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Published 11 October 2021
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be carrying out a month long inspection initiative with a focus on respiratory health and occupational lung disease.
During the month of October 2021 site inspections will take place across the UK to ensure that construction firms are protecting their employees from respiratory risks and occupational lung disease caused by construction dust such as silica, asbestos and wood dust.
The HSE will be looking for evidence that employers and employees are aware of the risks associated with their work activities, that work is planned with risk assessments and control measures are in place to reduce or eliminate exposure to dust. This can include working in different ways to cut down dust levels and having the right protective equipment for workers. When protective equipment is issued the HSE will want to see evidence that the equipment provides adequate protection and that employees have been trained how to use the same.
Where necessary, inspectors will take enforcement action including the issuing of prohibition and improvement notices and even prosecution. Businesses should take note that enforcement action may also arise if other areas of concern are identified during the inspections. With COVID 19 still very much prevalent, inspectors will be making sure that businesses are doing all they can to protect their workers from the risk of coronavirus and make workplaces COVID-secure.
Construction is a high risk industry for health related issues due to the many common construction tasks that can create high dust levels.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) 2002 Regulations impose a legal duty on employers to control substances, including dusts, that are hazardous to health.
COSHH assessments should be undertaken with a view to identifying hazards and assessing the risks of exposure to such substances. Where controls are in place but health risks of exposure remain and are linked to an identifiable disease or health effect, employers are obliged to carry out health surveillance so that the risk of harm is as low as ‘reasonably practicable'.
The upcoming respiratory health initiative forms part of the HSE’s longer term strategy to improve health within the construction industry and to raise awareness of health issues relating to dust exposure within this sector. The programme is supported by the Health in Construction Leadership Council (HCLG) and Tier 1 industry contractors, with the HCLG carrying out, in tandem, a lung health initiative amongst its members during October.
Aside from the human cost of occupational diseases, failing to effectively manage health risks in the workplace can result in financial penalties and reputational damage to businesses, as well as civil claims for compensation should an employee go on to develop a work related disease.
DAC Beachcroft’s Regulatory team has extensive experience of advising individuals and organisations being investigated by the HSE in respect of all risks arising from construction activities. If you require advice with any actions taken by the HSE particularly the service of improvement notices and prohibition notices, which are subject to strict time limits for appeals, please contact us.
Our specialist disease teams can also advise on any civil claims for damages for diseases arising from such exposure and if you require any advice on this aspect please get in touch with the relevant contact below.
For more information or advice, please contact one of our experts in our Regulatory team.
+44 (0) 113 251 4842
London - Walbrook
+44 (0)20 7894 6895
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