Failing to ensure health and safety in construction can have a detrimental impact on business and individuals, says the APS’ Chief Executive Lesley McLeod
Health and Safety is often seen as a bit of an old music hall joke. Too often people associate it with the worst and frequently comic excesses of overreaching and interfering bureaucracy. But at the Association for Project Safety (APS) we see things rather differently.
APS members understand the cost to both individuals and businesses when, at the outset, insufficient thought and attention has been paid to considering good practice in design and construction health and safety risk management. It is too easy to take your eye off the ball when work is pressurised – be that due to concerns about attracting and retaining suitably skilled staff in the light of worries around Brexit or the need to meet stretching national infrastructure commitments. And this is why the association and its members are focussing on both skills and industrial health – often an unseen casualty in construction.
The national infrastructure plan is pushing for a rapid expansion in building both much needed new homes and the associated transport and services to support them and all this while renewing the UK’s ageing infrastructure. APS members are fully engaged in the delivery of projects up and down the country but, as a professional association with members across the nation, it is one of our top priorities to ensure that work is undertaken without undue risk to the health and well-being of workers on site.
Construction health and safety
Clearly, making sure construction sites are as safe as they can be is always going to be top of the list of priorities. There are still too many people killed in construction with deaths remaining stubbornly at around an average of one a week. And it is only natural that tragedy makes the news and attracts the headlines – before you even scratch the surface of the devastating consequences for the families left behind. But fatalities are just the tip of our particular pile of bricks.
There are the momentary lapses which lead to life-changing injuries. And then there are the insidious, creeping effects that actions today can have on long-term health.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that businesses ought to think regarding health issues costing firms circa £1,000 for every employee, each and every year. That’s quite a bill when you start totting it up. So you would think it would pay to try to cut out as much risk as practical and proportionate.
APS has recently renewed its commitment – along with other companies and organisations across the construction sector – to addressing the challenges of improving the long-term health of workers in the construction industry. So much is unseen at the time with the consequences – perhaps deafness or RSI or even life-limiting breathing problems due to dust inhalation – hidden until months or years after exposure to the problem. And then there is the very sensitive subject of mental health – something often not just unseen but deeply buried in a roughty-toughty world of hard-hats and steel-capped boots.
Life-long professional training
The APS is keen to keep health issues in full view with our ongoing emphasis on skills knowledge and experience. We are working to promote the avenue of continual, life-long professional training, helping our members to become better equipped to provide the support and help that their clients need to deliver their projects on time, within budget and as safely as possible.
This drive to highlight the issues underpins our national awards for professionals and design students. Now in their 10th year, there are three key reasons we run them: acknowledgement; appreciation; and aspiration.
The first is simply to reward excellence in the field of design and construction health and safety risk management. APS members represent the very best in the construction industry, so our awards are a way of acknowledging the best of the best.
Then there is a wider point about highlighting to a wider audience the importance of building best practice in health and safety into the very foundations of every construction project. To deliver better health and safety outcomes it is important to demonstrate the value of the work being done and how this contributes, not only to the well-being of workers but the efficiency and effectiveness of work on projects throughout the country. APS members are facilitators not road blocks as we want to make sure that, this year, they do so by helping clients to achieve their project aims while keeping delivery up and costs down within the tramlines of the law and building regulations.
Rewarding health and safety
And lastly, but by no means least, the APS Awards are back to celebrate their 10th year. A way to encourage us all to strive, in whatever job we do, to be the best we can be. An afternoon mingling with MP’s and the evening at a gala event filled with fizzy fun is what shortlisted entrants can expect from the APS Awards. It is definitely gearing up to be our biggest and best yet, and I for one can’t wait. Aside from the celebrations, the Awards are underpinned by a serious message – the Awards celebrate outstanding contributions aimed at making work in the construction section safer.
I am very much looking forward to seeing this year’s crop of entrants, and I would encourage any aspiring and inspirational individuals to have a look at www.aps.org.uk/enter-the-awards
It is clear that there are plenty of challenges to be faced in the construction industry, but with a continuing commitment to excellence and by working together we can build – quite literally – a better and healthier Britain.
Chief Executive Oﬃcer
The Association for Project Safety (APS)