At the beginning of September 2013, the HSE announced that it started a month long initiative to crack down on poor health and safety standards on Britain’s sites. It says this has been put forward due to poor standards and will involve carrying out unannounced checks on sites where refurbishment projects or repair works are underway. Even though there has been a reduction in the number of people killed in construction in the past year, construction workers are four times more likely to be killed at work than workers in other industries. The construction industry is one of the largest in the UK, employing about 2 million people and being a potentially hazardous place to work. It is therefore a priority for duty holders involved in construction work to maintain their sites to a standard to include appropriate facilities and welfare for workers.
Before work even begins on a construction site, a good facilities management system should be in place for workers. This basic requirement is sometimes neglected putting the personal health of workers in jeopardy. The facilities at any site include washing facilities, toilets, drinking water, changing rooms and lockers, rest areas, smoking, heating, storing and drying clothing, storing of PPE, lighting, emergency procedures, reporting of accidents procedures, first aid and site rules. This list will be more or less depending on the site size and project duration. The availability of welfare facilities, their location and maintenance should be considered at the planning stages (and demolition) of any construction site.
Critical welfare facilities
- Washing facilities. These should be provided next to changing areas and toilets. Conveniences should include hot and cold water, sinks large enough to wash face and arms, soaps, disposable towels.
- Drinking water. Where possible, drinking water should be supplied direct from the mains. If water is stored, it should be changed regularily and marked as drinking water. Unless a drinking fountain is used, cups should be provided.
- Changing rooms and lockers. Everyday clothing and personal protective equipment should be stored separately to prevent contamination. Men and women should have separate changing areas. There should be provision for allowing wet clothing to dry.
- Rest facilities. These facilities should be adequate for taking breaks and meal breaks. There should be adequate seating areas and a means of heating water and food. Rest areas should shelter from wind, rain and be heated. Separate facilities can be supplied for smokers and non-smokers or smoking can be prohibited in the rest facilities, with the option for smokers to go outside of the site area. Gas appliances should not be used in site huts and LPG cylinders must be stored in the open air.
- Toilets. Flushing toilets and running water connected to a local main supply should be provided. If running water is not readily available, chemical toilets or a build in water supply and drainage tanks need to be used. Toilets should be well ventilated and an adequate number supplied.
- Storing and drying clothing and PPE. There should be provisions for storing clothing and personal valuables not worn on site such as hats, coats, and any personal items. Lockers should be provided. PPE, should as boots, goggles, harnesses etc should be stored in separate areas. A drying area should be provided to dry any wet site clothing.
- Site access. Workers should be able to freely move about their work areas. Walkways and stairways should be free of tripping hazards, building materials and waste. Emergency escapes should not be obstructed. Storage areas for plant, materials, waste, flammable substances and hazardous substances should be clean, tidy, well lit and ventilated.
- First Aid. The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to have first aid facilities on site. The minimum requirement is a first aid box on site to cope with the number of workers. If there are many workers, there should be an appointed person on site in charge of first aid arrangements.
- Site rules. This may include traffic management systems, PPE, fire prevention, permit to work systems. This would include the reporting of accidents procedures (RIDDOR)
Additional welfare facilities to consider
- Showers. If the project involves hazardous substances or very dirty work, for example, sewer maintenance, dusty demolition activities, then showers should be provided. Specialist facilities are needed for certain activities, such as working with lead or asbestos, these should be kept separate from the main facilities.