The construction sector represents 7% of the UK workforce, which equates to around 2.2 million people. As a result, the health and safety of those who work in the industry is paramount to ensuring construction sites – in terms of both large, commercial projects and smaller, residential briefs – operate in a time-efficient and secure way in order to benefit both clients and construction staff.
In today’s post, we’re delving deep into the history of health and safety within the construction industry, exploring the origins of hard hats and risk assessments and their importance in 2018.
Image source: Unsplash
The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century led to a high demand for construction workers to help create roads and railways across the UK. The extreme quantity of available work that was created because of this resulted in poor living conditions for those employed in long-term, large-scale projects – which often left workers weak, ill, and therefore more susceptible to serious harm and injury. This movement lasted well into the 20th century, when cranes, power tools and heavy equipment created hazardous working conditions for site workers.
In fact, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the government finally recognised the significance of implementing solid safety regulations for those working in the sector, at which point they issued the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974. The implementation of this act encouraged others to ask questions about the safety of themselves and others in the workplace, and would ultimately lead to other mandatory regulations, such as the 2005 Work at Height Regulations.
Beginning in the latter half of the 20th century, poster advertisement campaigns began the process of raising awareness of the dangers behind work in the building and construction industry with the British public. The posters created by the British Safety Council (BSC) in the 1980s targeted the use of hard hats in the workplace as a new and essential practice on construction sites, alongside warning workers against using old, broken and unsafe tools. Finally, at the end of the decade, earmuffs and hard hats became frequently used pieces of protective equipment recognised by all site managers and operational personnel.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that protective workwear became a solidified, mandatory requirement for workers in the building and construction industry. In 1993, the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations, otherwise known as PPE, came into effect, and made wearing protective clothing in and around the site a necessary health and safety provision in the industry.
Today, protective gear goes far beyond the obvious hats and reflective jackets. Offsite, outdoor construction can be tough in harsh weather conditions throughout the winter period. As a result, workers need to make sure they’re dressed appropriately – ready for a variety of weather dependent circumstances.
Long, protective sleeves are often worn to shield the skin from exposure to unpleasant, irritable materials – while durable, denim men’s jeansare worn as a safeguarding measure due to their thickness and resilience – making it harder for workers to sustain cuts and small injuries from work equipment.
Image source: Unsplash
In 2018, before a potential construction project can begin, a full health and safety risk assessment is completed in order to evaluate all potential risks to those working on the site. Risk assessments have become a normalised, common practice since the 1990s, and are so well-integrated into today’s contemporary construction culture that, without the completion of thorough site evaluations, a site cannot be worked on.
We’ve come a long way since the dangerous working conditions of the 1800s and the high fatality rate of the early 20th century to ensure construction sites are a safe and productive environment for all workers – and in the years to come, we can’t wait to see what other health and safety innovations make their way into the sector’s standard practices.
Author bio: Luke Conod is Managing Director of Buy Jeans and its parent company Denim Nation, providing competitively priced men’s jeans and other high-quality clothing from leading international labels.