10 Steps to Health and Safety Sites for Electrical Contractors
Electrical contractors have a legal and moral duty to ensure every site they work on is safe – not only for their staff but also their clients, visitors and other people in and around the area. Companies that design and implement good Health and Safety practice not only reduce accidents but also minimise the risk of financial penalties and possible legal action. Additionally, clients value companies demonstrating good health and safety procedures and are more likely to award higher value contracts to those with good safety track records.
We have previously written about the importance of Health and Safety and the Benefits for Electrical Contractors. You can see the post here.
To ensure compliance with government and HSE (Health and Safety Executive) requirements, Watkinscole have stringent health and safety practices in place. Written policies and plans only work if they are followed, maintained and implemented. Chances are if you’re reading this, you may be reflecting on your own Health and Safety policy or procedures and whether you can make any improvements.
This post may be of use to you if you are starting out on your own and developing your business and health and safety practices. You will find out the steps we follow at Watkinscole to ensure a healthy and safe workplace onsite.
Let’s get to the steps…
Prevention is better than cure
Arguably, the sensible approach is for any company to prioritise health and safety both off and on-site. Failing to protect people on your project could lead to severe losses including casualties or fatalities. There can also be major financial and legal implications that could lead to the collapse of the organisation or imprisonment.
Health and Safety protection must be a priority and all business owners should have safety systems in place to reduce risks and hazards, which will help minimise accidents. It is too late and missing the point to focus on reacting to incidents and subsequent Health & Safety Executive penalties. A prevention mindset lays the foundation for the practical arrangements that we will now explore.
10 Practical Health and safety tasks
- Who is responsible? – Winston Churchill once said, “The price of greatness is responsibility“. Responsibility applies equally to Health and Safety, as good practices start with having someone take personal responsibility in ensuring safe practices at work. If you are a sub-contractor you are most likely to take responsibility for this yourself or use the services of a Health and Safety consultant. In a multi-contractor site, the Principal Contractor has overall responsibility in planning, monitoring and managing health and safety during the work phase. Every construction employer has a duty of care to employees (as well as the public) and should follow advice for safe working practice. In all cases, it is better to take responsibility than to be responsible for a life taken on site.
- Training your team – Everyone in the construction industry has an important role to play in maintaining health and safety. Training and certification help our team and stakeholders (people we work with) to contribute effectively. We provide accredited training to all our personnel to ensure they understand and comply with industry health & safety standards. All our electrical engineers are certified under the Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS). We also recognise the advantages of providing specialist training for site supervisors and Project Managers who are Site Supervisors Safety Training Scheme (SSSTS) and Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) qualified.
- Planning for Health and Safety – Planning for Health and Safety – With overall responsibility for Health and Safety, the Principle Contractor should develop a Construction Phase Plan(CPP) before any work begins. The plan should include suitable arrangements for managing the project, including the allocation of sufficient time and other resources so that the project can be carried out without risks to the health or safety of any person affected by the project. A CPP is considered appropriate when it contains Health and Safety management systems and arrangements for the specific project and site(s), referencing the risk assessments and method statements (RAMS) for the initial work activities – we will go into more details on these later on. We create specific RAMS for each project.
- Written Risk Assessment – Companies employing five or more employees are required by law to carry out risk assessments. A thorough risk assessment is a methodical process of identifying and documenting what the risks (things that could cause harm) on each site might be. Getting professional advice or assistance for risk analysis can be helpful. Site staff may also have useful input into the process, as they are the people on the ground. It is also crucial that no potential risk or hazard is overlooked. A risk assessment facilitates prevention by outlining any hazards, what the risk is and who is vulnerable and what control measures should be implemented to reduce risk. You can find useful information about the five stages in doing risk assessments and how to carry them out at https://worksmart.org.uk/health-advice/health-and-safety/hazards-and-risks/what-are-five-steps-risk-assessment
- Implementing safety arrangements – While it may seem obvious, having identified risks and planned how to protect people from them, you’d be surprised how often contractors move on and fail to implement the strategies they design. Don’t be one of the people who make that big mistake. Methodically implement the safety plan and put in place things like visible and clear signage, barriers to hazards and provide protective equipment, for example.
- Devise Emergency protocols – A definite plan to deal with significant emergencies is an essential element of OH&S programs. There are many benefits of having emergency plans including allowing you to remain calm when incidents happen; the ability to minimise pain and harm when something goes wrong; and potentially identifying hazards and risks that you may have missed in your risk assessment, which you can mitigate before an emergency. Besides, an emergency plan, by you and others on the project taking part in rehearsing the methods, promotes safety awareness and shows the organisation’s commitment to the safety of workers. Our emergency plans for most projects include First Aid, Fire evacuation & accident reporting although specialist projects such as working on railway projects often require additional emergency strategies.
- Provide Health and Safety training – There is virtually no point devising a Construction Phase Plan and then filing it away in a drawer to gather dust. Your health and safety plan is only useful if the people involved in the project understand the details of the plan as well as their role and responsibilities in delivering the health and safety arrangements. Health and Safety training is therefore not just aimed at raising awareness. It is good practice to provide comprehensive on-going training so that everyone knows about the hazards and arrangements for the site. They will then be more likely to take responsibility for on-site safety
8. Reviewing the plans – Mike Tyson was right when he said: “Everyone Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Face”. The point he was making is that all the planning in the world is excellent until it meets with reality – that is when you test it. We can’t afford for our health and safety plans to fail, so we carry out regular short exercises and drills to test and practice critical portions (such as evacuation) of the health and safety plan. A thorough and immediate review after each exercise, drill, or after an actual emergency identifies areas that require improvement. We make a point of reviewing our plans after reports of ‘near miss’ incidents to establish whether any changes are required. We actively encourage and support near-miss reporting as it is an opportunity to identify any weaknesses in training or processes.
9. Meet Health and Safety Standards – A Health and Safety culture is not an add-on. It comes from embedding prevention and protection into every aspect of your business. To this end, electrical contractors that take Health and Safety seriously demonstrate that they meet industry standards through accreditation and membership of accredited bodies. These organisations set industry benchmarks for companies to adhere to, assessing your company’s work practices to ensure you have the processes in place to deliver safe, professional working conditions. They require evidence of compliance such as policies, industry recognised qualifications, relevant insurances and strategy documents. At Watkinscole, we are members of Health and Safety accreditation bodies including CHAS (one of the founders of third-party accreditation for the construction sector), Safecontractor, Constructionline and RISQS (Rail Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme)
10. Continuously improve and protect – Health and Safety do not stand still, and there is always more that you can learn. That is why we actively seek out and apply for accreditation for important new and improved health and safety standards. Our recent achievement of Constructionline Gold-Member status is the latest health and safety body to which we have demonstrated our Health and safety credentials. Find out about the accreditation and what achieving gold status involves for contractors like us HERE.
Bringing it all together
Watkinscole is proud of our focus on ‘Keeping people safe’ in our work. Prioritising safety and protection by following good practices as outlined in this post is not only good business, it also means that we can sleep well at the end of the day. In order to maintain high standards, it is crucial to be methodical in your approach to implementing the steps that make up good Health and Safety practice. You should also never be afraid to ask for advice and input from safety experts