks and doors are all functioning correctly.

Children can often see poorly guarded sites as a playground, so sites need to prevent them from being able to gain access. If trespassing occurs, the general contractor can be held liable for any injuries sustained. You should consider removing all ground-level access to higher platforms such as scaffolding, ensuring all keys have been removed from plant/machinery, COSHH correctly secured, and secure all site accommodation. View the HSE’s additional guidance on how to protect the public.

Prepare for bad weather

Temporary structures such as scaffolding, fencing, trenches, and excavations could be at risk of collapsing from strong winds during the winter. These can be made as secure as possible by:

• Using warning signposts near trenches and excavations

• Cover voids, pits, trenches, and pier holes

• Covering unfinished roofs etc. with tarpaulin

• Ensuring that loose materials are removed from scaffolding

The site should be checked, particularly if there is bad weather.

For more information on how to properly secure scaffolding, please view HSE’s scaffold checklist.

Securing your site and planning the shut down in advance will mean that your valuables, staff, and the public are safe, and will give you a better chance of a worry-free Christmas break.

One in five construction employees have suffered from bullying in the last year, impacting their mental health

21% of construction employees have experienced bullying in the last year with almost 3 in 10 saying the bullying was just labelled as ‘banter’. Industry workers have reported high levels of stress, anxiety and depression as a result.

The findings, from a nationwide survey for Anti-Bullying Week (Monday 15th to Friday 19th November), come as poor mental health in the construction industry reaches an all-time high, with over half of UK construction workers reporting mental health issues in the last year.

Despite the construction industry’s continued efforts to tackle the rising issue and promote awareness of the problems, reports of bullying are increasing with 1 in 5 construction workers impacted by bullying alone in the last year.

The Mental Health in the Construction Industry survey, found that only 7% of workers raised feelings of poor mental health with their HR team. Shockingly, when issues were raised, only 6% said they had sufficient mental health support.

The data was collected by London plant hire specialists Herts Tools, who surveyed employees from 88 construction companies in the UK, to highlight the impacts of poor mental health in the industry.

With the construction and trades industries traditionally leaning towards ‘manning up’ or ‘cracking on’ as solutions to mental health issues, the findings suggest this attitude is still very much present. 50% of workers between the ages 21-24 were found to be the worst affected by bullying labelled as ‘banter’. 

Workers surveyed also noted that the industry could improve its approach to confidentiality, with 56% of bullied employees wanting more privacy on issues raised. Even those who hadn’t personally been subject to bullying felt more could be done to improve confidentiality around sensitive, personal issues (36%).

Stefano Lobban, Director at Herts Tools, said:

“The UK construction industry is still experiencing a mental health crisis: workers continue to demonstrate a ‘suck it up and deal with it’ approach to poor mental health. 

“The findings from our survey highlight that workplaces could be doing more. They could encourage workers suffering to come forward and share their experiences of poor mental health issues and/or bullying by having more confidentiality measures in place. Companies could look at investing in workplace surveys, private spaces and more wellbeing measures, to give workers the opportunity to share any personal issues in a safe and supportive environment.

“We just hope that companies take these new figures as a warning and address their own workplace culture so that these difficult and sensitive issues can be discussed.”

Kasia Richter, Founder at Wellbeing Strategist, said:

Harmless joking is when it is enjoyed by both parties. Banter can be a way of creating bonds by sharing experiences and exchanging thoughts and feelings in a way that is mutually accepted. Bullying starts when boundaries of respect are crossed and certain behaviour is harmful, causing negative feelings such as emotional pain, sorrow, guilt or shame.

“To tackle any mental health issue, we need to know what exactly we are dealing with. Therefore the first step should be learning and discovering what the specific issues are. Communicating with employees is crucial to this. Creating a culture of openness and support is necessary in order for the employees to start sharing. 

“In addition, access to confidential information should be controlled and people who are handling confidential information should be properly selected, trained and supported/supervised. Company culture should include a code of ethics, which should be made clear from the start.”

Ian Hurst, Co-founder at We are Hummingbird, said:

“With regard to bullying, I believe it is essential to take the individual’s feelings into account. Ultimately, it comes down to the person. If the person feels they’ve been put in a difficult situation, or embarrassed, or emotionally aggrieved or affected by what’s been said to them, then that must be taken seriously by the organisation and classed as bullying. Steps should then be taken in a formal process, through HR, to deal with what has occurred, with the process formally logged and recorded.

“If workplaces want to tackle bullying, they need to foster a company culture where complaints of bullying are taken seriously. Any complaints should be treated with a structured, formal approach and no excuses can be made for individuals. Comments such as ‘Oh, that’s just how he is’ are not helpful, and harmful behaviour should not be tolerated, no matter how senior the individual concerned is.

“There should be a point of contact within any organisation who is the individual to go to with any concerns, complaints or worries about bullying. They should be open and approachable, so employees feel they can discuss things that are bothering them, in confidence.”

Where can you find help?

Mates in Mind is a leading UK charity raising awareness and addressing the stigma of poor mental health. We promote and lead on the development of positive mental wellbeing within the workplace. Mates in Mind works across industries, focusing on construction, as well as related sectors, including transport, logistics, manufacturing, and others.

Source: Herts Tools

Pallet recycling scheme seeks to cut industry waste

Bam, Morgan Sindall and Willmott Dixon are among early backers of a new pallet recycling scheme for the construction industry.

The Pallet Loop has been set up as construction’s first pallet reuse scheme in a bid to reduce waste.

Every year around 18 million pallets are manufactured for the UK construction industry, with estimates suggesting less than 10% are currently reused. Pallets form up to 10% of construction waste. The Pallet Loop hopes to change this, by supplying stronger pallets with a longer design life that can be reused. They are painted a distinctive shade of green to indicate that they are for reuse, not disposal.

They are distributed to manufacturers, who transport products on them to construction sites after paying a deposit per pallet. As pallets move through the supply chain, the deposit passes from manufacturer to merchant to end user. After being stacked and stored, The Pallet Loop collects them (reducing site clutter) and returns deposits. It then repairs them as necessary and recirculates them.

Timetabled for operational roll out in 2022, The Pallet Loop is a joint venture between Paul and Ryan Lewis and Scott Group – one of the UK’s leading pallet producers. The Lewis brothers used to own HLC Wood Products, which they sold to Scott in 2015.

Paul Lewis said: “At present, the vast majority of pallets circulating in the sector are designed for single use. The current industry specification for pallets works on the assumption that they will be scrapped or skipped once they reach their final destination. We’re turning this outdated, inefficient and linear practice on its head. In a step-change for the sector, we’ve developed a range of standardised pallets, engineered to last and to be used again and again.

“Adoption of The Pallet Loop requires a shift in mindset from ‘deliver, distribute, discard’ to ‘recover, repair and reuse’ – but we’re confident the time is right and that the UK construction industry is ready to embrace this transformational shift towards a circular solution.”

Several companies across the UK construction sector have signed a charter, acknowledging that change is required when it comes to pallet consumption and committing to an evaluation of how The Pallet Loop could be integrated into their business to help cut waste. Signatories include BAM Construct, Bradfords Building Supplies, BDL/Careys, FIS (The Finishes & Interiors Sector trade association); Morgan Sindall (and Lovell), Meronden, MKM, MSK, Platt & Reilly and Wilmott Dixon.

Trials of The Pallet Loop recovery service took place in October across the UK with a number of principal contractors. Among them was BAM, whose head of procurement, Dan Billinge, said: “The critical success factor here is the collaboration of the whole supply chain. Over 95% of the pallets coming onto our sites are for materials purchased by a subcontractor and we need them to be on board as well as the suppliers and manufacturers so it’s ‘call of action’ from us to them.”

The distinctive green pallets have been delivered to BAM’s Stone Lodge School site in Dartford as well as sites in Perry Barr and Sheffield.

Source: The Construction Index

Working safely in wet weather

After weather warnings had been issued for the south of England with heavy rain, now’s a good time to familiarise yourself on working safely in wet weather.

Rain can cause slippery surfaces and limited visibility. However, steps can be taken to review risk assessments and mitigate the hazards.

  • Move cautiously. Although wet weather might make you want to work faster to get out of the rain, this is dangerous. Work more slowly and deliberately – particularly when climbing ladders
  • Use the correct equipment. Don’t use electrical tools that are not specifically made for outdoor use when working in rain. Select hand tools with textured, nonslip grip handles
  • Wear appropriate clothing. Wear proper footwear with deep tread, trousers and a jacket suitable for working in wet weather
  • Use proper hand protection. Ensure gloves feature a strong, slip-proof grip
  • Ensure adequate vision. Make sure lighting is adequate and that the lights used are rated for outdoor use
  • Make sure you can be seen. Wear high-visibility clothing in all areas
  • Ensure that requirements of CDM 2015 are met

For more information, please visit our website (BSGltd.co.uk). If you have any questions please contact BuildingSafetyGroup@BSGltd.co.uk

55 years on from the Aberfan disaster

In one of Britain’s worst disasters, a National Coal Board (NCB) waste heap that sat above Aberfan collapsed and slid downhill, engulfing the villiage.

While the tragedy is infamous, particularly as 116 children were killed, its impact on health and safety is less well known. It informed some key changes to the law.

Aberfan sparked huge public anger. The question of public safety was highly debated in the press, particularly as events emerged as being man-made and entirely avoidable.

NCB chairman Lord Robens was heavily criticised for his response to the tragedy. He initially approved a strategy of complete denial. At a 1967 tribunal into the disaster, his lawyers argued it was naturally caused by a “critical geological environment”. They also argued there was no way of foreseeing a slide, despite the fact Aberfan tips had slipped twice before – as had one at a nearby coillery causing £10,000 worth of damage.

The tribunal’s report went on to describe:

The “bungling ineptitude” of coal mine managers and workers
Men as being totally unfit for their charged tasks
Clear warnings being ignored

Aberfan made the dangers of ignoring workplace risks and the catastrophic effects on both occupational and public health and safety all too obvious.

There was no legislation on tip safety and no-one was punished or even held to account.

A wholesale review of the risks of tip-heaps quickly followed, as did the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act 1969. This Act required steps to be taken to make sure tips were absolutely safe and did not become a threat to people.

The 1969 Act specifically referred to public safety.

Aberfan was to blur the traditional divide between Health and Safety in the workplace and that of the wider public.

Aberfan added to a growing sense that the risks the public were exposed to by industry had to be controlled. This feeling eventually led to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (HSWA) 1974 which aims to protect both workers and non-workers from the risks of workplace activities.

The HSWA notably requires that employers must safeguard people not in their employment. This includes members of the public, contractors, patients, customers, visitors and students. This may be seen as Aberfan’s legacy.

The committee which effectively led to the creation of the HSWA was chaired by Lord Robens.

Earlier legislastion such as the Factories Acts focused on specific industries or workplaces. This meant over 5 million workers had no Health & Safety protection – as well as the generally ignored public. The law was then more concerned with making sure machinery was safe.

One key feature of the 1972 Robens Committee Report that is echoed in today’s Health & Safety is the principle of consultation. The committee identified apathy as the most important single reason for accidents. Accordingly, employers must now consult employees and pay more attention to attitudes.

Regrettably, despite great improvements in Health & Safety, the public still all too often angrily ask why organisations don’t take more care.

The intervening years have seen disasters such as Paddington, Manchester Airport, Bradford Football Club, Zeebrugge, Piper Alpha, Clapham Junction, Lockerbie, Hillsborough, The Marchioness, Southall and so on.

So whilst we can be comforted by the fact that legislation is more demanding and the safety of people is put first, history tells us that we must never be complacent.

Source: WorkNest

HSE issues wheeled loader alert

The Health & Safety Executive issued a safety notice on the use of wheeled loading shovels after nine people have been run over in the past four years.

Of the nine fatal vehicle-pedestrian collisions in the past four years, six occurred in the waste and recycling sector, with the remainder involved moving wood chip.

HSE has identified issues of poor visibility caused by the bucket and load, the engine at the rear and the cab pillars, significantly reducing the drivers’ ability to see pedestrians and, to a lesser extent, other vehicles. The use of larger capacity buckets, which has become common practice where low-density material is being moved, makes forward visibility significantly worse, the HSE warns.

Regulation 4 of The Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) requires machinery to be suitable for the purpose for which it is used. This also applies if the equipment is adapted, for example by fitting a larger bucket.

Manufacturers and other specialist suppliers have attempted to address the problem by adding ‘visibility slots’ or mesh at the top of buckets, but evidence from HSE investigations suggests these are ineffective when the bucket is in the carry position or obscured by the load. Camera systems have been under development for some time, but their effectiveness remains unproven and they are not widely in use.

HSE principal inspector Tim Small, head of the waste and recycling team, said: “Poorly planned use of wheeled loading shovels can have fatal consequences. This safety notice reminds duty holders who use these machines of the need to fully assess and actively manage the risk of vehicle-pedestrian collisions. Currently, the only effective control measure is strict segregation of vehicles and pedestrians. If you cannot ensure that segregation, you should not use larger capacity buckets or wheeled loaders, but employ alternative work methods such as using different machinery and/or site management arrangements.

“Before using wheeled loaders – or making changes to them – you should review your workplace transport risk assessments to ensure they will be safe to use in your environment and in the way you intend to use them. By implementing appropriate risk controls, needless pedestrian deaths could be avoided.”

Source: The Construction Index

View the safety notice for full details.