The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is to target construction firms with a month-long campaign to check that measures to protect workers from dust are up to scratch, starting on Monday 4 October.
The inspections will focus on respiratory risks and occupational lung disease, looking at the control measures businesses have in place to protect their workers’ lungs from construction dust, including from silica, asbestos and wood.
The HSE said that while the inspections will focus primarily on health, if an inspector identifies any other areas of concern, including immediate safety risks, they would take action to deal with them.
Inspectors will be looking for evidence of employers and workers knowing the risks, planning their work and using the right controls. If necessary, they will use enforcement to make sure people are protected.
HSE is being supported by the Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG) and Tier 1 industry contractors. Throughout October 2021, HCLG members will carry out more than 1,000 site visits to assess the effectiveness of measures in place to control workers’ exposure to respiratory risks from dust.
Findings from site visits and a survey will allow industry to feed into HSE’s broader commitment to improve the health of construction workers by providing a wider dataset for it to evaluate ongoing practices across industry.
The initiative will also be supported by HSE’s WorkRight campaign, aimed at influencing employer behaviour by encouraging builders to download free guidance and advice to increase their knowledge and capability to protect workers’ health.
HSE’s chief inspector of construction, Sarah Jardine, said: “Around 100 times as many workers die from diseases caused or made worse by their work than are actually killed in construction accidents.
“Our inspection initiatives ensure that inspectors are able to speak to dutyholders and visit sites to look at the kind of action businesses in the construction industry are taking right now to protect their workers’ health, particularly when it comes to exposure to dust and damage to lungs. These are mature health challenges that the industry ought to be managing effectively.
“There are a few simple things that everyone can do to make sure they are protecting their health and their future. Be aware of the risks associated with activities you do every day, recognise the dangers of hazardous dust and consider how it can affect your health. We want businesses and their workers to think of the job from start to finish and avoid creating dust by working in different ways to keep dust down and wear the right protective equipment.”