The construction industry is a difficult industry in which to thrive at the present moment, with rising material costs and reduced financial activity leading to the increased risk of insolvency for many smaller businesses. Construction businesses are also heavily regulated, at least in terms of the combination of health and safety law and building regulations that ensure safe building and building practices between them. It is possible for newer, small construction firms to thrive, but they need to understand their regulatory responsibilities as a matter of priority.
Before addressing the various ways in which a construction business can ensure compliance with regulations and legal imperatives, it is important to understand exactly which regulations apply. The key set of regulations that construction businesses need to understand come in the form of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – one of the first major legal interventions into worker safety, which sets out some basic provisions for staff to remain safe at work.
More directly, there are numerous acts from 1992 and 1998 that enshrine specific regulations and rights regarding such things as business’ responsibility for regulatory compliance in employee healthcare, the provision of adequate equipment to mitigate injury risk and the assessment of manual handling risks for workers.
One of the prevailing sets of regulations touched on above is the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, which sets out each employer’s responsibility to workers in providing personal protective equipment, or PPE, suited to the tasks and risks that each worker faces. Such items of PPE include hard hats, face masks, protective clothing, gloves, boots, eye masks and other wearable interventions.
In construction, workers face a uniquely broad number of risks each day, and should be afforded the right PPE to meet each task. Not only this, but employers must also provide training in the proper usage of PPE, to prevent inadvertent injury through misuse.
Speaking of training, the training of staff can be essential to maintaining site compliance with health and safety regulations. Staff acting improperly or unsafely can render a site non-compliant, such as in situations where staff fail to follow proper technique in manually lifting heavy materials, or coordinating the movement of materials and equipment.
In training staff regularly, a business can ensure that each site has a level of self-regulation baked in. Buddy systems ensure no staff are unaccounted for, and the instilling of best practice for dangerous tasks can minimise the incidences of improper on-site conduct.
Adherence to regulations does not start and stop with staff on site, though. There are also stringent building regulations to which construction businesses must comply, which ensure the safety and longevity of completed projects. These regulations stipulate everything from safe loads for specific materials to requirements for positioning of fire exists and ‘compartments’.