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Caithness News Bulletins February 2005

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Health And Safety Executive  

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors will be carrying out a blitz of construction sites across east Scotland and the Highlands & Islands in March as part of a UK-wide initiative to tackle serious work-related ill health.

Healthy Handling 2005 is aimed at clients, designers, planning supervisors and contractors in the construction industry, and is targeting poor work practices that can cause long-term disability and could end careers.

Site - Poor Order

The visits will cover from the Borders, through the Lothians, Fife and the central belt to Dundee, Aberdeen and the Highlands.

During the initiative HSE Inspectors will focus on handling and using tools, materials and substances which can result in fractures, strains, musculo-skeletal disorders, dermatitis, cement burns, hearing loss, hand arm vibration syndrome and consequent long term disability. Commenting on the initiative, Principal Inspector Jim Skilling said: "Work related ill health affects a significant number of construction workers and the sector has one of the highest rates of musculo-skeletal disorder in industry. Back problems, cement dermatitis, vibration white finger and deafness can ruin people's lives and force them out of their chosen profession.

Vibration White Finger

"We have produced guidance outlining simple and sensible precautions to help clients, designers, planning supervisors and contractors take account of these hazards well before work starts on site. Experience shows that effective management of exposure to these risks can reduce or prevent injury and ill-health to workers."

The four core issues Inspectors will be looking at during the blitz are site order and organisation, lifting and carrying, wet cement and hand held vibrating equipment and tools. If not properly managed each of these topics has the potential to cause ill health and injury to construction workers.

For each of the four core issues inspectors will expect to find:

Order and Organisation
* clean, tidy and well organised sites that are kept in good order;
* pedestrian access routes and places of work kept free from obstacles;
* materials stored and left in a safe and accessible condition.

Lifting and Carrying
* manual handling tasks eliminated by design or mechanisation where practicable;
* safe handling based on assessment of risk from manual handling operations;
* all workers trained in basic, safe, manual handling techniques.

Wet Cement
* assessment of risks from cement and management arrangements to control exposure;
* hot and cold running water, adequate size basins, and means of washing and drying hands;
* regular skin inspection by trained competent person where residual risk exists.

Hand Held Vibrating Equipment and Tools
* information on vibration/noise levels from manufacturers and hire companies;
* risk assessments carried out to determine safe periods of exposure;
* equipment and tools kept in good condition by effective maintenance systems.

Seventy workers were killed in the construction industry last year (2003/04). Some 4,000 construction workers suffered major injuries and over 8,150 suffered injuries that kept them off work for more than three days in 2003/04.

Cement Dermatitis

Musculo-skeletal Disorders (MSDs) are by far the most common work related illness. It is estimated that each year 1 million people in Great Britain suffered a work-related musculo-skeletal injury across all industries, around half due to lower back pain. 5.7 million working days are lost per year due to work related back pain. In construction MSDs account for eight per cent of major injuries, 34 per cent of 3-day injuries and 26 per cent of all RIDDOR reported accidents. In 2003/04 96,000 people are estimated to have suffered from ill-health caused or made worse by employment in the construction industry.

Concrete Breaker

In 2003, a quarter of major injuries in the construction industry were due to slipping or tripping while moving around sites.

Concrete Handling

Between 5.5 and 10.5 per cent of construction workers are thought to be sensitive to cement, and potentially at risk of allergic dermatitis.

Kerb Handling Poor Practice

Kerb Handling - Good Practice

Vibration white finger is commonly seen as a condition associated with coal mining, yet 28.5 per cent of average annual cases, excluding extraction, were reported for construction workers.

Health And Safety Executive (HSE)