HEALTH and safety has never been more important than it is right now. As we emerge from lockdown where both physical and mental health were at the forefront of our minds, it is no surprise that, in an industry where stringent safety measures have always been paramount, these considerations are still a key focus. Mental health in particular is absent from risk assessments and H&S forms. Chris Monk, managing director of The Input Group, considers how the industry can continue to work towards the highest standards of health and safety, in all senses.
“From the pyramids to Boris Johnson’s commitment to ‘build, build, build’, construction has always been seen as a marker of progress, socially and economically. However, despite its obvious importance, working in construction runs the highest risk of any industry in the UK. A study by GoCompare Life found that construction accounts for 17% of workplace fatalities and separate research indicated that construction workers have some of the worst mental health in the country.
“From a physical safety perfective, working with heavy machinery, potentially dangerous materials, and often at great heights will obviously come with risks – which is why we need stringent safety measures and a zero-tolerance approach to accidents and injuries. As an industry, we cannot accept anything less than watertight health and safety policies, with staff and public wellbeing woven through every decision.
“While Network Rail’s LTIFR (Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate) target sits at 0.0139 per 100,000 hours worked, we strongly believe in always striving for zero injuries, a zero LTIFR, and a zero AFR (Accident Frequency Rate). At The Input Group, we’ve developed our own CONCEPTZERO policy, which underpins everything we do and ensures we do all we can to avoid injuries and accidents. We’re passionate about paving the way for CONCEPTZERO to be the industry standard.
“In turn, the reduction of physical health risks will help to alleviate the stress of working in a dangerous environment. This will inevitably improve employee wellbeing as mental health and physical health go hand-in-hand to increase all round job satisfaction.
“Health and safety goes beyond risk assessments, high-vis jackets, and hard hats, but instead should be intrinsic to every project and process. Quality control must apply to everyone involved, from contractors to cleaners, and be integrated into the supply chain. From clear working areas and tidy walkways to meticulous signage and well-planned working sites, it’s crucial to reflect health and safety in everything you do to ensure zero accidents and injuries.
“Through dedicated health and safety executives and the employment of management software like ProCore, a stricter approach to health and safety can and should be employed industry-wide to improve the wellbeing of everyone involved in a construction project.
“Physical health and safety is, of course, only one side of the coin and mental health should always be a top priority for construction firms. The Chartered Institute of Building found that 70% of construction workers surveyed in 2019 had experienced feelings of depression and 87% had experienced anxiety.
“The ideal situation would be to see dedicated mental health first aiders and comprehensive support systems as common practice in all companies. Nonetheless, positive steps towards improving mental health across the sector are already being made.
“The Stop. Make a Change campaign combines a celebration of World Mental Health Day and the European Week for Safety and Health to focus on the health and wellbeing of construction professionals to build a healthier, safer industry. This year’s campaign focuses particularly on respiratory health, people / plant interface and workplace stress, as well as cancer, as key areas of concern for construction workers.
“These kinds of initiatives are the type of proactive action we’re thrilled to see in the construction sector and no matter which area of the industry, we’re excited to see health and safety become an intrinsic focus.”
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