Prevention is better than cure
More than one million injuries and 2.3 million cases of ill health are experienced by workers in the UK ever year, losing British businesses around 40 million working days and forcing more than 25,000 individuals to give up work because of injury or ill health. For employers, this equates to £495 a year in direct costs for every worker in employment.
Most organisations do not know what accidents and ill health really cost them in time and money and losing skilled workers, even for a few days, can have a bigger effect than direct financial costs might suggest.
Accidents in the building services industry can account for 3-6% of total project costs. For example, an injury to a worker using an unguarded drill cost a small contracting company £45,000. That was not all: the managing director was prosecuted and two employees had to be made redundant to keep the company afloat.
Many companies find that improving workplace standards provides a financial benefit to them. Investments are repaid by improved productivity and efficiency; less staff absence; less staff turnover; and improved quality of work. Tackling the causes of accidental losses is not an unnecessary overhead but should be viewed as an investment in the business, as valuable as any other investment in the company’s effectiveness.
Organisations with high standards of health and safety are often the most successful, irrespective of their size. They view losses from accidents and ill health just like any other type of loss – they must be controlled.
Lost employee time at work often has the consequence of delivering poorer service quality. This can lead to customer dissatisfaction and loss of future business. But a poor health and safety reputation can also lead to problems with recruitment. What skilled operative wouldn’t think twice about working for an organisation known for having a poor health and safety record? In today’s increasingly competitive skills market, building services engineers have the luxury of choice when it comes to their employer and expect to be provided with a safe working environment.
Managing occupational health is about providing things like health checks before someone starts work; first aid; welfare; general information about health, well-being and fitness to work; and managing sickness absence and return to work. There are also things that can be done to reduce risks to workers’ health, and this applies to businesses thoughout the building services industry chain. Clients can remove or reduce risks to health; designers can identify and eliminate hazards and reduce remaining risks; main contractors can plan and implement a strategy to manage occupational health risks; and M&E contracors can manage any safety risks that their workers may be exposed to.
To achieve this, every company needs to keep up-to-date with health and safety issues. The introduction of the CSCS Health and Safety Test in the construction industry, plus further changes in health and safety legislation, has prompted a complete review of safety measures in recent months. HVCA Publications, the authoritative publishing division of the Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association, offers three safety manuals that provide comprehensive advice and information to improve health and safety on site and help operatives avoid accidents at work.
Worksafe – Guide to Site Safety (JS1) contains crucial information in 18 parts on safety signs; emergency procedures; fire prevention and control; regulations; and passing the SKILLcard/CITB – Construction Skills Health & Safety Test. The pocket-sized Worksafe – Safety Facts Booklet (JS19) comprises 32 reference sheets explaining how to minimise risk when faced with any type of hazard or condition.
The third booklet – Worksafe – Welding Safety (JS5) was recently released in its fourth edition, updated to reflect amendments over the years to health and safety regulations and changes in the equipment available to welders. Like its predecessors, this portable booklet explains how to manage all the risks and hazards associated with welding on site.
With safety impacting on the bottom line, reputation and future success, businesses in the building services industry cannot afford to become complacent about their health and safety agendas and must take steps to ensure employee safety remains paramount both now and in the future.