12 May 2015

Health and safety takes centre stage with industry law overhaul

24 April, 2015 | By Greg Pitcher

Major changes to industry’s health and safety rules underscore continuing demand for expertise. A major overhaul of the laws governing health and safety on construction sites came into force this month.

The 2015 Construction Design and Management regulations set out the responsibilities taken on by different parties in a construction project, and the relationships between them.

Later this month, a major campaign will be launched by the British Occupational Hygiene Society in a bid to slash the huge number of construction workers dying from exposure to silica dust.

Clearly then, health and safety remains a critically important topic for construction bosses for a number of moral, legal and business reasons.

With the recovery in full swing, demand for professional knowledge of this complex environment is high.

“Effective health and safety policy relies on having the right people in place and engagement with health and safety at the very top of a business,” says Tom Anthony, senior recruitment consultant at jobs agency Hays Health & Safety.

“As more and more construction companies realise this, the demand for qualified health and safety professionals will continue to rise.”

Lucrative opportunities

Mr Anthony says salaries for top construction health and safety staff are pushing towards the six-figure mark.

“Across the UK, good health and safety advisers in construction can command £35,000 to £45,000,” he says.

“We have seen health and safety director salaries reach up to £85,000 in London and the surrounding areas, such is the demand.”

But it’s not only senior staff that are required.

“We have seen health and safety director salaries reach up to £85,000 in London and the surrounding areas, such is the demand”

Tom Anthony, Hays Health & Safety

“Employers are looking for ambitious entry-level advisors with the potential to become the next generation,” Mr Anthony says.

Although project experience is a benefit, it is not the only route for people wishing to get into the sector.

“Organisations are now looking for someone with the right attitude and soft skills, who they can upskill into a specific industry,” Mr Anthony adds.

“Successful health and safety professionals have the right health and safety knowledge combined with the ability to communicate, influence and challenge within an organisation.”

Contractors expect good safety staff to find homes in the industry for some time.

In demand, and growing

Keith Prince, head of health, safety and environment at trade body the UK Contractors Group, says demand is likely to grow with output.

“As the industry moves out of recession I can see general demand increasing for both generalists and specialists,” he says.

“The modern day safety professional needs to have health and often environmental competence.

“Occupational health knowledge – but also practical application – is something health and safety professionals are going to be under more and more pressure to demonstrate.”

Project leaders have upped their game on health and safety, Mr Prince adds, and want advice and ideas rather than education.

“Modern project managers want to be challenged and given practical measures that will help them improve standards and culture on their site.”

“As the industry moves out of recession I can see general demand increasing for both generalists and specialists”

Keith Prince, UK Contractors Group

Willmott Dixon head of health, safety and environment Mark French has a team of more than 50 staff distributed through head office, regional and sector-based teams.

Although he doesn’t expect it to grow in size this year, the team experiences a degree of natural churn, which creates job opportunities.

When it comes to recruitment, Mr French seeks someone who can communicate effectively inside and outside the business.

“I don’t look for policemen,” he says. “It’s not about quoting chapter and verse of regulations. I look for how someone can intervene in the right manner.”

A common goal

Different companies will look for subtly different things from their health and safety teams, but ultimately most now recognise the importance of the role, Mr Prince says.

“Health and safety professionals are massively important to construction firms as they support every firm with what is often a key value of every organisation.

“No company, no client, no customer wants to be linked to a fatality on their project.

“Reputations for attracting repeat work or in attracting new talent to the organisation can be severely damaged.

“So health and safety professionals are critical to helping a business remain sustainable.”

Mr Prince rubbished the notion that eventually all construction staff would have enough knowledge to make specific health and safety workers extinct.

“In practice you find there are merely new challenges on the conveyor belt that require health and safety professionals to help overcome them as we strive for an ever healthier and safer working environment.”

This month’s law change and safety campaign launch are cases in point.

12 May 2015

Get wise to your MEWPs

12 May, 2015 | By Mark Keily

Despite the steady fall in accident rates, the number of models out there means training and familiarisation are as crucial as ever when it comes to using MEWPs.

Over the past 20 years, the number of work-at-height-related accidents has fallen.

This has in part been attributed to improved methods of work, better training and education and the introduction of MEWPs.

The risk of accidents, however, remain where contractors choose a MEWP believing this resolves all risk and taking no further action.

The correct process should be to then consider the residual risk that remains from the use of the MEWP, including the training and competence of the operator, those involved with planning and supervising, and those who may be nominated in the rescue plan.

A variety of organisations offer MEWP operator training, with the most common being the IPAF PAL scheme.

Right class

When considering training, it’s crucial the operator is trained in the correct category of machine they intend to use.

“Operator training is only one part of the overall plan There are hundreds of different models of machines available to hire”

Following calls for additional operator training, IPAF has also introduced the PAL+ standard, which offers advanced operator training for boom and scissors.

These have been designed for operators working in higher-risk jobs such as steel erection or safety netting where the risks of operator entrapment are higher.

Operator training is only one part of the overall plan. There are hundreds of different models of machines available to hire, so familiarisation for specific models is needed to ensure understanding of the operation and safety characteristics of a machine.

Familiarisation can take different forms, ranging from hire company familiarisation training, instruction from another competent operator or, in some cases, self-familiarisation.

The type chosen should depend on the complexity of the machine and the operator’s experience.

Confidence is key

Familiarisation should always be undertaken in a safe area prior to work commencing and be of sufficient length to ensure the operator is confident in using the machine safely.

It’s important those nominated in the site rescue plan receive familiarisation in using ground controls. This can sometimes be overlooked and has sadly been a factor in a number of accidents.

Those who plan and put MEWP operators to work should also have the correct level of knowledge to ensure the correct machine has been chosen and the work has been planned, taking into account of all the risks that remain.

IPAF offers a MEWPs for Managers training course tailored to suit these requirements.

Operators working from boom-type MEWPs will generally be required to wear a full body harness and suitable lanyard.

These operators should be trained to correctly wear their harnesses, including pre-use daily user inspections.

Further information and guidance on operator training and the safe use of MEWPs can be found in the recently revised HSE guidance note GIS6, The selection, management and use of MEWPs.

Mark Keily is QHSE director at Nationwide Platforms