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10 FFI breaches and how you can avoid being fined

Firms were fined £5.5m in the year following the introduction of the Fee For Intervention (FFI)

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Firms were fined £5.5m in the year following the introduction of the Fee For Intervention (FFI) regulations. With 36% of those fines hitting the Construction Industry we have put together the following guide to help you keep onside.

The majority of HSE inspections were to construction sites, remember, you only get charged under FFI if you are found to be in material breach of UK Health & Safety regulations.

10 Breaches:

1. Falls from height

Falls from height are the biggest killer in the Construction Industry accounting for a majority (51%) of fatal injuries, and a large proportion (29%) of major injuries reported in 2011/12.

Unsafe scaffolds, lack of edge protection, poorly planned roof works and dangerous access methods are all elements of dangerous work at height that can lead to enforcement action, falls from height, and avoidable injuries and fatalities on site. During a recent inspection initiative by the HSE poorly erected scaffolding was one of the key faults identified.

How to avoid?

Ensure that any work at height is properly planned, scaffolding is erected and checked, any working platforms are safe, suitable fall prevention and restraint equipment is used and that fragile materials and open edges have barriers or are covered over.

2. Asbestos exposure

Claiming around 4,500 deaths per year asbestos may be the ‘hidden killer’ and if you are in the Construction Industry, you are at risk.

Drilling, sawing, cutting or demolishing, if you disturb asbestos materials you will release deadly fibres. This is a key area that inspectors will check, and if you are putting people at risk from asbestos exposure you are liable to prosecution along with charges under the FFI scheme. During a recent inspection initiative by the HSE exposure to dangerous types of dust (such as asbestos) was one of the key faults identified.

How to avoid?

Find out if there could be asbestos containing materials present, if the building was originally built before 2000, you need a survey. If it turns out asbestos containing materials are likely to be disturbed as part of the project, they need to be protected from disturbance, or removed in accordance to the Control of Asbestos Regulations.

3. Failing to guard

This is a fault often found in factories and engineering, but can also be found on construction sites when using hand held and portable equipment and machinery.
Ensure that the appropriate guards are fitted correctly when operating machinery can leave operators exposed to moving parts. Contact or entanglement with these parts can cause major injuries including amputations.

How to avoid?

Ensuring operators are adequately trained on the equipment used and simple visual checks and inspection regimes will help guard your safety.

4. Ladder misuse

Ladder use may come under falls from height, but as many inspections find problems with ladder use this piece of equipment gets its own slot. During a recent inspection initiative by the HSE unsecured ladders were one of the key faults identified.

Despite the rumours, ladders are not banned on construction sites. Used correctly, well maintained ladders are a useful piece of equipment for access and short duration, low risk, work at height. However, short is the operative word, if you need to be at height for more than 20-30 minutes, you need to look at another option.

How to avoid?

Never use a faulty ladder, this increases the risk of falls, slips and wobbles. Assess if a ladder is the right equipment for the job, make sure it is correctly secured and maintain 3 points of contact at all times.

5. Inadequate welfare facilities

Schedule 2 of the CDM Regulations (2007) states “Suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences shall be provided or made available at readily accessible places.” Failing to provide adequate welfare facilities for the number of people on site, unhygienic welfare facilities or faulty welfare facilities (e.g. no running water hot and cold washing water) could all be highlighted as material breaches of this requirement.

During a recent inspection initiative by the HSE inadequate washing facilities were identified as a common H&S breach on a number of construction sites.

How to avoid?

Assess your project, how many people will be on site, where will they be working and how are they going to access welfare facilities. Make sure welfare facilities are properly maintained and stay hygienic throughout the project.

6. Silica dust exposure

Silica dust can cause lung cancer and silicosis when inhaled, and is produced when cutting, blasting or drilling granite, sandstone, slate, brick or concrete. There are around 800 deaths per year due to exposure to silica dust, exposure is preventable, but once exposed the effects are non-reversible.

During a recent inspection initiative by the HSE exposure to dangerous types of dust (such as silica) was one of the key faults identified.

How to avoid?

Control the creation of silica dust. Use local exhaust ventilation tools or damp down at source to prevent the creation of silica dust clouds. Also wear an appropriate dust mask or RPE if necessary to prevent exposure.

7. Vibration exposure

Another long term health problem that can affect those working in construction is hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). Use of vibrating tools over time can cause irreversible damage to the fingers, hands and arms, making everyday life, such as working in the cold, picking up objects or getting a good night’s sleep problematic due to pain and loss of feeling or grip.

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 aim to reduce the risks of vibration exposure at work. Failure to assess the vibration risk to employees, or to take action to reduce the risks and make sure the legal limits of vibration exposure are not exceeded would be seen as a material breach of H&S regulations.

How to avoid?

Eliminate the need for vibrating equipment where possible, select low vibrating equipment, rotate jobs to prevent excessive exposure and keep exposure within the legal limits.

8. Poor transport management

One of the key areas assessed by HSE inspectors is that sites are well organised and walkways and access routes are free from obstructions.

Vehicle related incidents cause around 50 deaths and 1500 major injuries at work each year. On construction sites, due to the nature of the work, the site layout is likely to change throughout the project as buildings and structures are constructed. Failing to keep your traffic management plan updated, or failing to have one in place at all, could lead to dangerous situations involving vehicles and plant on site.

How to avoid?

Plan your site, segregate pedestrians and vehicles as much as possible and ensure that access routes, walkways and traffic routes are clear and safe for the proposed use at all times.

9. COSHH failures

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations are in force to protect workers from the effects of exposure to hazardous substances. Common hazardous substances on construction sites can include fuels, cement, paints and cleaning substances.

How to avoid?

Keep a COSHH register on site for any substances hazardous to health and make sure data sheets and COSHH assessments are carried out for these substances and adequate control measures are in place.

10. Missing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

HSE inspectors will check that suitable PPE, including head protection, is provided and worn at all times. This may seem like an obvious and basic health and safety requirement on construction sites, but often inspectors find workers not wearing the most basic PPE, such as suitable safety boots.

How to avoid?

Check PPE daily, assess the project and activities and determine what PPE is required based on the task carried out and wider site hazards. Enforce the requirements and be careful not to let standards lapse as the project progresses.