Newman Scott call on construction companies to do more for HSE

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A national interiors fit-out company Newman Scott, previously prosecuted by the health and safety regulator, is calling on their construction colleagues to act now in improving standards and reduce the number of deaths, injuries and cases of ill-health in their industry.

The company, whose clients include high-end retail brands, is backing the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual construction refurbishment initiative, which starts today. The nationwide drive will target the unsafe work practices that make construction one of Britain’s most dangerous industries.

John Graham, Newman Scott’s new Joint Managing Director said:

“I would urge everyone in the construction industry to take action now in protecting the health and safety of your workers. Don’t let a prosecution or worse the death or injury of a colleague be the catalyst for change.”

Although construction is 5 per cent of Britain’s workforce it accounts for 31per cent of all fatalities, with 42 deaths in 2014/15 and 76,000 cases of reported ill-health. HSE will be targeting the refurbishment sites as they account for more than half of all the deaths, injuries and cases of ill-health within the construction industry.

HSE Inspectors will be visiting refurbishment sites across the country, between 14 September and 9 October, to challenge the poor standards that are putting the health and safety of workers at risk.

Newman Scott was visited by HSE during the 2013 inspection initiative and the poor practice found resulted in the company and one of their directors being prosecuted.

John Graham explains:

“We were mortified at the thought of being prosecuted because we had a good safety record and thought we were pretty good at health and safety.

“A sub-contractor was using a poorly erected mobile scaffold, on an escalator between the ground and first floor, and although no-one was hurt there was a very real and high risk of injury, or worse, to the operatives.

“We had a choice, we could consider ourselves lucky there were no injuries or we could hold a full and frank internal investigation, understand what had gone wrong and make sure our sites were safe for our workers.”

Newman Scott had the processes in place but they were not being followed. Their decision to get to the root-cause of the incident has created a sea change in their organisation’s health and safety culture, an example HSE hopes other construction companies will learn from.

John continues:

“We focused on improving the already positive safety culture in the company through better communication, more training, more competency checking and giving more ownership of health and safety to our employees. Most importantly our employees knew they could say no, without fear of retribution, to any request from a client or director if they felt it could not be carried out without risking their health or their safety.”

Although John believes the company would have made changes eventually Newman Scott are convinced HSE’s enforcement action acted as a catalyst and their interaction with the inspector helped them to implement sustained and effective changes.

John, said:

“Of course HSE has an enforcement function and this may make them appear formal but there was a genuine desire from them to help us make the workplace a safer, healthier place. We were treated with respect and courtesy and that helped us approach the whole experience in a positive way, maximising the improvements to the benefit of everyone on our sites.

“We cannot say that we will have no more lapses in the future. We can say that all our people sleep easier in their beds knowing that we are all doing all we can to make sure we have safer, healthier sites. That peace of mind is priceless.”

Jo Anderson, HSE’s lead for the construction initiative, said:

“We are grateful to Newman Scott for sharing their experience and for how they have responded to the prosecution.

“We hope everyone can learn from their lessons and realise it is vital when carrying out construction work that the right management systems are in place so risks to workers’ health are controlled just as effectively as safety. Workers within construction are paying too high a toll on their health and safety when it is completely avoidable by planning the work, providing the right kit and making sure it is used properly.