Safety Week Schedule

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Monday, 22nd October – Working Safely at Height

Over a 5-year term (2011-2015), there were 12 fatalities associated with roof work, of which 10 involved sheeted / cladded roofs, and 7 occurred on agricultural buildings with most involving a fall through fragile roof material.

In the construction industry, falls are the biggest reason for fatal and serious accidents and therefore we should learn from this experience that any work at height needs careful management. Before working at height, we must first assess the risks and follow these simple steps:

  • Avoid work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so (i.e. do as much work as possible from the ground)
  • Where work at height cannot be easily avoided, prevent falls using a safe system of work, with collective protection prioritised over individual protection
  • Select the most suitable work equipment for the job to avoid overload or over-reach when working at height
  • Ensure protection for workers and non-workers from falling objects
  • Always assume roofing materials are fragile unless confirmed otherwise by a competent person
  • Ensure equipment is suitable, stable and strong enough for the job, maintained and checked regularly
  • Always consider safe access and egress for workers, including emergency rescue
  • Refer to the HSA’s Code of Practice for Safety in Roofwork.

For more information, see the links to external resources below:

HSA: Work at Height

Download “Dos and Don’ts on Scaffolds” here.

HSA’ Guide:  Guide to SHWW General Application Regs, Part 4: Work at Height

HSA’ Reference Sheet: Toolbox Talk on Working at Height

HSA’ Guidance: MEWPs

Tuesday, 23rd October – Positive Mental Health

The means of achieving and maintaining positive mental health differs from individual to individual. Some common methods employed include: meditation, mindfulness, the undertaking of regular exercise, maintaining a good diet, ensuring sufficient and appropriate sleep patterns, consultation (albeit with family, friends or a qualified professional) and taking the time to enjoy hobbies and activities of personal interest.

The latest UNICEF report highlights Ireland as having the 4th highest rate of suicide in Europe. Those at greatest risk fall within two age groups, 25-34-year olds and 45-54-year olds, with men 3-times more likely to commit suicide than women. Early intervention is essential, hence there is a need for all to recognise the warning signs of depression and stress in ourselves, in our families, friends and work colleagues. Indicative signs of stress burden or depression may include a perceived lack of interest in life events, an observed personality change, social isolation, lack of interest in physical appearance, excessive indulgence in intoxicants, dramatic weight loss or gain, and noticeable irritability.

Society is increasingly more open to discussing the topic of suicide and mental health. However, to affect a reduction in the number of suicides in Ireland, there is a need to promote further understanding and awareness of suicide and mental health amongst Irish workers, particularly men. Irish men can be reluctant to discuss their problems and emotions with their colleagues and friends. 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. Let’s watch out for ourselves and our colleagues and effectively ‘mind our workers’.

For more information, see links to external resources below:

Suicide Support – Pieta House
Psychosocial Risk Management Process – Work Positive

WRC – Workplace Health & Wellbeing

HSE – Your Mental Health

Wednesday, 24th October – Working Safely Near Utilities

When planning work in near proximity to known utilities, either underground or above ground services (or in the case of unknown utilities), there is a need to take extra safety precautions. For example, there were 68 electrocutions or fatalities in Ireland from the explosive/burning effects of electricity from 1996 to the end of 2016. Of those, 45 fatalities were associated with a work activity. Electricity aside, gas networks, water pipes, sewers, and telecommunication cables (if damaged), may pose a direct hazard to personnel in the nearby vicinity. Thorough investigations are required to locate potential utilities to enable identification of potential hazards, workplace plans and implementation of a safe system of work.

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.

For more information, see links to external resources below:

HSA’ Code of Practice: Avoiding Danger from Underground Services

HSA’ Guide: Guide to SHWW (General Applications) Regs, Part 3: Electricity

ESB Networks: Contractor Safety

Gas Networks Ireland: Dial Before You Dig

Gas Networks Ireland: Safety Advice Booklet

Thursday, 25th October – Working Safely with Hazardous Substances

A dangerous / hazardous substance in the workplace is deemed any substance, in gas, liquid or solid form, including aerosols, fumes and vapours, that poses a risk to workers’ health or safety. Examples include diesel exhaust emissions and silica dust. A single worker can encounter hundreds of different chemical substances over their working lifetime; for example, 3.7 tonnes of hazardous substances were used per citizen in Sweden in 2014. In recognition of the associated hazards, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) is running a two-year campaign with a focus on dangerous substances in the workplace.

Some potentially hazardous substances encountered in construction may include: asbestos (e.g. (pre-2000 insulation, guttering, roof or floor tiles), Respirable Crystalline Silica – RCS (dust from stone/cement/concrete), wood dust, solvents (paint, paint strippers, adhesives), lubricants or fuels, mineral fibres (rockwool insulation), fumes (welding), heavy metals (e.g. lead, cadmium, mercury), isocyanates (paints, coatings, foams), carbon monoxide (e.g. exhaust fumes from diesel-generators).

Employers and employees need to ensure that care is taken to effectively manage hazardous substances in the workplace by first identifying the associated hazards, assessing the potential for exposure, and implementing appropriate control measures to protect persons and the environment.

Where possible, hazardous substances and processes should be eliminated from workplaces (e.g. designing new work processes). If elimination is not possible, risks must be managed based on a hierarchy of prevention measures. The STOP principle may be utilised to consider options:

S – Substitution (safe or less harmful alternatives)

T – Technological measures (e.g. closed system, local exhaust ventilation)

O – Organisational measures (e.g. limiting the number of exposed workers or the exposure time)

P – Personal protection (wearing PPE).

For more information, see links to external resources below:

EU-OSHA: Healthy Workplaces

HSA’ BeSMART: Steps to Chemical Safety

HSA’ Safe Supply, Use & Management of Chemicals: Chemicals

HSA’ Info. Sheet on RCS – Crystalline Silica Dust

Friday, 26th October – Working Safely with Vehicles

Vehicles continue to be associated with a very high proportion of the reported fatal incidents. Up to 30th June, the total number of workplace fatalities involving vehicles in 2018 year to date is 11, which equates to 46% of all fatal incidents (24) and comprises of incidents associated with tractors (3), trailers (3), trucks (2), forklifts (2), and teleporters (1).

Of the 11 vehicle-related fatal accidents reported to the HSA, 7 of the deceased were workers and 4 were non-workers. Of the 4 non-workers, 3 of the incidents occurred on the public road and 1 in a farmyard. With regards to the 7 workers, all those incidents occurred in a work environment / workplace. There is an apparent need for continued effort by all of us, aimed at reducing these figures.

Driving for work involves specific risks because of the type of vehicles driven and the amount of time spent behind the wheel. The greater the time spent behind the wheel, the greater the exposure to risks associated with driving for work. In the case of journeys taken in a vehicle provided an employer, such as a van, jeep or fleet car, an employer has a duty of care to ensure the safety of employees using the vehicle. Employers should have appropriate policies and procedures in place when employees drive a work-provided vehicle or drive their own vehicle for work, to ensure employees are:

  • Legally entitled to drive the vehicle they are using
  • Using a vehicle that is safe and roadworthy
  • Trained, competent and fit to drive their vehicle safely
  • Using their vehicle in a safe manner.

Common to the use of all mobile plant, machinery and vehicles is the need to ensure appropriate segregation from pedestrians. For excavators, consider exclusion, clearance, visibility, and the need for a signaller. For telescopic handlers, consider visibility (forward and rear), loading, ground conditions and speed. For mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), consider confined overhead working, ground conditions, outriggers, guardrails, arresting falls, falling objects, weather, handling materials and nearby hazards. For dumper trucks, consider overturning and collision.

There is a raft of guidance available to employers and employees regarding driving for work.

For more information, see the links to external resources below:

Driving for Work:

RSA: Road Safety Authority

HSA: Vehicles at Work

HSA: Plant & Equipment Safety

HSA’ Code of Practice: 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’ Checklist: Vehicle Safety Pre-Checks

HSE (UK) – Mobile Plant & Vehicle Safety