Warning: The consequences of EHS negligence in construction

Warning: The consequences of EHS negligence in construction

In this article Joe Harmon, Chief Product Owner at Evotix, a leader in EHS software solutions, outlines the importance of keeping construction workers safe, and how failure to comply with regulations, such as The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, can lead to severe consequences. 

While all businesses have reasons to comply with EHS regulations, it’s especially important for construction businesses because it’s the largest industry in the entire world, generating 13% of the world’s GDP. Failure to do so could result in construction delays, financial loss, and most importantly, loss of life. And if EHS negligence is severe enough, it could also lead to loss of licensure.

Due to the nature of construction work, the safety stakes are significantly higher than in most other sectors. Hazards related to working at height, unguarded machinery, proximity to heavy construction equipment or power lines, and occupational disease related to silica dust and asbestos are just some examples of risk.

Ensuring safe building practices remains one of the industry’s top priorities, yet businesses still face problems with employee engagement and compliance.

The latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stats for the construction industry reveal the shocking human cost of negligence. In the UK, there were 30 fatal injuries to construction workers in 2021/22 as a result of negligence. There were also 123 deaths from injuries in workplace incidents, making the construction industry the deadliest.

The hardest part of these statistics are what comes with them.  Behind every statistic is a name and a family, which means more than 150 families and friends were affected by such tragedies. This is NOT ok. These failings also lead to consequences for businesses in the UK, and those that run them. Even one death at work is one too many. Every employee should expect they can carry out their work in a safe and healthy working environment and return home just as safely.

Businesses that do not take this seriously and fail to comply can result in some serious business consequences. Here are some of the main consequences of EHS non-compliance. 

A criminal offence

EHS is a legal requirement for construction businesses. Did you know that breaching health and safety regulations is a criminal offence? Businesses have a duty to ensure the working environment is safe for employees. If a business is found to have breached regulations, then it will face consequences which can include fines and even prison sentences.

Hefty fines and financial burden

Failure to comply with EHS regulations such as recording, tracking and reporting guidelines will result in major fines and penalties for construction companies. 

According to the UK’s HSE, British businesses are fined an average of £147,000 per convicted case. Additionally, the injured employee can also claim against the business that is responsible. Issues that endanger human lives can produce unlimited fines and even imprisonment.

The most serious violations will result in civil or criminal legal proceedings against the construction company, leading to serious financial strain on top of the fines. 

Loss of worker confidence

Notable safety violations and public fines won’t help current employees feel confident in the company, and it can make it harder to attract and retain highly qualified employees. If companies don’t show that they value them enough to provide even the most basic of requirements, which is a safe working environment, the result will be unengaged, unmotivated employees looking to exit the business. 

Business reputation 

Non-compliance with health and safety regulations can also hurt a business’s reputation. If violations are revealed and in the public domain, then these reported quality issues can impact the success of securing new projects. It is not good business to partner with a company that has inefficient operations which leads to major violations and safety issues. A poor health and safety culture will cost a business its reputation.

Disqualification 

If a company is found to be negligent, then disqualification from the industry is a possibility. As it’s the employer’s legal responsibility to protect their employees, any disqualification or prosecution targets those at the top. Prosecutions brought forward by the HSE in the UK have a 93% conviction success rate.

Endangering lives

Inadequate health and safety procedures can result in serious injuries or fatalities. The death of a worker is the most severe consequence. In the construction industry, the biggest priority is to prevent serious accidents and injuries as the industry continues to have one of the highest rates of work-related deaths. With 30 deaths in the UK construction industry in 2021/22, publishing figures such as these raise awareness and should drive improvement in occupational safety and health.

Compliance shouldn’t be seen as a challenge, but as an opportunity. Leveraging the right construction management software is the key to realising the potential of EHS compliance to generate real cost savings. The most effective way for construction businesses to track EHS compliance is to use construction EHS software solutions. At the end of the day, all employees should return home from work safely.

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Warning: The consequences of EHS negligence in construction
BDC October 2022 issue - 297

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