Health and Safety

This week I was fortunate to attend a health and safety talk at a dockyard. Although I wasn’t actually working there, I had to pass through to visit a client and hence I needed to complete the briefing.

It gave an interesting insight into the world of ship building and refit. There is a great variety of trades on site, a cross between a building site, fabrication shop and machine shop. People are working with lifting equipment, moving machinery, electrical systems, chemicals, hot work (welding and flames) and even radioactive components which are used for inspection of parts but not during regular working hours.

There are unsurprisingly a large number of hazards but trips and slips are the most common. Some of the key causes of issues were other people and poor housekeeping e.g. tidying up of the work area and disposal of rubbish.

The basic PPE is a hard hat, overalls and steel toecapped boots. There are additional requirements for those doing specialist work such as work at height, enclosed spaces, hot work and electrical.

One key aspect was the focus on “safe systems of work” these are the rules, procedures and checks that reduce the likelihood of an accident and severity of and injuries that might occur. One system is the permits to work which incorporates :

  • the location and nature of the hot work
  • the proposed time and duration of the work
  • the limits of time for which the permit is valid
  • the precautions that should be taken before the work starts, during the work, and on completion of the work
  • the person in direct control of the work.

The permits to work also allows checks on adjacent and overlapping work to be done. The example given was that a low risk job such as tiling could happen on its own with no permit, but if it needed to be done in enclosed space or near to some welding then a permit would be required.

Also knowing who was in each area was also important so systems were in place for that too.

Looking at the HSE statistics for transportation and storage, you are about 4 times more likely to have an injury than in an IT job.

However, the likely hood of an injury or death has been steadily reducing since the 1900s.

reduction is in part due to changes in the industry composition over the period (a shift away from mining, manufacturing and other heavy industry to lower risk service industries). A comparison of fatal injury numbers between 1974 (when the Health and Safety at Work Act was introduced) and 2017/18, adjusting to allow for the difference in industry coverage of the reporting requirements between these years, suggests that fatal injury numbers to employees have fallen by around 85% over this period.

Health and Safety Executive – Historical picture statistics in Great Britain, 2018 Trends in work-related ill health and workplace injury

I am sure you will be glad to know my trip went without incident although I was very glad of the hard hat as I bumped into the door frame on the way out.

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