The HSE has published a draft strategy for the construction sector for the coming year 2017/18.
The aim is to tackle and improve the current fatal and injury statistics associated with the construction workplace. A number of the problems that the HSE is hoping to tackle with this new strategy will be familiar to the construction industry, but there is also an emphasis on introducing a framework for tackling stress and promoting mental wellbeing within the workplace, which marks a new emphasis on health from the HSE.
The HSE are continuing to pursue a number of types of injury that will be familiar to those involved in the construction sector. There will be a continued emphasis on falls from height, which continue to be the biggest cause of fatal injury in Britain's workplaces. As a result the HSE will be continuing to scrutinise policies and how companies approach refurbishment and maintenance work that is carried out.
There will also be a continued focus on injury to health caused by exposure to silica dust and asbestos. Occupational lung disease continues to contribute to work related ill health and was estimated to be responsible for approximately 12,000 deaths in 2016. The draft strategy published by the HSE, has made it clear that the authority will be prioritising interventions, inspection activity and enforcement where occupational lung diseases pose the highest risks. This will be of particular importance to those in the construction industry that deal primarily with buildings constructed before the year 2000 (which may contain asbestos), where it will remain important to carry out and document risk assessments and management plans for all building and maintenance work.
In addition, there is going to be an increased emphasis placed on wellbeing within the workplace. The HSE estimates that the total number of working days lost due to stress in 2015/16 was 11.7 million, which equates to 45% of all working days lost. The recently released draft guidance does not point towards interventions and inspections as has been the case with other priorities, but is instead focused on securing evidence from industry and research bodies to inform future activity. The HSE has also delivered its first National Stress Summit in order to bring together stakeholders from different industries to discuss how best to tackle this issue.
The HSE's priorities for the coming year are a mix of issues that are already well established and on the radar, as well as a shift towards focusing on the occupational health of workers. Those in the construction industry will always benefit from making sure that all risks are appropriately assessed and that adequate records are kept in order to satisfy the HSE in the event of an inspection. With regards to the new emphasis on occupational health and wellbeing, at this stage it appears as though the HSE are interested in consultation, and those within the construction sector would be well placed to take part in that debate and help shape future policy on this issue.
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at May 2017. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions