Author: Steven Mullan 31 October 2023
Every construction worker moves and handles heavy objects daily. No big deal, right? Wrong. Seemingly routine manual handling tasks on building sites can result in severe injuries and illnesses.
With this in mind, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a new initiative against the construction industry’s illnesses and injuries caused by manual handling. Site inspections have been happening since September 2023. The HSE has also launched the ‘Work Right Construction: Your Health. Your Future’ campaign to promote awareness of manual handling risks.
We’ve compiled a quick guide on the new HSE efforts to lower illnesses and injuries. Keep reading to learn what their campaigns involve and how to avoid manual handling injuries to stay on the right side of the law.
The HSE Work Right Construction: Your Health. Your Future Campaign
Poor manual handling techniques commonly cause injuries and illnesses in UK workplaces. The HSE states that bad manual handling techniques are responsible for almost one of every three workplace injuries.
An estimated 42,000 UK construction workers have musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), according to the HSE. MSDs cause pain and discomfort in the joints, nerves, bones and muscles. They can dramatically decrease quality of life and reduce a person’s ability to work and earn a living. Incorrect manual handling practices cause most MSDs.
The HSE’s Work Right Construction: Your Health. Your Future campaign is designed to combat the rising number of injuries and MSDs in the construction industry. The campaign provides information and free manual handling resources to employers.
In addition to the Work Right Construction campaign, the HSE has increased the number of inspections on building sites throughout the UK. HSE inspectors will assess work practices to ensure they meet HSE manual handling regulations.
What Does the New HSE Campaign Mean for You?
If you’re an employer in the UK construction industry, it makes sense to always be prepared for an HSE inspection. This means planning your work carefully and taking steps to eliminate or control manual handling risks as far as is reasonably practicable.
Risk Assessment and Controls
To comply with an HSE inspection, employers and employees must have a good knowledge of manual handling risks in the construction industry. A manual handling risk assessment must be performed on every site before any work is undertaken. Reasonable control measures must be implemented to eliminate or mitigate all manual handling risks.
Ideally, all manual handling risks should be identified and controlled during the design stages of a construction project.
Ensure appropriate measures to control risks are in place once work has commenced
Provide employees with adequate manual handling training
Provide employees with suitable equipment and aids to complete their tasks safely
Employees must ensure that all manual handling procedures are followed and that all workers or contractors use correct manual handling techniques on-site.
Construction Site Inspections
The role of HSE inspectors is to investigate the level of risk in a workplace. They assess if employees are fully informed of workplace risks and if reasonable measures to control them are in place.
Legally, HSE inspectors have no obligation to inform an employer that they will be inspecting their premises or the current worksite.
An HSE inspector can turn up unannounced at any time. An inspection may be conducted randomly or result from a complaint made by an employee or a member of the public.
An HSE inspector is not obligated to inform you why the inspection is happening or who made a complaint report.
HSE inspectors can interview employees, managers, safety representatives, or anyone with relevant information.
HSE inspectors can inspect equipment and machinery, any substances or chemicals used or any other aspect of the workplace they deem appropriate.
Inspectors can take photographs and samples and are empowered to inspect and take copies of any paperwork.
If the HSE inspectors feel that their inspection may be obstructed, they can enlist the assistance of the police.
Penalties for Breaching HSE Manual Handling Regulations
All employers and employees in the UK construction industry are legally obliged to follow the below legislation:
Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA)
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Suppose an HSE inspector has found that you may have breached any of the above health and safety laws. In that case, you can be issued a Notification of Contravention (NOC). The NOC details:
What law has been broken
What you need to do to rectify the situation
What penalties apply, if any
The penalties for breaching UK health and safety laws are severe. There is currently no limit to how high an HSE fine can be. You could also be imprisoned for up to two years. Or face both an unlimited fine and a term of imprisonment.
Learn How to Conduct a Manual Handling Risk Assessment
The best way to avoid getting into hot water with the HSE is to identify, assess and control manual handling risks on all construction sites. Our Manual Handling Courses teach you and your employees how to conduct a manual handling risk assessment and how to practice safe manual handling techniques.