Rise in action on RCS heralds upcoming health risk ‘blitz’
The HSE enforcement database shows that the number of Improvement Notices issued by Construction Division Operational groups concerning ‘silica’ during 2013 increased by over 200% compared to the annual average for the previous 4 years.
The database shows 406 ‘Silica’ related Notices issued between 2009 and 2013 with 143 off these notices issued during 2013 compared to an annual average of 66 during the period 2009-2012.
This trend reflects an increasing HSE Construction sector focus on health risk management and construction dust, especially respirable crystalline silica (RCA).
Time to review dust risks, controls, knowledge and training
A recent CONAIC meeting (18 March 2014) heard that HSE is working with the industry to deliver an improved understanding of work-related health risks and “active management” of health risks rather than a “symptomatic treatment” of health effects.
The Construction Division of HSE plans to undertake a two week health inspection initiative in June 2014 involving 500 inspections covering all significant health risk issues, eg control of dust or other hazardous substances, moving and lifting of blocks, kerbs and paving, and the noise and hand-arm vibration dangers associated with activities such as cutting and breaking concrete products.
Following this initiative, including during a further refurbishment initiative, there will be a continual increased emphasis on health inspection topics. HSE will be encouraging Inspectors to take a “critical look at how health risks are managed” in all construction activities.
Designers will be ‘challenged’ on hazard avoidance
HSE will also be challenging architects, clients and designers to design out health risks. This will involve considering health aspects through the lifecycle of any project from design to demolition.
The rise in the use of enforcement notices indicates that HSE are taking a much ‘tougher line’ on construction dust and health risks now that deaths from accidents in construction are at an all time low.
Businesses would be well advised to review risks from dust and the adequacy of existing controls, knowledge and training.