Awareness is no longer enough. Action needs to be taken.
On 6th June 2019, RVT hosted the inaugural Action on Dust Summit, which questioned why we are still not properly protecting our work force against dust, when we know that 12,000 people die every year due to work induced lung disease (HSE, 2018). The event highlighted the fact that there is a significant gap between awareness of the problem and actually implementing best practice health hazard control solutions on site.
When we asked the room why this was, there was a variety of answers; lack of training, lack of worker compliance, lack of clear guidelines, lack of communication, lack of budget, lack of time... the list goes on. We therefore posed the following questions;
"How can we engage the supply chain and ensure subcontractors follow the right health hazard control standards?"
The most obvious answer, and one that everyone agreed in the room, is that the primary contractor should be working with the client to set out the minimum health and safety standards at pre-tender stage so that everyone understands the expectations from the outset. These standards should then be written into the contracts, and regular audits should be conducted to ensure that all subcontractors remain compliant.
One of the delegates in the room suggested that there should be consequences for non-compliance (financial penalties for example), however Jenny Armstrong of Tideway reminded us that praise and reward can often be more effective than punishment.
Another delegate added to the debate that "collaboration is key"; she explained that two-way discussions are always more productive than one party dictating to the other. Collaboration and negotiation help to ensure that there is understanding on both sides and is more likely to result in a solution that is 'reasonably practicable' and everyone is happy with.
The theme of collaboration continued as we discussed how educational resources, onsite training and workshops, could all be shared on site. One delegate added, "it's like a parachute – you need all parts for it to work".
The final point made, was that enforcement of minimum health and safety standards should come from the top; the client needs to set out their expectations, but also budget for health and safety solutions to be implemented. This led us on nicely to our next question.
"How do we engage the client and emphasise the importance of allowing for Health and Safety related costs?"
As you can imagine, there was a little bit of cross over when answering this next question. Again, delegates quickly agreed that the client should be setting out the minimum health and safety standards at pre-tender stage, to ensure that everyone is quoting on a level playing field and that the minimum level of health and safety will not be compromised due to cost.
This, however, is great if you are working with a client who already understands the importance of allowing for health and safety related costs, but how do we approach clients who do not? Discussions continued, and we soon came to the consensus that it all comes down to education; we need the client to understand the implications of not allowing for health and safety costs.
Businesses have both a legal and moral obligation to protect the health of their employees and failure to comply with minimum standards of health and safety can lead to prosecution. This could result in significant fines or even imprisonment, depending on the extent of the breach of compliance. An example of a recent prosecution case can be viewed here.
Organisations also need to remember that if they are seen to have blatant disregard for a person's health (and potentially their life), it is going to significantly damage their brand reputation and affect company profits.
Ultimately, everyone in the room agreed that we should be working closely with clients and encouraging them to join us at events such as the Action on Dust Summit to further educate them on the implications of not allowing for health and safety costs.
For more information from the HSE, please click here.
For more information from BOHS, please click here.
For more information about RVT Dustex solutions, please click here.
If you are interested in attending the next event or would like to arrange a Free CPD presentation for your team, please call RVT Group on 0808 178 3286 or email firstname.lastname@example.org