Highway Construction: Protecting the Public

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UK law dictates that all construction businesses must conduct operations without putting any members of the public at risk. While it’s easy enough to keep the public out of residential and commercial building sites the open nature of highway constructions can prove to be a little more difficult, especially when repairing or enhancing an existing road. If you manage a highway construction business we’ve put together a list of key guidelines that will help you minimise the risk of public accidents and injuries.

 Erect boundaries

Where necessary it’s advised to physically define site boundaries by erecting suitable fencing. This physical deterrent will immediately repel everyday members of the public and discourage any deliberate attempts to access the site. Before putting up a fence you’ll need to have a clear overview of the perimeter boundaries as well as an ongoing maintenance plan.

Brief any authorised visitors

 When welcoming authorised visitors onto the site it’s essential to provide them will a full safety briefing. You should also issue them with any necessary protective equipment such as a hard hat, goggles, ear muffs, gloves and steel cap boots. Most public visitors will also require full supervision at all times.

Use LED cone lights to create public awareness

 When speeding down a highway it can be difficult for drivers to spot construction work, especially in the dark winter months. Ploughing into a construction site at high speed can cause serious injuries and even death. Make sure drivers spot the hazard as early as possible by lining the site with LED safety cone lights.

Eliminate the risk of falling objects

 Airborne objects are one of the major causes of public injuries and fatalities. When managing a site it’s critical that you make sure objects cannot fall outside of the pre-defined site boundary. This can be done by using netting, covered walkways, fans, brick guards and toe-boards.

Don’t push perimeter boundaries

 While it can be tempting to utilise free space outside of your site boundary this poses as a serious safety risk. Always store materials inside the site and never let operations creep outside the perimeter boundary.

Always secure the site

 When work winds up for the day it’s important that the site is fully secured. This will stop unauthorised access and help protect vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and people with certain disabilities. Be sure to safely store building materials, immobilise vehicles, cordon off excavation sites andlock away hazardous substances.

By acknowledging these six simple safety tips you can instantly boost the public safety credentials of your highway construction business.

Staying Safe with a Small Workforce

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With less eyes and ears around to spot potential hazards, safety standards can slip on sites with a small scale workforce. According to the HSE the vast majority of fatal construction site injuries now take place on small scale projects such as home and workplace refurbishments. A huge 60% of these deaths are due to falls from ladders, roofs, scaffolds, platforms and skylights. Other common causes include excavation collapses, lifting operation accidents and electrocution.If you manage a site with just a handful of crew members read on for some expert tips on how to stay safe with a small workforce.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew:

While it can be tempting to take on larger scale projects you should never accept work which you are not qualified to complete. Before taking on any jobs you should make sure that you possess complete health and safety competency and all the legal certifications, as well as enough members of fully qualified staff.

Prevent unauthorised site access:

 Small sites rarely enjoy the rigorous access prevention resources that larger projects erect. Yet this doesn’t mean that you should ignore the requirement altogether. ‘Warning’ and ‘No entry’ signs are a passive way to ward off any unwanted traffic while fences should be used to cordon off any high risk areas.

Provide full site inductions for new workers:

 Small workforces must master the art of seamless teamwork in order to keep sites safe and accident free. When welcoming new workers it’s important to provide a full site induction to ensure that they have a thorough understanding of any risks or hazards. They should also be fully briefed on site rules and emergency procedures.

Collaborate with clients:

 Unlike large scale projects smaller contractors enjoy the ability to build close co-operation and co-ordination with their clients. It may seem like a small perk but up keeping effective communication with everyone involved in a project can significantly reduce the risk of on-site accidents and injuries.

Invest in WHI Safeguard LED safety lights:

 With fewer on-site team members there is a greater risk of dangers and hazards going unnoticed. As such it’s essential to ensure that small scale sites are adequately lit at all times. Without site-wide illumination you drastically increase the risk of slips, trips, falls and other accidents which could prove to be fatal. This is particularly important in the winter months when work begins and ends in darkness.

By following these five simple safety tips you can instantly boost the health and safety credentials of your small scale workforce.

How to make your Business More Energy Efficient

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Energy efficiency is high on the agenda of many businesses, especially in the construction industry. This growing appreciation for ‘green’ building practices is sweeping the globe, with more and more contractors beginning to realise the environmental and financial benefits of eco-friendly operations. If you want to up the environmental credentials of your business read on for our top tips on how to make your enterprise more energy efficient.

Use LED lights wherever possible

According to the latest statistics from Constructing Excellence the construction and maintenance of buildings contributes to 50% of total UK carbon dioxide emissions. Lights are a construction site essential yet they can chew up a huge amount of electricity. If you want to slash utility bills and cut CO2 emissions making the switch to LED lights is a savvy move. Products such as WHI Safeguard’s LED lighting solutions offer superior visibility, low energy consumption and a huge 4000 hours worth of longevity.

Reducewastage

 The latest figures from the Environment Agency revealed that the UK construction industry is responsible for a huge 32% of all landfill waste accumulated across the nation. Furthermore waste management and disposal costs the industry around 30% of its pre-tax profits. Implementing a waste management plan, setting performance targets, considering recycling and monitoring compliance are all effective ways to minimise site wastage, reduce energy consumption and save cash.

Choose materials with eco-friendly origins

 If you want to really boost the energy efficient credentials of your business why not consider switching to eco-friendly materials that have minimal environmental impact. Whether you work with plaster, concrete, scaffolding, insulation or metal there are sure to be ‘greener’ choices available. And while they may cost a little more the latest statistics from leading global insight provider Nielsen indicate that one in four UK consumers is willing to pay more for an environmentally-friendly product or service.

Optimise lifespan of equipment

 Construction businesses rely on a myriad of equipment and while it can be tempting to settle for cheaper items investing in quality products is a far more energy efficient choice. You’ll essentially be eliminating the need to replace them down the track which reduces the demand for materials as well as saves you cash.

These steps may be simple but they are guaranteed to instantly boost the energy efficiency of your construction business.

Top 7 Safety Equipment Saviours

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Whether you operate in scaffolding, roofing, electrics or metal fabrication, ensuring a high standard of safety across the worksite is crucial. While training and attention to detail are incredibly important there are also a handful of safety equipment saviours that you can use to help ensure that your site stays safe and compliant. Below are our top seven picks.

Hard hats:

Falling debris can be fatal which means it’s essential to ensure that all employees wear a construction site standard hard hat. This is particularly critical for workers operating in scaffolding or multi-level build sites.

Eye goggles:

The eyes are an incredibly sensitive organ and without adequate protection they can be easily damaged. Common culprits include stray sparks, excess dust and falling debris. Issuing employees with safety goggles is a must.

Ear muffs:

For sites using loud and high vibration equipment ear muffs are an everyday essential. Loud noises can damage the ear drums and leave workers with serious hearing issues and internal damage. You can also reduce the risk of ear injuries by using low vibration equipment with noise muffling technology and longer trigger tools.

WHI Safeguard LED lighting:

Maintaining high visibility is one of the easiest and most effective ways to minimise the risk of on-site accidents and injuries. WHI Safeguard retails a premium range of LED safety lights designed to illuminate sites and ensure workers can see what they’re doing at all times. Thanks to their low energy consumption and lifespan of up to 6 months they’re also a cost effective and eco-friendly choice for any construction site.

Steel cap boots:

 When working with heavy materials steel cap boots are a construction site essential. Not only do they protect the feet from dropped objects but they also minimise the impact of falling debris.

Protective gloves:

On sites handling corrosive or toxic materials, protective gloves are a fundamental safety essential. They can also help to lessen the severity of falling debris or machinery accidents.

High visibility vest:

Ensuring that workers are 100% visible at all times is another simple yet effective step that site managers can take to minimise on-site risks. High visibility safety vests are lightweight, inexpensive and can be worn over every day work clothing.

These seven items of equipment require minimal investment yet are guaranteed to instantly boost the safety credentials of any construction site.

Top 5 Construction Safety Tips

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As a contractor it’s your responsibility to comply with legislative duty of care contracts to employees and members of the public. Health and safety is of paramount importance and without adequate care your business could get stung by the national independent watchdog. This organisation is in place to minimise the number of on-site accidents and ensure that all contractors recognise the rules.

While their efforts have significantly reduced accident and injury rates over the past 20 years, construction is still considered a high risk sector. Despite the fact that construction workers account for just 5% of the total British workforce they make up 31% of fatalities and 10% of minor injuries. To help you safeguard your business, employees and members of the public we’ve put together a list of the top five construction safety tips that every site should adopt.

Ensure superior visibility at all times:

When enforcing a safe construction site it’s essential to ensure that superior visibility is maintained at all times. Whether the project is small scale or multilevel it’s critical that your workers are able to see what they are doing. LED safety lights are a great option, with low energy consumption and a lifespan of up to 4000 hours. This means that your business can save cash and save lives.

Protect the ears, eyes and head:

The ears and eyes are particularly delicate parts of the body and it’s important to protect them with ear muffs and goggles at all times, especially when coming into contact with intense noises and vibrations. All employees should also be issued with a hard hat to protect the head from any falling debris. When it comes to plummeting bricks, stones and other hard objects a hard hat could mean the difference between life and death.

Ensure all workers are adequately trained:

Thorough training is one of the keys to minimising the risk of accidents and injuries on construction sites. Never let a worker operate a crane, forklift or any other form of heavy machinery without full training and an up to date certification. Even simpler jobs should only be carried out by workers that have a thorough understanding of how to complete the task safely.

Issue employees with safety vests:

One of the simplest ways to reduce the risk of on-site accidents and injuries is to ensure that every employee is clearly visible at all time. Construction sites are often full of debris which can make it difficult to spot lone workers. Issuing all employees with a high visibility safety vestis a cheap yet effective way of ensuring no one goes unnoticed.

Maintain a clutter free work site:

One of the most common causes of construction accidents is stray building materials lying around the site. Whether it’s a small tool, a mislaid plank or an out-of-place wheelbarrow clutter can spell disaster for a construction site.

By following these five simple safety tips you can significantly reduce the risk of on-site accidents and injuries.

Scaffolding Industry Suffers from Skills Shortage and Lack of Resources

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Despite evidence that the UK economy is on the rise the construction industry is still suffering from severe skill shortages and lack of resources. Scaffolding is one of the most affected trades, with recent data from the Office for National Statistics indicating that despite an increasing demand for workers the number of trained scaffolders in the UK remains worryingly low.

One of the major factors driving the lack of British scaffolders is the industry’s failure to replace the hordes of labourers who switched professions during the economic downturn. For years industry experts have been emphasising the immediate need for the sector to seek out new apprentices and expand training processes in a bid to address the ever increasing skills shortage.

While the economic downturn turned a blind eye to the deficiency,the UK’s recent surge in construction and building projects has propelled the scaffolding shortage into the spotlight.The rapid recovery of the new-build housing industry has driven recent demand and is expected to continue to do so in 2015. Yet with a diminishing workforce analysts are predicting that scaffolding contractors will struggle to meet growing industry demand.

 Jon Stone, Commercial Director at Malvern Scaffolding explains, “Theoretically we could double the size of our business tomorrow, but in reality this is impossible as it takes two years to train and qualify a scaffolder.”

The number of employed scaffolders has been consecutively falling over the past four years, dropping from 33,900 in 2010 to just 29,600 in 2013. This represents a decline of 14%. The recently published Construction News Barometer clearly reflected industry concerns over skills and resources shortages, with 97% of respondents revealing they are apprehensive about the lacks of skills and staff over the next 12 months. The image below offers visual insight into the relationship between scaffolding firms and employees from 2007-2013.

scaffolding industry chart

Image via: ONS

While major contractors have been taking steps to actively increase their workforce many smaller companies are still lagging behind when it comes to training new workers and hiring qualified professionals. So what measures can be taken to ensure that the scaffolding talent pool is bought into line with current industry demand? According to the experts the key lies largely in the hands of existing contractors. They’re calling on scaffolding businesses to invest in training, promote the industry and ensure that the sector can reap the benefits of the rapidly recovering building and construction industry.