13th November 2009 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Progress is being made on safety in small construction firms but there is more to do, Health and Safety Minister, Lord McKenzie told European employers at a major health and safety conference in central London.
The conference hosted by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) for senior representatives of the construction trade association members of the European Builders Confederation marked the climax of a European Commission funded project, ‘Under Construction II’ aimed at improving standards of health and safety in construction SMEs across Europe.
In his keynote speech, Lord McKenzie outlined some of the recent initiatives helping to improve safety and health in Great Britain, including a construction industry forum on pre-qualification schemes and Health and Safety Executive’s asbestos awareness campaign, which was supported by the FMB.
The Minister told the conference:
"Although we are still learning how best to raise awareness of health and safety risks in small and medium-sized construction companies, we are getting there. We must continue to share our experiences across Europe and learn from each other. We need to be mindful that any measures need to avoid disproportionate burdens and to be effective must be simple, practical and affordable."
As part of the conference delegates were taken on a tour of the Olympic site to see firsthand how the enormous health and safety challenges posed by the construction phase are being managed. The Olympic Delivery Authority hosted the tour, providing an expert speaker to guide the delegation through the various best practice examples on display including the minimisation of work at height, onsite traffic management and the extensive occupational health provision.
Delegates also heard from other keynote speakers including the Chief Inspector of Construction, Phillip White, the Head of Health and Safety Strategy at ConstructionSkills, Kevin Fear, and the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the British Safety Council, Neal Stone, as well as speakers from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work and the European Commission.
The Health and Safety Executive’s Chief Inspector of Construction, Phillip White said:
“We are committed to working with the industry and bodies like trade associations to drive and sustain cultural change on attitudes to safety. By encouraging business leaders to take responsibility for health and safety, improving management of health risks, driving up standards of competence, and focusing on genuine health and safety priorities, lives can be saved, injuries prevented and productivity improved. Health and safety is not about producing mountains of paperwork but taking practical action to protect people on site.”
The Head of Health and Safety Strategyat ConstructionSkills, Kevin Fear added:
“Competence is key to on site safety and you cannot be competent without the right training for the job you are being asked to do. It sounds obvious but all too often, and particularly so in small firms, people are injured because they have tried to undertake a task with the best of intentions but not one for which they have been adequately trained.”
The Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the British Safety Council, Neal Stone commented:
“Workers on site are the eyes and ears of any health and safety management system and it is essential that worker engagement involving continuous two way dialogue forms the core of any such system. Worker engagement does not have to involve layers of management and consultants. In a small firm employing two or three people this can be achieved by the employer starting each day by walking around the site before work starts with his employees and their conducting the safety inspection together.”
Richard Diment, Director-General of the FMB concluded:
“Within an SME dominated industry where firms face a constant struggle to provide the resources to keep up with their ever increasing duties, it is essential that trade associations provide support and expertise to assist them with all facets of their work but it is doubly important in the field of health and safety where the risk to life and limb is ever present.”