Safe and sound

The National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) is making Health and Safety their number one priority for members, with a focus on wellbeing as well as reducing risk.

 

As Health and Safety has become such an integral part of our day-to-day working lives, the way it is implemented has also changed. Today, in the majority of cases the people responsible for actioning the rules have a good understanding of roofing and how daily  tasks should be done – they’re also prepared to listen and learn while ensuring compliance.

 

This is a far cry from how things used to be and is an approach that has led to the UK becoming a world leader in risk management. It’s a position that is in no small part thanks to organisations such as the NFRC, who are putting Health and Safety at the top of their agenda.

Trade Associations such as the NFRC are also a vital part of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) strategy as they look to industry bodies to engage with their members on their six strategic themes:

  • Acting together
  • Tackling ill health
  • Managing risks well
  • Supporting small employers
  • Keeping pace with change
  • Sharing our success

These six strands are now central to everything the NFRC does, from the campaigns it runs to how it responds to cultural changes affecting the industry. They also help keep the safety and wellbeing of the workforce front of mind and reflect the many ways in which roofing is striving to cut out risk, including:

CONSTRUCTION DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT REGULATIONS (CDM) 2015

Changes to the CDM regulations in 2015 have altered the way the industry works. There is more emphasis now on designing out the risks at the planning stage of a project, with more collaboration at all levels, from the principle designer right through to the contractor – something that can only be good for safety on site.

USING TECHNOLOGY

Simplifying health and safety compliance and cutting down on paperwork is going to be a vital part of helping smaller sites meet safety standards and create a healthy environment. The challenge is to find new ways to achieve this by using the technology we all have as part of our everyday lives. As such, smart phones and tablets are going to become increasingly important tools to make it easier for the smaller contractor to access the support and guidance they need.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH

While much of the focus of health and safety focuses on preventing accidents, the general health of the workforce also poses a huge challenge. According to HSE figures covering a recent twelve-month period, less than 10 deaths were from working at height compared to over 100 deaths from construction related ill health every week.

There are a number of causes of this, from sun exposure at work, breathing in silica dust to mental health issues. From a roofing perspective, if sleep problems, fatigue or relationship issues are affecting your mindfulness on site then you’re more likely to have an accident.

CAMPAIGNS

As part of the drive to a healthier workforce the NFRC is supporting a number of campaigns designed to improve the wellbeing of the industry. One of these is the Institute of Safety and Health (IOSH) ‘No Time to Lose’ initiative. You can  access a range of FREE resources at  www.notimetolose.org.uk aimed at educating workers on the dangers of things such as silica dust, solar radiation and diesel exhaust fumes. A ‘Sun Safety’ film is also available to download and makes an ideal toolbox talk.

The NFRC have also joined the Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG), whose vision is to make construction the leading industry for occupational health and disease prevention by 2025. The recent HLCG Summit included workshops delivered by the Construction Dust Partnership on designing out health risks and controlling dust, with resources from the Breathe Freely Campaign  (www.breathefreely.org.uk). There was also a focus on mental health with a personal account of how this can affect us on an individual level.

The summit ended with the launch of ‘Mates in Mind’ (www.matesinmind.org) aimed at helping us have a better understanding of mental health and  combat the stigma associated with it.

As Clive Johnson of Land Securities and Chairman of the NFRC Health and Safety Committee said: “We only have one workforce – we have a moral obligation to protect them.”

Safety doesn’t happen by accident. As we can see from all the activity and initiatives discussed, working safely needs to be more than a slogan, it needs to be a way of life. For contractors, the best way to create a safe working environment is to work with others in the industry and use all the resources at their disposal. Organisations such as the NFRC and the industry initiatives available are a great place to start.