Health and safety training is more than just policies and procedures

Lynsey Chambers

By Lynsey Chambers, training manager, City Building, Queenslie Training Centre

ALL employers have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. This is particularly true in the construction sector where the risks associated with everyday work can be dangerous.

It is because of the risks involved that we are required to take a more holistic approach to employee health and safety training and go beyond the standard policy and procedures especially when dealing with new employees and apprentices.

Research from the Health and Safety Executive (HES) found that workers are just as likely to have an accident in their first six months on the job as they are during the rest of their working life.

We want to make sure that none of our employees become one of these unfortunate statistics, which is why we have a comprehensive health and safety training programme tailored for our apprentices and new entrants to ensure safe practices are followed to reduce the risk of injury.

At City Building we follow the ‘Speak Up Stay Safe’ (SUSS) model, set out by the British Safety Council, which aims to put young people and confident communication at the heart of good health and safety.

It is important to teach the basic health and safety policies and regulations involved with working in trades and on live sites, such as how to spot hazards, understanding safety signage and PPE and knowing what safety gear to use in different particular circumstances.

But just as important is making sure that they learn softer skills – such as communication and problem solving – is necessary to ensure they make the transition from school to the workplace.

Given that the majority of our apprentices come to the company straight from school there is a need to provide this extra training so that they feel more confident to highlight any health and safety risks they identify to their line manager when working on live sites, which can prove daunting for younger, inexperienced members of the team.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to health and safety training is illustrating the danger that comes with working on site day-to-day and the potential impact an accident could have on the employee.

One way we look to tackle this is by making health and safety training more focused on the individual – by making them consider how an accident or injury could directly affect their quality of life.

As part of this, we invited one of the UK’s foremost speakers on health and safety training, Jason Anker, to conduct a workshop for the whole business on the potential consequences of unsafe working practices.

Jason shared his unfortunate experience of suffering an avoidable incident on a construction site which left him paralysed from the waist down at the age of just 24.

The session helped bring our policies to life by making the team consider how even an incident on a smaller scale could upset their lives. It was pivotal to bring the site managers and supervisors on board for this , as we appreciate that leadership support is key to preventing injury.

Our team was very engaged with the session and presentation which helped demonstrate how important the policies and procedures are to ensure a safe working environment.

The whole purpose of this approach is to take safety beyond compliance. We consider ourselves leaders in this regard. The company already has a comprehensive Health, Safety and Environmental strategy and operates to OHSAS 18001 and 14001 registrations. We also have a range of in-house management systems, policies and procedures to cover all our activities and locations.

These policies are of course necessary for regulation and compliance but those in the construction industry need to ensure healthy work practices are the rule and they must have a culture that supports and values safe behaviour that involves gathering support from employees at all levels of the business.