For many, ‘health and safety’ has become a derogatory term. Accused of taking the fun out of life, health and safety companies and inspectors are often blamed for inflicting apparently unnecessary rules and regulations on society, when all that’s really needed is ‘a bit of common sense’. In reality, however, health and safety regulations are vital. While common sense certainly plays a part, it cannot possibly cover all scenarios – or save a life whenever one is at risk.
A comprehensive awareness of all health and safety rules and regulations which apply to you, your company and your workforce is not only a legal requirement but also a moral obligation. It is quite simply a matter of life and death – so if you haven’t invested the necessary time, money and effort into it, now is the time to start.
The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, often referred to as HASWA or HSW, is the main piece of UK health and safety legislation. It places a duty on all employers “to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work” of all their employees. In practice, it requires employers to provide whatever information, instruction, training and supervision is necessary to ensure their workforce are safe and well. It hasn’t been updated since 1974 because it hasn’t needed to be – the basic principles have remained the same since the Act’s inception, and likewise will not need to change in the future either.
Perhaps the most important requirement of the Act is training. Without adequate training, everything falls down – the knowledge needed to put effective health and safety precautions in place would be lacking, and therefore both employers and employees could end up putting lives at risk, not to mention breaking the law.
Training can be trade-specific, via qualifications such as NVQs or on-the-job learning, or it can be more generic to teach people not only about their duties but also about what their employers owe to them. Comprehensive training is equally as important for managers and directors of companies, to give them the knowledge required to be able to provide all the necessary tools to their workforce. After all, it is their responsibility to provide a safe working environment, and to minimise risk to everyone who may be affected by work undertaken by their company.
We would recommend that any site personnel should start their training with the Construction Skills Certification Scheme. CSCS cards prove that individuals working on construction sites have the basic training and qualifications required for the type of work they are doing. Cards can only be issued once individuals have demonstrated the necessary level of knowledge, hence the requirement by most Principal Contractors and house builders for their staff/sub-contractors to hold a valid CSCS card whilst on site. Some sites also require visitors to show a valid card prior to entry, to prove that they too have an understanding of site safety.
The card for labouring occupations is, naturally, the Labourer Card (previously known as the green Construction Site Operative card until July 2014). This card can only be obtained after completion of one of the following: the QCF Level One or SCQF Level 4 Award in Health and Safety in a Construction Environment, a valid Site Safety Plus Health and Safety Awareness course, or the IOSH Working Safely course (which must have been achieved within the three years prior to application). All applicants must also pass the Operatives CITB Health Safety & Environment test. The card is valid for five years.
If you need assistance with any of the above, or would like to attend a required Site Safety Plus H&S Awareness course, Wenlock Health & Safety Ltd. are only too happy to help. Please visit https://wenlockhealthandsafety.co.uk/citb-training-courses for more information.
The consequences of not arranging proper training are severe. In the event of an accident, a company would be penalised for having untrained staff in control of an activity or project, from the top to the bottom of the company structure. This can involve hefty fines. On 10th June 2016, a food waste disposal and recycling firm in Stoke was fined £250,000 when three employees were overcome by toxic gases. On 8th July 2016, an engineering company in Worcestershire was fined £380,000 for safety failings after the HSE concluded that there was ‘no safe system of work in place’ when a near-fatality occurred a few years previously. The risks which caused these incidents were not eliminated or minimised as necessary, because neither the staff carrying out the work nor their managers were adequately trained.
Too many workers still do not fully respect the risks posed by construction sites and other hazardous working environments. While common sense is a good indication that something is wrong (if you think it’s wrong, it probably is!), training is the only way to ensure an appropriate safety culture is instilled and maintained. It is important to continue training with refresher sessions at suitable intervals, to keep health and safety at the forefront of people’s minds and prove ongoing commitment to staff welfare.
Although e-learning courses can be convenient, they’re often not as comprehensive or as effective as face-to-face sessions, especially when they are conducted in small groups. The subject of health and safety should be given appropriate attention, time and investment every step of the way – and that includes training. It is even possible to have course content tailored to the specific needs of your company, therefore providing even greater benefit and an even better outcome. Wenlock Health & Safety Ltd. can provide a range of courses such as this, which always encourage open discussion to ensure a full understanding of the course subject. Please visit the following page for more information: https://wenlockhealthandsafety.co.uk/training/
Article by V. Horsewood
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