As a planning engineer, you are responsible for a multitude of tasks and involved in projects from start to finish – with its timely completion resting on your shoulders. With this being the case, it is understandable that at times unforeseen circumstances arise which cause some responsibilities to fall by the wayside. Regardless of what happens, however, health and safety is not one of the duties which can be glossed over, and must always take precedence. Where a worker’s safety is compromised, they are legally able to claim for compensation. Here are a few of the necessary steps to take to ensure this cannot happen.
Ensure Adequate PPE Is Provided
Although it seems like an obvious step, countless accidents at work happen due to the simple failure to provide workers with adequate Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE. PPE is an umbrella term to describe a broad range of equipment designed to mitigate damage from workplace hazards, from earmuffs to dampen sound when using loud tools (warding against noise induced hearing loss) to helmets to protect the skull in case of falling objects or slips and trips at work or masks to reduce risk of dust inhalation. PPE varies in effectiveness, so just as important as actually using PPE is using equipment of the correct strength – for example, small ear plugs may not suffice to reduce the sound of a large machine enough to prevent injury. PPE can extend to general items of clothing – when vibrating tools are to be used, warm clothing should be provided to keep circulation up, reducing the risk of contracting illnesses like Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
Monitor And Advise Workers
When efficiency is prioritised over worker health, accidents at work and industrial disease incidents may be allowed to occur, sometimes leading to costly legal proceedings. Under the Health And Safety At Work act of 1999, all employers must take a risk assessment of the working premises, making them aware of any inherent risks so that they are able to mitigate them, and allowing them to inform workers of necessary safety measures. It is always best in the long run to assume complete naivety to health and safety risks, monitoring workers and reminding them of the risks faced. One example of prudent health and safety advice might be to remind any engineers using vibrating tools to take regular breaks, reducing their risk of developing a condition. If a worker is spotted improperly using equipment, they should be taken off-site for proper training.
Manage Use Of Chemicals
When engineering work involves chemical handling, project managers must ensure their workers are aware of – and compliant with – health and safety best practice when handling potentially hazardous substances. Exposure to chemical substances can cause an array of negative health effects, from minor irritation to third degree burns – some have even been strongly linked to the development of cancer. Beyond wearing appropriate PPE – which may include gloves, protective clothing and safety glasses to avoid exposure to the skin, and mouth protection to prevent toxic vapour inhalation, there are a number of further safety measures which should be observed. These include being aware of chemicals which are incompatible with the pump used, preventing chemical reactions by using separate pumps for different liquids, and keeping flammable substances away from potential fire hazards such as electrical equipment.
Ensure Equipment Is Well Maintained
Another common cause of injury to engineers is the malfunctioning of equipment which was unfit for purpose, often due to insufficient or absent maintenance checks to confirm its suitability for the work to be performed. Equipment which should be monitored includes tools for working at height, such as ladders which may be unstable or broken, or lifting equipment which may be faulty, damaged, or unstable, causing personal injury. Maintenance checks should be taken at least once a month, ensuring that equipment is functional, and that, where damage is evident, repairs or replacements are actioned.
Finally, as part of any effective health and safety program, checks must be made before work begins and contingencies accounted for. When work is scheduled to be performed outside in a public space, it is important to ensure that adequate diversions of regular traffic are placed to prevent them interfering with the work to be performed. Any exposed areas such as manholes should be covered where possible and clearly marked where this is not possible. On rainy days, extra precautions should be taken, such as wearing extra layers of clothing to prevent illness, and gritting potentially icy surfaces. Where liquids must be used in close proximity, it is necessary to ensure that electrical equipment is well covered. Specific training may advisably be provided for these circumstances.
“It is easy to overlook health and safety as a planning engineer, assuming workers will be aware of risks and take measures to protect themselves,” said Stephen Mansfield, serious injury solicitor at Asons Solicitors, a Bolton-based UK law practice. “Nonetheless, throughout my career I’ve noticed that many serious injuries could have easily been avoided had health and safety fundamentals been clearly defined and understood. It is better for everyone to have them in place than to regret their absence after what could be a serious and debilitating accident.”
Although employers should be concerned about your safety, without your own input you may be facing unnecessary levels of risk. Although it may take some time to learn the health and safety guidelines specific to you and your industry, it is always a sound investment. Nothing should be of higher priority than your long-term health.
Richard Saint is an executive at Asons Solicitors, a Bolton-based UK law practice. Described as a ‘Young and Dynamic’ firm, Asons’ innovation has seen them grow to be one of the largest law firms in the North West. :