Health and Safety (H&S) in the construction sector is an area that is important to all builders, but it is one that is all too often difficult to understand and comply with, particularly in the residential sector.
There is a plethora of guidelines, standards, pamphlets and other documentation out there that can be confusing to get your head around. Sometimes they conflict with each other, and this trend is prevalent across all parts of the industry.
There are also a large number of courses and training programmes on H&S, but they are not all “linked up” or cross-recognised, so there is risk of duplication and inefficiencies.
Industry association representatives from the wider construction sector have been working together to explore the possibility of developing an H&S strategy for the entire construction industry.
This strategy would cover civil, residential and commercial construction and specialist trades, and includes establishing a “Construction Industry H&S Council”, with representation from each of these areas.
At a high level, we see the council representing those responsible for complying with H&S and being the interface with Government on the one hand and providers/trainers on the other.
This also follows on from our advice to ministers that the sector is keen to take a leadership role relating to H&S matters.
The association representatives met in late 2009 to work through a sector-wide H&S strategy “straw man”.
We are buoyed by our high level of agreement and the prospect of establishing a Construction Industry H&S Council to improve H&S performance within the entire sector, as we believe this initiative will be beneficial to all involved and deliver efficient and effective H&S solutions.
We have been working over the past few months on “operationalising” the concept and developing a model that is sustainable. We are conscious of not undermining the very good work undertaken over the years, so we need to be cautious.
It is pleasing to note that the Government has taken a lot of interest in what the sector is doing, and the Department of Labour (DoL) and ACC have been working closely with us.
Indeed, DoL has recognised the importance of the strategy, and is consulting with us on reflecting it in its work programme so that we are aligned in our immediate objectives.
We will be presenting these developments to the Workplace Heath and Safety Council later this month which is encouraged by these initiatives, particularly when construction is one of the Government’s five key areas of interest.
So, while it has been slow progress, we hope these changes will make real benefits in the years ahead.