Health and safety in construction

Health and Safety has been a talking point within the construction industry for as long as we can remember. A couple of years ago the UK Government released a construction sector report with the sole topic being on worker well-being. The report stated that H&S improvements within this sector would not only benefit the construction environment but also be favourable to economic growth.

Many believe this to be a win/win situation as it not only promotes a greater health and Safety awareness within the construction sector, but it is also built upon key government regulations which workers have to abide by when undertaking operational tasks.

One of the key construction areas covered by government law in the UK is Manual Handling. Within this the following topics are highlighted: movement of items through lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling.

Many believe the weight of an item should be what dictates the probability of an injury occurring. However, an employee must also take into account alternative factors e.g. the number of times an item needs to be picked up or carried, and also the distance it will have to be carried. These additional factors can increase the risk of musculoskeletal disorder injuries tenfold (MSDs).

MSDs are one of the most common construction-related injuries. These injuries include damage or disorder to the joints and other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back. The “Labour Force Survey” states that MSD injuries caused by manual handling accounts for more than a third of all reported work-related illnesses.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 require employers to manage these risks on behalf of their employees. This includes avoiding hazardous manual handling operations, moving loads through automated or mechanised processes wherever possible. If it can’t be avoided, a suitable and sufficient risk assessment from hazardous manual handling operations is required which sets out ways of reducing the potential of injury (Hill, 2016).

It is also important for employers to implement an ergonomic approach to manual handling across their operations, taking into account the nature of the task, size of the load, the working environment and where and when direct worker participation is necessary.

The HSE has developed a number of supportive resources, including the MAC (Manual handling assessment charts) and the V-MAC tools (Variable- Manual handling assessment charts), which help employers, analyse lifting, carrying and team handling. The ART tool (Assessment of Repetitive Tasks) gives advice and guidance on managing repetitive upper limb tasks, while the RAPP tool (Risk assessment of pushing and pulling) covers pushing and pulling requirements on a construction site. Often multiple tools will be required to complete a task. More information on these can be found on the HSE website (Hill, 2016).

These resources are there to support the wider legislative agenda of further protecting the people who work in the UK construction sector. It’s important