Each year, UK businesses fail to keep construction workers safe. Failure to comply with regulations, such as The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, can lead to severe consequences.
The latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stats for the construction industry reveal the human cost of negligence. As legislation puts the responsibility of safety strictly on the employer, it’s in your best interest to comply. However, as discovered in our recent report Reducing Risk in Construction, the UK construction industry is struggling to manage its health and safety effectively.
These failings lead to consequences for businesses in the UK, those that run them, and the workers in the field as well.
What are the Consequences of Non-compliance?
Breaching health and safety regulations is a criminal offence. Companies have a common law duty to ensure the working environment is safe for employees. By not doing so, you can face consequences, including fines or prison sentences.
Initially, the HSE can only issue a notice of improvement or prohibition to an enterprise that's breaching legislation, but consequences can become more dire. Breaches can incur fines of up to £20,000, while issues that endanger human lives can produce unlimited fines or imprisonment. If an employee is injured at a workplace where best practice wasn’t implemented, there’s also a chance they could claim against the business.
Industry Disqualification and Reputation Damage
Non-compliance of health and safety regulations can also hurt business reputation. Disqualification from the industry is a likely consequence, often leaving companies’ reputations in ruin. As it’s the employer’s legal responsibility to protect their employees, it’s often those at the top that are targeted when a health and safety incident occurs and prosecutions brought forward by the HSE in the UK have a 94% conviction success rate.
The most severe consequence is the potential injury or even death of a worker. There were 30 fatalities over the last year in the construction sector, and these serious breaches have enormous ramifications for the business involved. In one high-profile case, Sir Robert McAlpine was fined £200,000 after the death of a worker due to health and safety negligence. In some circumstances, unlimited fines have reached heights of £800,000 and the value of fines being administered has risen over the last few years. The highest fine for the construction sector reached £2.6 million.
Our report highlights that non-compliance is a clear problem in the construction industry. Business owners are struggling to correctly deal with health and safety incidents, which is directly impacting not only their workers, but their businesses too.
How Can Your Business Remain Compliant?
Construction sites are inherently hazardous places to work, but more can be done to comply with health and safety regulations. Establishing health and safety best practice and effectively communicating it to your workforce is a great place to start.
While it falls to employers to ensure a safe environment, everyone is at least partially responsible for their own safety. Therefore, health and safety best practice should be promoted in a way that resonates with employees and encourages them to remain engaged. Managing this positive company ethos helps to boost productivity and morale. This is why communication is so critical to a team – informed, engaged employees are statistically less likely to suffer from workplace accidents.
One of the best ways to achieve compliance is to know the risks. Construction sites are dangerous places to work, so identifying what your workers might come up against puts you one step ahead of the danger. Risks like asbestos and electricity can be avoided by staying aware and adequately preparing your team. More so, employers should improve vigilance towards potential risks across their workforce by increasing awareness and encouraging employees.
According to the HSE, the majority of construction-related deaths over the last year were from a fall from height. It makes sense to ensure your business has the appropriate fall protection measures in place to try and prevent anything that might happen in the future. Enforcing simple rules as standard across your sites, such as wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can also help.
Compliance extends to more than just the work done on-site. Ensuring employees have adequate training is vital, and providing them with the correct, working equipment only helps to strengthen your compliance.
Our report, Reducing Risk in Construction, found that a worrying number of UK construction companies didn’t record their health and safety matters appropriately. Improving all matters of health and safety compliance, from attitudes in the workplace to preventative measures and documentation, can help your enterprise become, and remain, compliant.
Keep Your Business Out of Trouble
The severe consequences of non-compliance can be avoided. Many construction companies in the UK are struggling with health and safety best practice. Our newest report has found that up to 70% of businesses fear they would fail an on-the-spot inspection from the HSE. Find out how and where these companies feel they are lacking and learn how you can avoid costly health and safety mistakes.
Download our brand-new report, Reducing Risk in Construction, free today.