What does the future hold for the construction industry?

Building a FutureThe economic future of the construction industry is looking bright, spurred on by Government funding for key infrastructure projects, the Help-to-Buy Loan Scheme, the Funding for Lending Scheme and apprenticeships to increase the number of skilled workers. And there’s new health and safety legislation for the sector, with the long-awaited revised CDM Regulations expected to come into play this April. But with growth and change, there inevitably comes new challenges – and some of the same ones keep raising their heads.

We’ve put together some useful tips to help you prepare for the coming year. The RoSPA Construction Health and Safety Conference will explore these areas in more detail.

 What’s new?

 2015 CDM Regulations

If you have responsibility for occupational health and safety in the sector – whether you’re a manager, director, team leader or safety and health practitioner − you need to know how the revised CDM Regulations will affect you and your workforce.

Changes ahead

Expected changes

  • The CDM Co-ordinator role (under CDM 2007) will be replaced by the Principal Designer, meaning that responsibility for co-ordination of the pre-construction phase (crucial to the management of any successful construction project) will be with an existing member of the Design Team.
  • The new Regulations are expected to recognise the influence and importance of the client as the head of the supply chain and they are best placed to set standards throughout the project.
  • Competence will be split into its component parts of skills, knowledge, training and experience, and if it relates to an organisation – organisational capability. This will provide clarity and help the industry to assess and demonstrate that construction project teams have the right attributes to deliver a healthy and safe project.

The technical standards set out in Part 4 of the new Regulations will remain essentially unchanged from those in guidance related to CDM 2007. HSE’s targeting and enforcement policy, as a proportionate and modern regulator, also remains unchanged.

Read more details of the CDM changes in our blog or visit www.hse.gov.uk/construction for further information and updates.


Skills shortage

In response to the skills shortage, the Government is offering construction companies funding to take on apprentices. Whilst health and safety training is a requirement of the apprenticeship scheme, it will take some time before these new workers have a full understanding of the potential health and safety risks they are exposed to as a consequence of workplace activity. During this time, the need for strong leadership, supervision and employee engagement is critical. This investment will have major benefits in the medium to long term, not only creating new skilled workers within the industry but also embedding health and safety at the start of a person’s career, which will assist in developing an increasingly positive safety culture within the sector.

Visit https://www.gov.uk/funding-rules-2015-to-2016-the-adult-skills-budget-including-apprenticeships for more information.


What still needs tackling?

Research shows that when markets upturn, we see an increase in fatal and other accidents, particularly in the construction sector. The HSE’s Safer Sites Targeted Inspection Initiative, which came to a close at the end of last year, showed that a staggering 40% of construction sites failed health and safety spot checks. And we’re still seeing the same old prosecutions relating to the unsafe removal of asbestos, poor welfare and site conditions and corporate manslaughter.

Increased workloads, added pressures and reduced budgets make it difficult to find the time to re-evaluate existing occupational safety and management methods when there are new developments to keep on top of, but a consistent rate of prosecutions for health and safety cases in recent years highlight the desperate need to keep improving. This cycle of ‘new’ people having ‘old’ accidents needs to be broken. This is where strong leadership on health and safety-related issues is fundamental to success.

To be effective, leaders in the construction industry, whether at director, senior management or supervisory level must ensure that there is a clear understanding of the corporate ‘end in mind’, namely the completion of construction related projects large and small, without harming workers. Effective leadership and engaged workers are fundamental in achieving this, every worker irrespective of their role, playing an active part in reducing the potential for harm. Self employed

These themes are embedded within the HSE’s Construction Division Plan of Work 2014/15 and it is foreseeable that these will remain core interests for future years.

This work plan shows the HSE’s main considerations when inspecting sites:

  • Management of health risks – raising awareness, promoting knowledge and ensuring control of health risks in construction.
  • Leadership – how effective directors and senior management are at leading health and safety, and how work is supervised from the top of the organisation to the workforce.
  • Worker involvement – encouraging effective worker involvement, so that every worker plays an active role.
  • CDM duty holders – examining the roles of duty holders such as designers and clients to determine their influence on the standards found on sites.
  • Contractor competence – placing particular emphasis on the competence of organisations and individuals.
  • Temporary works – raising awareness of managing temporary works effectively and ensuring that adequate management arrangements are in place.

For more details, visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/work-plan-2014-15.pdf.


Make the future bright

A common aspiration for construction companies is to achieve Zero Harm, which can mean different things for different organisations but largely translates to zero fatalities, zero permanently disabling injuries and zero accidents and injuries. But we have to ask ourselves, is this realistic in such a high risk industry? A company’s commitment to Zero Harm needs to be more embedded into every aspect of an organisation. The correct intention needs to be translated to all tiers of the workforce and to become recognised as ‘the way we do things around here’.

With 42 fatalities and an estimated 76,000 cases of work-related ill health incidents recorded for the construction sector last year, we’re still a long way off Zero Harm it seems, but no one deserves to be hurt at work, so surely it’s worth setting goals?


Brookfield Multiplex Construction is an excellent example of adopting a goal-setting agenda to meet the challenges it faces as an employer. Most recently tackling the issue of mental illness – no mean feat, considering how difficult it is to engage on this topic, particularly in this male-dominated industry. The company has shown its commitment to mental health awareness by producing the ‘Ahead of Health’ DVD with Healthy Working Lives. It brings together the issues surrounding mental illness in the workplace and has been incorporated into their toolbox talks. Health and safety managers at the company have undergone mentally healthy workplace training – training for trainers. They’ve even gone as far as inviting managers from sub-contractors at their New South Glasgow Hospital site to have the training.

In this ever-changing, high risk industry, the need for regular, reliable updates has never been so important. For industry updates and to see how you could be improving, visit the HSE construction pages and check out what occupational safety and health events are coming up in the RoSPA calendar.

Ian Armstrong and Paul Mooney from Brookfield Multiplex Construction will be amongst those presenting at this year’s RoSPA Construction Health and Safety Conference on 19 March in Birmingham – www.rospa.com/events/construction. To win a free ticket enter our competition here for more details.


For more expert analysis, advice and tips, don’t forget to sign up to SafetyMatters, RoSPA’s free fortnightly newsletter, and receive our collection of free original e-books!


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