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HSE’s refurbishment initiative

Posted: Tuesday 22nd, September 2015

National company calls on the construction industry to learn from their mistakes
during HSE’s refurbishment initiative

Date:15 September 2015

A national interiors fit-out company, previously prosecuted by the health and safety
regulator, is calling on their construction colleagues to act now in improving
standards and reduce the number of deaths, injuries and cases of ill-health in their
industry.

The company, whose clients include high-end retail brands, is backing the Health
and Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual construction refurbishment initiative, which
starts today. The nationwide drive will target the unsafe work practices that make
construction one of Britain’s most dangerous industries.

John Graham, Newman Scott’s new Joint Managing Director said:

“I would urge everyone in the construction industry to take action now in protecting
the health and safety of your workers. Don’t let a prosecution or worse the death
or injury of a colleague be the catalyst for change.”

Although construction is 5 per cent of Britain’s workforce it accounts for 31per cent
of all fatalities, with 42 deaths in 2014/15 and 76,000 cases of reported ill-health.
HSE will be targeting the refurbishment sites as they account for more than half of
all the deaths, injuries and cases of ill-health within the construction industry.

HSE Inspectors will be visiting refurbishment sites across the country, between 14
September and 9 October, to challenge the poor standards that are putting the
health and safety of workers at risk.

Newman Scott was visited by HSE during the 2013 inspection initiative and the
poor practice found resulted in the company and one of their directors being
prosecuted.

John Graham explains:

“We were mortified at the thought of being prosecuted because we had a good
safety record and thought we were pretty good at health and safety.

“A sub-contractor was using a poorly erected mobile scaffold, on an escalator
between the ground and first floor, and although no-one was hurt there was a very
real and high risk of injury, or worse, to the operatives.

“We had a choice, we could consider ourselves lucky there were no injuries or we
could hold a full and frank internal investigation, understand what had gone wrong
and make sure our sites were safe for our workers.”

Newman Scott had the processes in place but they were not being followed. Their
decision to get to the root-cause of the incident has created a sea change in their
organisation’s health and safety culture, an example HSE hopes other
construction companies will learn from.

John continues:

“We focused on improving the already positive safety culture in the company
through better communication, more training, more competency checking and
giving more ownership of health and safety to our employees. Most importantly our
employees knew they could say no, without fear of retribution, to any request from
a client or director if they felt it could not be carried out without risking their health
or their safety.”

Although John believes the company would have made changes eventually
Newman Scott are convinced HSE’s enforcement action acted as a catalyst and
their interaction with the inspector helped them to implement sustained and
effective changes.

John, said:

“Of course HSE has an enforcement function and this may make them appear
formal but there was a genuine desire from them to help us make the workplace a
safer, healthier place. We were treated with respect and courtesy and that helped
us approach the whole experience in a positive way, maximising the improvements
to the benefit of everyone on our sites.

“We cannot say that we will have no more lapses in the future. We can say that all
our people sleep easier in their beds knowing that we are all doing all we can to
make sure we have safer, healthier sites. That peace of mind is priceless.”

Jo Anderson, HSE’s lead for the construction initiative, said:

“We are grateful to Newman Scott for sharing their experience and for how they
have responded to the prosecution.

“We hope everyone can learn from their lessons and realise it is vital when carrying
out construction work that the right management systems are in place so risks to
workers’ health are controlled just as effectively as safety. Workers within
construction are paying too high a toll on their health and safety when it is
completely avoidable by planning the work, providing the right kit and making sure
it is used properly.

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