Monday, 21st October – Mental Health & Wellbeing in Construction
As discussed at the CIF’s inaugural health and safety summit in November 2018, workplace stress and the consequential negative effects on a worker’s mental health is increasingly of serious concern for employers. In accordance with EU legislation, employers are obliged to protect workers from psychosocial risks and shall ensure such risks are considered in workplace risk assessments. The workplace is a particularly influential environment, given the large amount of time people spend at work and in the company of their work colleagues.
A recent study undertaken on behalf of the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) and the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) and focused on mental health in the construction industry found that “Psychosocial risks and work-related stress are among the most challenging – and growing – occupational safety and health concerns. Over half of the EU workers report that stress is common in their workplace and 4 out of 10 consider that the issue is not handled well. In addition, psychosocial risks have a serious impact on productivity. Furthermore, they cover complex and multidimensional issues, caused by a constellation of factors, related and/or unrelated to the workplace”.
In 2018, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) published a guidance document entitled ‘Healthy workers, thriving companies – a practical guide to wellbeing at work’, which promoted a five-step systematic approach to a better work environment. It includes a focus on psychosocial risks, as illustrated:
For more information on mental health and well being, see links provided:
HSA Guide for Employers – A Guide for Employers
HSA Guide for Employees – A Guide for Employees
Psychosocial Risk Management Process – https://www.workpositive.ie/
Intervention & Support – http://www.pieta.ie/
EU-OSHA – Practical Guide to Wellbeing
Tuesday, 22nd October – Working Safely with Electricity
According to the HSA, Code of Practice for Avoiding Danger from Underground Services, injuries that result from damage to live electricity cables are usually caused by the explosive effects of arcing current and by any associated fire or flames that may follow when the sheath of a cable and the conductor insulation are penetrated by a sharp object such as the point of a tool, or when a cable is crushed severely enough to cause internal contact between the sheathing and one or more of the conductors. Typically, this causes severe and potentially fatal burns to the hands, face and body. Some high-voltage electricity cables (e.g. 38kV and higher voltage) are filled with oil and, if damaged, the oil may auto-ignite and create an explosion or fire. There is also a risk of electric shock when underground services are damaged.
Contractors are responsible for managing the risks associated with work near overhead electricity wires and underground cables, thus competent person(s) need to review past site records and utility drawings in advance of works and to liaise with the respective utility providers (where applicable). For example, if planning work near overhead electricity wires, contact ESB Networks in advance so that the necessary safety precautions can be evaluated. Avoid construction activity within 10 metres of live overhead electricity lines and any activities that may result in a reduction in the safe line to ground clearance.
ESB Networks advise of the following when working near overhead wires and underground cables:
For more information on working safely with electricity, see links provided:
ECA Safety Guidance Note E01 – Safe Working Systems
ESB Networks: Contractor Safety
Gas Networks Ireland: Dial Before You Dig
Gas Networks Ireland: Safety Advice Booklet
Wednesday, 23rd October – Working Safely at Heights
Working at height is one of the recurring cause of fatalities and serious injury in Ireland. A review of construction-related fatal accidents, as undertaken by the HSA for years 1989 to 2016, identified falling from height as the single most common cause of fatal accidents. The findings demonstrated that 40% of all deaths in the construction sector, and 49% in non-construction businesses engaged in construction were attributable to working at height. This includes accidents where the victims themselves fell and accidents where the victim was standing on a structure that collapsed for example, a roof or a ladder.
According to the HSA, working at height is defined as “work in any place, including a place at, above or below ground level, where a person could be injured if they fell from that place. Access and egress to a place of work can also be work at height”. The key messaging from the HSA to ensure safe working at height is as follows:
- Carry out risk assessments for work at height activities and make sure that all work is planned, organised and carried out by a competent person;
- Follow the ‘General Principles of Prevention’ for managing risks from work at height, taking steps to avoid, prevent or reduce risks;
- Chose appropriate work equipment and prioritise collective measures to prevent falls (such as guard rails and working platforms) before other measures which may only reduce the distance and consequences of a fall (such as nets or airbags) or may only provide fall-arrest through personal protection equipment.
For more information on working safely at height, see links provided:
HSA Info Sheet – Work at Height
HSA Info Sheet – Toolbox Talk on Working at Height
HSA Info Sheet – Using Ladders Safely
HSA Info Sheet – Safe use of Work Platforms-Trestles
HSA MEWPs Guidance – MEWPs
Height for Hire MEWP Checklist – 12 Step MEWP Checklist
Thursday 24th October – Vehicle Risk & Safety in Lifting Operations
The hazards and associated liabilities with employees driving for work poses many issues, which is exacerbated through speeding or a loss of attention caused by driver distraction, fatigue or other influence (for example, intoxicant use). The HSA identifies the primary risks for fatality and injury as follows:
|Main causes of fatalities||Main causes of injury|
|· People being struck by vehicles
· Work-related road collisions
· People falling from vehicles
· Vehicle impact and overturning
· Loads falling from vehicles.
|· People struck by vehicles
· Physical strain
· Slips, trips and falls
· Items falling onto people
According to statistics shared by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), there were 139 fatal collisions and 146 fatalities on Irish Roads during 2018. The ‘Provisional Review of Fatal Collisions’ undertaken by the Road Safety Authority in 2018, demonstrates a progressively decreasing number of fatalities on roads in the Republic of Ireland. In 2017, there were 143 fatal road collisions, which led to 158 fatalities; by comparison with the preceding year (2016), this represented a reduction of 18% in the number of fatal collisions and 15% fewer fatalities.
According to the HSA, an average of twenty people are killed at Irish workplaces following interactions with vehicles. The law requires that pedestrians and vehicles must co-exist safely both in indoor and outdoor places of work. Where vehicles are operating, the vulnerable group may be co-workers, visitors or members of the public. In order to protect pedestrians, vehicle travel routes should be clearly delineated, with enough clearance space between persons and vehicles.
The HSA highlights that employers or a person in control of a workplace must carry out a documented risk assessment of workplace transport hazards to include an evaluation and assessment of vehicles and mobile work equipment in use in the workplace.
According to the European Commission Transportation Department “it has been estimated that up to 25% of accidents involving trucks can be attributable to inadequate cargo securing”. Cargo that is improperly secured can cause severe accidents, which may lead to lead to the loss of lives, the loss of vehicles, the loss of cargo, or cause environmental damage. Cargo must be placed on the vehicle so that it can neither endanger persons nor goods and cannot move on or off the vehicle. During transport, all cargo items should be prevented from sliding, tipping, rolling, wandering or substantial deformation and rotation in any direction by methods such as locking, blocking (local/overall), direct lashing and top-over lashing, or combinations of these methods.
All parties involved in the logistics process, including packers, loaders, transport companies, operators and drivers, have a role to play in ensuring that cargo is properly packed and loaded on a suitable vehicle. For loading and unloading of goods, there are three key duty holders, which are:
- The supplier sending the goods
- The carrier – the haulier or other company carrying the goods
- The recipient – the person receiving the goods.
Members report an increased number of issues arising from lifting with cranes, whether lorry loader or mobile cranes. Mobile cranes must be thoroughly examined by a competent person every 12 months, with a documented report of thorough examination generated. Any lifting equipment or lifting accessory (e.g. grapple, grab, slings, chains) must be thoroughly examined every 6 months and clearly marked with a safe working load (except for ropes and rope slings). Equipment must be examined and tested following any alteration or repair prior to use.
The slinger/signaller plays an essential role in attaching loads and directing lifting appliances; consequently, they must possess commensurate knowledge and skills to ensure lifting operations are undertaken safely at work.
For more information, see links provided:
CIF Video – Vehicle Safety Walk Around – Excavator
CIF Video – Vehicle Safety Walk Around – Teleporter
CIF Video – Vehicle Safety Walk Around – Mini Digger
HSA – Vehicles at Work
HSA – Plant & Equipment Safety
HSA CoP – Working on Roads (3 or less employees)
HSA Info. Sheet – Mobile Machinery
HSA Info. Sheet – Driving for Work – My Responsibilities
HSA Info. Sheet: Pedestrian Safety
HSA Info. Sheet – Safe Use of Site Dumpers
HSA Info. Sheet – Safe Lorry Loader Crane Operations
HSA Info. Sheet – Load Security
HSA Info. Sheet – Watch Your Step
HSA Checklist – Vehicle Safety Pre-Checks
Load Safety – http://www.loadsafe.ie/
HSA E-Learning Resources – https://hsalearning.ie/mod/page/view.php?id=369
Driving for Work: http://drivingforwork.ie/
HSE (UK) – Mobile Plant & Vehicle Safety
Friday 25th October – Working Safely with Hazardous Substances
Many workers are exposed to hazardous substances in whilst at work. According to EU-OSHA, the industry sectors with high prevalence of dangerous substances include agriculture (62%), manufacturing (52%) and construction (51%). If uncontrolled, these substances may potentially impact on a worker’s health and contribute to either acute or long-term health problems (e.g. skin irritation, respiratory diseases and cancer) or safety risks in the form of a chemical reaction, fire, explosion or suffocation.
The Chemical Agent Regulations 2001 and 2015 outline a specific requirement to complete a Chemical Agents risk assessment of the chemical agents used in the workplace, which include the following steps:
- Identify the chemical hazards;
- Consider who might be affected and how they might be harmed;
- Evaluate the risks – current controls and further precautions;
- Document and implement your findings;
- Update and review as required.
Where concrete, stone or sand-based materials are altered (during formation, cutting, drilling, polishing or demolition) and made airborne, there is a potential for exposure to crystalline silica dust. Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) occurs when these materials are worked on to release a very fine, inhalable dust. When any dust is inhaled, its point of deposition within the respiratory system is very much dependent upon the range of particle sizes present in the dust. The respirable fraction (smallest particle size) of crystalline silica dust can penetrate deep into the lungs. Elimination and substitution of RCS containing materials, dust extraction and/or dust suppression are the primary measures advised to control potential exposure.
The EU’s Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive has been updated and has classified Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) as a category 1 carcinogen; this will come into effect in EU member states as of 17th January 2020.
For more information on working safely with hazardous substances, see links provided:
HSA Info Sheet – Chemical Act Guidance
HSA Info Sheet – SDS Hazchem
EU-OSHA – Workplace Exposure to Carcinogens
EU-OSHA – Training OSH Experts on Chemicals
ECHA – SDS Checklist
HSE (UK) Video – Cutting Kerbs & Paving_RCS
EU-OSHA Video – Dangerous Substances in Welding
NEPSI Video – NEPSI_Maintenance and Risks from RCS
NEPSI Video – NEPSI_Good Hygiene_RCS