Rishi Sunak has continued to put construction at the heart of the ‘Covid-19’ recovery with a pledge to invest £3bn in order to support in the region of 140,000 jobs.

A £1 billion programme is to be put in place to improve the energy efficiency of ageing public sector buildings throughout the country and a further £2bn package will provide grants for ‘greener’ homes, enabling houseowners (including landlords) to play their part in meeting climate change targets by improving the energy efficiency of existing housing stock.

It didn’t stop there with the chancellor clearly recognising that the construction sector will play a vital role in driving forward the economic recovery post coronavirus he also cut stamp duty across England and Northern Ireland, raising the threshold to £500,000 on all property sales up to March 2021, stating:

“One of the most important sectors for job creation is housing.  The construction sector adds £39 billion a year to the UK economy, with house building alone supporting nearly three quarter of a million jobs – with millions more relying on the availability of housing to find work.”

“But property transactions fell by 50% in May and house prices have fallen for the first time in eight years.  We need people feeling confident – confident to buy, sell, renovate, move and improve.  That will drive growth and create jobs.”

Matthew Pratt (the Chief Executive at Redrow), said: “We welcome today’s stamp duty holiday as a positive step to stimulate the housing market and wider economy. The measures will have a much-needed domino effect, also supporting suppliers, subcontractors and consultants to the house building industry.”

Additional schemes were also announced to aid employment, with a particular focus on ‘youth employment’:

One scheme, the Jobs Retentions Bonus, is promising payments of £1,000 to companies for each employee that they bring back staff from furlough and keep them in work until the end of January 2021. Employees must earn above the Lower Earnings Limit (£520 per month) on average between the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the end of January 2021.

Another scheme, the Kickstart Scheme, involves the creation of a £2 billion fund to create hundreds of thousands of high quality 6-month work placements aimed at those aged 16-24 who are on Universal Credit and are deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment.   The funding available will cover 100% of the relevant ‘national minimum wage’ for a 25 hours a week, and also cover the associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions.  That equates to a grant of around £6,500 for each placement.

Pledges were also made to provide £2,000 to employers for every new apprentice hired under the age of under 25 and £1,500 for apprentices over the age of 25 – between August 2020 and January 2021.

The Chancellor further stated:  “If you stand by your workers we will stand by you. Our plan has a clear goal: to protect, support and create jobs. It will give businesses the confidence to retain and hire. To create jobs in every part of our country. To give young people a better start. To give people everywhere the opportunity of a fresh start.”

Whilst there will always be detractors and some that think the chancellor should have gone further, here at Goldcross we think this is a good step in the right direction to getting the economy moving and boosting the all important construction sector.

We also think its time to start seeking and making the best of available opportunities, so make sure your training is up-to-date and that you are in the best position to take advantage of investment in the sector – who knows this may be the ideal time to consider a career change or a ‘step-up’.  If that is the case we can help, simply give one of our training advisors a call on: 0203 633 5505 or drop us an email at: bookings@goldcross-training.com to discuss your training requirements.  Alternatively go straight to our course schedule to book directly.

 

Now that the government has finally given HS2 Ltd notice to proceed, construction work on the project is expected to begin by early spring 2021.

In another boost to the industry HS2 Ltd, the body overseeing construction of the new London to Birmingham rail line, has launched a recruitment drive for several hundred extra staff, with at least 300 of those roles being in Birmingham.  This follows last weeks announcement that HS2 has already started the search for contractors for the second phase of the project, seeking ground investigation contractors to work across the northern section of the railway in deals worth up to £250m and lasting up to eight years.

Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2 Ltd stated: “With many people facing uncertain job security and worried about future prospects in the current crisis, I hope this will be welcome news for anyone seeking a long-term and rewarding career with a company that places health, safety, equality and diversity at the very top of its priority list.  As part of the HS2 team you’ll be shaping British history; transforming our Victorian railways and supporting the regeneration and economic prosperity of towns and cities right along the route.”

This was followed up by Andrew Stephenson, the HS2 minister, stating: “These jobs are a welcome boost for workers across the country at this challenging time, providing the opportunity to play a crucial part in delivering HS2, an integral part of improving connectivity and levelling up our country” and in line with the prime ministers current comments he went on to say “We continue to work with the transport and construction industry to accelerate projects, where safely possible, to kickstart our economy, provide more employment opportunities and drive our recovery as we build out of Covid-19.”

It doesn’t end there as previously reported by ‘theconstructionindex‘:- “an estimated 400,000 supply chain contract opportunities for UK businesses will be created during phase one of HS2, supporting thousands of jobs on site and many more around the country. It is estimated that around 95% of those contract opportunities will be won by UK based businesses and around two thirds of those will be small and medium sized businesses.”

This latest recruitment drive is set to last three months with a range of vacancies being advertised from: from engineering and project management to land, property and procurement. Further details can be found here:  hs2.org.uk/hs2-and-you

The construction sector clearly seems to be facing a turnaround at this time and may well become the focal point in seeing the country through the forecast economic downturn  – make sure that your training is up to date and that you are in a position to benefit, check our course schedule now!

As companies and individuals return to work this is a subject area that most will have to grapple with.  But let’s be clear this is a common process (at least it should be?) , one that most companies and their employees will have followed on many occasions – after all it is a legal requirement.

Like all ‘hazards’ the impact of Covid-19 will vary from company to company, dependent on; the work requirements/activities being undertaken and the manner in which individuals are exposed to it.  Additionally, as is the norm, companies and organisations will also have their own particular methodology to follow in completing a risk assessment.

Assessors should not lose sight of the basics i.e. who is doing what and how, where they are doing it, why are they doing it and what equipment are they are using – as with all risk assessments a thorough understanding of the tasks or activities is vital to assess exposure and to qualify any subsequent control requirements, hence individuals involved in the task should be involved in the assessment.

The risk assessment should clearly recognise the virus as a hazard and should reflect that it is spread in minute water droplets expelled from the body through; sneezing, coughing, talking and breathing.  It should also be recognised that the virus:

  • can be transferred to the hands and to surfaces.
  • it can survive on surfaces for a period of time after transfer (depending on such things as the surface type, its moisture content and temperature).

The risk assessment should also conclude that if it is passed from one person to another, whilst the vast majority of invividuals survive infection, some individuals may die and hence it should be regarded as a high hazard.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect here will be determining how exposed individuals will be and hence there are many questions you may wish to consider:-

  • While at work how might employees meet people with the disease, how frequently and for how long?
  • How do employees travel to work and does this expose them to public crowds?
  • Do you know which employees have vulnerable medical conditions that make them more susceptible to the disease? Which of your employees are from a BAME background? What is the age of your employees?
  • How do you capture this information?
  • Do you know which employees have people in their households who may have increased exposure to the disease?
  • If someone in an employee’s household must isolate, what will you require your employee to do?
  • Where are employees meeting people who may have the disease and does this increase exposure (e.g. in a confined space, in a well-ventilated environment or outside)?

The above list is not exhaustive and you may well need to consider additional aspects dependant upon the activities/tasks being considered.

Once you have assessed the ‘likelihood’ as is normal you can begin to consider how appropriate controls can be used to provide mitigation and how they might be implemented, as always the ‘safety hierarchy of Control’ is a useful tool in determining what can actually be achieved.

Covid_heirarchy

Image Courtesy of: IOSH, 2020

In this particular instance ‘Administrative controls’ will almost certainly provide the best options for the majority of organisations although some Engineering controls such as the implementation of ‘physical barriers’ may be achievable for some organisations.  The selected controls should be ‘suitable and sufficient’ and give consideration to how you will keep the workplace and equipment clean, adjust your working practices to avoid congregation/maintain social distancing and ensure people are kept safe.

Importantly you should not lose sight of the regular safety and health risks posed by your operations and activities – it is vital that you maintain effective control of exposure to these risks too.

The Institution of Occupational Health and Safety (IOSH) has produced a very useful free guide to assist organisations and their assessors in undertaking a Covid-19 risk assessment which is available here.

Research suggests that in Britain nearly 800 people die a year from lung cancer caused by breathing in silica dust at work.  In the European Union, around 7,000 cases of lung cancer are caused by this carcinogen annually.  Worldwide, it’s estimated that millions of employees are exposed to silica dust.

Silica dust is created when the ‘crystalline silica’ in materials such as stone, mortar or tiles is broken down and released.  It happens when you drill, saw, cut, grind or sand the products – or work on them in any way that disturbs the natural silica content.

Through ‘No Time to Lose’, a new cross-industry commitment to tackle silica dust in the workplace has been agreed. Industry leaders, academics and safety and health experts have committed to a 12-month drive to tackle the issue and you can read about their committment here.

Silica dust is only harmful when it is inhaled deep into your lungs, where oxygen is taken up into the blood, hence sitting on a sandy beach won’t cause any respiratory harm because any sand particles breathed in will generally be much too big to go beyond your nose or upper airways.  But as a very fine airborne dust, silica can be very dangerous and it is the respirable fraction that is hazardous.

Respirable particles are typically less than around 5 micrometers in size, you can compare this to the ‘full stop’ at the end of this sentence, which is around 200–300 micrometers in diameter, and the finest sand on the beach, which is about 50–70 micrometers.  In fact individual silica dust particles are so small that they are invisible to the naked eye in normal light – so you can have relatively high airborne concentrations without even being aware that the dust is being inhaled.

In 1996, the International Agency for Research on Cancer reviewed the scientific evidence and concluded that crystalline silica in the form of quartz or cristobalite dust is carcinogenic to humans – it is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning it is a definite cause of cancer in humans.

Exposure to silica dust occurs in many industries and common scenarios where people may be exposed include:- breaking, crushing, grinding or milling silica-containing material such as concrete, aggregate or mortar- drilling, cutting, chiselling or sanding silica-containing material- dealing with cement- moving earth, eg excavating, mining, quarrying or tunnelling- abrasive blasting or sandblasting- laying, maintaining or replacing ballast- handling, mixing or shovelling dry materials that include silica- using silica, sand or silica-containing products in the manufacturing process of glass and other non-metallic mineral products- using sand as a moulding medium in foundries- using silica flour (a finely ground form of crystalline silica)- dry sweeping up after a task where silica dust has been created.

Despite the level of exposure however only 16% of UK Construction Professionals believe that construction workers are aware of the risks they face in breathing in dust!

Stay Safe & Get the full factsheet here:  RESPIRABLE CRYSTALLINE SILICA: THE FACTS (IOSH)

Well we may be a little late to the party but nevertheless we thought that the latest IOSH ‘no time to lose’ campaign deserved highlighting.

The campaign encourages people to regularly self-examine for signs of skin cancer and teaches everyone about the dangers of sunburn and excessive tanning – a particular problem with construction workers who tend to work outdoors.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, the campaign will share advice on sun protection and vitamin D to help people enjoy the sun safely throughout these difficult times.

Sun Awareness Week is organised by supporter of IOSH’s award-winning No Time to Lose (NTTL) campaign the British Association of Dermatologists, a charity that practices teaching, training and research of dermatology.

Worldwide, non-melanoma skin cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer, with an estimated 2-3 million cases registered every year.

Outdoor workers are at an increased risk of skin cancer caused by exposure to the sun (solar ultraviolet radiation) with cancer mortality and incidence data for Great Britain suggesting that construction workers account for around 58 per cent of occupational cancer deaths and 55 per cent of occupational cancer registrations attributed to sun exposure. Skin cancer accounts for 7 per cent of diagnosed work-related disease among construction workers in the UK (1996–2000), and national surveillance data (2002–2008) indicate that exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation was the suspected cause in all but one reported case of skin cancer among skilled tradespeople (IOSH, 2018).

Protect yourself and your employees from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun when outdoors, whether at work or play. Follow these steps:

  • Check the UV index from the weather forecast. If the index is at three or above, then inform relevant workers and ensure protective measures are in place to minimise exposure.
  • Avoid or minimise exposure to direct sunlight in the middle part of the day – 60 per cent of daily UV radiation occurs between 10:00 and 14:00.
  • Regularly swap job tasks between workers to make sure everyone on the team can spend some time in the shade.
  • Use heavy-duty cover or shade when working outdoors in the sun – shade can cut UV exposure by 50 per cent or more. Check protection levels with your supplier, and make sure rest breaks are taken in shaded areas or indoors.
  • Add UV protective films or tints to plain-glass vehicle windows if employees are regularly driving during high UV months.
  • Raise awareness of solar radiation issues with workers by using the free NTTL resources. You’ll find everything from toolbox talks, real-life stories and films.
  • Wear long-sleeved, loose-fitting tops and trousers when working outdoors during months with high UV levels – you’ll need to check the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating and make sure the design of the clothing fits the job and doesn’t introduce other hazards. ‘High wicking’ fabrics are designed to draw moisture away from the skin.
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats that shade the face, head, ears and neck or if safety helmets are worn, use those fitted with Legionnaire-style neck flaps.
  • Wear sunglasses with 100 per cent UV protection or use UV-filtering safety goggles if the work means eye protection is needed. Look for the ‘UV 400’ marking.
  • Use high-factor sunscreen on skin that can’t be protected by other measures, for example, on the hands, face and lips. Sunscreen should be water-resistant and have ‘broad spectrum’ protection, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and a UVA rating of four or five stars. Sunscreen should only be used alongside other protective measures – it’s best not to rely on sunscreen alone.
  • Sunscreen should be applied half an hour before exposure and reapplied at least every couple of hours. If skin has been exposed to dusts, it should be washed before sunscreen is reapplied, to avoid causing dermatitis.
  • Encourage workers to check their skin for changes to moles or other changes. Detecting the early signs of skin cancer and undergoing early treatment can save lives.
  • You should also check whether any workers could be suffering from photosensitivity, where eyes and skin become abnormally sensitive to UV radiation. Photosensitivity can be caused by a range of substances including some industrial chemicals, plants and medication.

Mary Ogungbeje, OSH Research Manager at IOSH, said:

“To get your body to create vitamin D, you need to be out safely in the sun daily, and how long for will depend on a few factors, such as your skin colour.”

“As many of us are staying at home more during the Covid-19 lockdown, it’s important to look at what you eat and consider vitamin D rich foods such as mushrooms, oily fish, and fortified cereals and dairy products. Taking vitamin D dietary supplement can be another source of intake.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) successfully prosecuted a Principal Contractor at Luton Crown Court after an engineer fell almost 3 metres from an extension ladder.

An investigation subsequently undertaken by the HSE found that reasonably practicable measures had not been taken to prevent a fall from the internal roof for both the individual concerned and other contractors working on the roof.   The investigation found that the principal contractor, Modus Workspace Limited, had failed to discharge its duty to ensure those not in their employment were not exposed to risks, in particular that of falling from height.

The engineer was in the process of inspecting and testing a sprinkler system for leaks at a site in Hemel Hempstead, Herts when the incident occurred on: 5 September 2016.  The engineer had climbed onto an internal roof to inspect a leak from an extension ladder resulting in the ladder slipping and him falling between the internal roof and the external wall.

The resulting injuries required a blood transfusion (as a result of him losing approx half of his blood capacity) and 14 stitches to his head. He also sustained a fractured vertebrae and soft tissue damage.

Luton Crown Court was told that Modus had failed to discharge its duty to ensure those not in their employment were not exposed to risks, in particular that of falling from height.

After a five-week trial, Modus Workspace Limited of Greencoat Place, London were found guilty of breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and were fined £1.1 million and ordered to pay costs of £68,116.18.

After the sentencing, HSE Inspector John Berezansky, commented: “This case highlights the importance of taking reasonably practicable measures when planning and managing the risks regarding work at height within the construction industry.

“Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities and injuries in this country and the risks and control measures associated with working at height are well known.

“The engineer’s injuries were life changing and he could have easily been killed. This serious incident and devastation could have been avoided if basic safety measures had been put in place.”

A large number of our delegates have been questioning us as to why we do not offer evening classes?  In truth we didn’t really have an answer for them other than to say we weren’t sure if there was sufficient demand to justify running them.  At the time that was the best answer we could give however, after some discussion throughout the company we had to agree that we were not actually sure that was necessarily true at all.

Being innovative as we are (after all we were the first to bring you weekend CITB training!) and being conscious that it is you (our delegates) that drive demand we have decided that we really need to challenge our perceptions here, so by popular demand we have decided to trial the running of CITB: Site Supervisors’ Safety Training Scheme (SSSTS) evening courses from September through to November 2019.  The courses will run for four hours per evening on four consecutive days enabling us gauge demand and determine whether we should consider running the full suite of CITB: Site Safety Plus courses in the same manner.

The SSSTS two day course is intended for those who already fulfill or are about to take up supervisory responsibilities on a construction site and provides with a good ability to understand health, safety, welfare and environmental issues, as well as their legal responsibilities relevant to their work activities on site.

The course highlights the requirement to promote health and safety through effective supervision and is endorsed by the United Kingdom Contractors Group (UKCG) as the standard training for all supervisors working on sites within the UK.We will be running this course alongside our standard block week SSSTS and our weekend SSSTS courses and for those individuals looking to progress their career’s we would suggest that the five day CITB Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) training course would be the next logical step.

Goldcross Training are supporting the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) #Dustbuster campaign in a bid to raise awareness about occupational lung disease within the construction industry.  The campaign will run from the 17th June – 12th July 2019 and the HSE are providing a range of free resources to help businesses and workers:

  • Know the risk
  • Plan their work
  • Use the right controls when working with dust

Throughout the campaign, the HSE will be targeting firms across Great Britain in a new series of inspections focusing on dust control, particularly in industries where occupational lung diseases (including in some cases occupational cancers are more common) such as: construction, woodworking and food manufacturing.

HSE Inspectors will be visiting business across the country to see first hand the measures that have been put in place to protect worker’s lungs from the impact of dust.  They will be looking for evidence of: both businesses and their workers knowing the risks linked to asbestos, silica, wood and flour dust (as applicable), that they are planning their work appropriately and using the right controls. Where considered necessary the HSE will use enforcement to make sure people are protected.

Recently released figures indicate that there are:

  • 12,000 estimated deaths related to lung disease per annum due to past exposure through work
  • 20,000 new cases of breathing or lung related problems (caused or made worse by work) are reported on average per annum

Additionally there were considered to be:

  • 2,595 deaths directly related to Mesothelloma with a similar number of ‘lung cancer’ related deaths being linked to asbestos exposure – these death rates are projected to continue for the rest of the decade.

How lung diseases contributes to the current estimated work related death rate can be seen at figure 1:

Sadly despite the effort that has gone into identifying and providing for asbestos related hazards in recent years individuals and their families are still experiencing the impact of exposure to it today, despite the fact that its use was banned within the UK some 20 years ago.  

This is one of the major reasons that Goldcross consider campaigns of this type to be of such importance particularly as the hazards related to both dust and fume rarely result in injury but almost always in chronic illness that will impact individuals considerably later in life.  Hence wilst it is vitally important to both realise and provide for the risks of asbestos it is equally important to consider dust and fume resulting from any activity within the workplace in order to ensure that appropriate control measures are put in place and exposure misimised, so that workers and visitors remain safe. 

Goldcross helps to achieve this through the provision of a range of education and training such as the suite of CITB: Site Safety Plus courses and the IOSH Managing Safely course.

 

Construction scheme card fraud is an ongoing and serious issue for the industry, such fraud not only devalues the scheme but puts both employers and employees at risk, as fraudulent card holders will rarely have achieved or maintained the competence they claim.

The CITB work closely with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to gather evidence to prosecute fraudulent behavior and bring criminals to account.  They are also committed to preventing fraud and provide a range of tools and information to assist employers in identifying CSCS card fraud.

One such tool provided by the CITB is their online Card Checker – if it is a genuine card, you should be able to find it on the system.  Additionally some android and windows smart phones will also allow you to read the card with the appropriate app further details are available from the CSCS website.

We would suggest that it is good practice for all employers to make use of these tools periodically and especially on recruitment of a new employee.   

Identifying a Fraudulent Card

A number of security features are normally built into a construction skills certification scheme (CSCS) card.

A genuine CSCS card will have:

  • The CSCS hologram in the top left-hand corner
    • on moving the card slightly to an angle you will see the words ‘Construction Skill Certification Scheme’ in the reflective element
  • A recent photo of the person on the right hand side of the card
    • the photo should have been taken within the last five years and should be a good likeness of the person before you
  • The card holder’s name printed below the CSCS hologram
  • The card holder’s registration number printed below their name along with the card’s expiry date.
    • the registration number should also be repeated on the back of the card
  • The ‘HS&E Tested’ logo next to the ID photo
    • this will be in a silver coloured box next to the ID photo or
    • this will be in a gold coloured box next to the ID photo
  • The card colour going right to the edge of the card
    • some forgeries are known to have what appears to be a white edge to the front of the card
  • Sharp and clear printing and colours – some forgeries have blurred or dull printing
  • The correct spelling  – some forgeries have spelling mistakes

To find out more about how to tell a genuine CSCS card from a fraudulent one, visit the CSCS website.

Action to Take if You Think Someone has a Fraudulent Card

If possible check the details of the card with the CITB online Card Checker – if it is a genuine card, you should be able to find it on the system.

If you suspect a worker of using a fraudulent card to work or enter a construction site:

  • retain the card if possible
  • make photocopies of front and back of the card
  • record cardholder’s name and address
  • ask the cardholder where the card was obtained from
  • call the local police and report the matter
  • refuse the worker access to the site (subject to company rules)

If it is a suspected fraudulent CSCS card:

  • send copies of all evidence, marked “SUSPECTED FRAUDULENT CARD” with crime reference number given by the local police to:

Operations Team
CSCS Ltd
The Building Centre
26 Store Street
London
WC1E 7BT

  • inform CITB by post, marking it for the attention of the Fraud Investigator, or email making sure to include:
    • a copy of all evidence
    • the crime number given by the local police.

The CITB and CSCS will fully support any prosecution with technical and factual evidence.

Combating CSCS card fraud requires all aspects of the construction industry to remain vigilant: employers, contractors, sub-contractors, employees, certificating bodies and training providers.

As a training provider Goldcross recognises the importance of ensuring its delegates reach the minimum level of competence required to pass the courses they undertake (construction related or otherwise) and as an avid supporter of the CITB Site Safety Plus Scheme providing the following courses:

we will always ensure that delegates reach the required standard before we support the allocation of any award/certificate/diploma.

As an employer you owe it to yourselves, your employees and the industry to ensure you carry out due diligence in order to ensure that the individuals working for you either directly or indirectly have the appropriate competence and certification.