The most recent statistics published by HSE in July 2021 detail that falls from height remain the biggest killer in UK workplaces, with construction again reporting the highest instance of workplace fatalities and injuries. With so much already being done by those in the construction sector to reduce risk and prevent accidents, why is it that accidents continue to occur? Here, we take a look at some 'back to basics' principles and highlight how the publication of this data presents an opportunity which could help your organisation to save a life.

Risk Assessment

It is a legal duty for employers to carry out an assessment of the risks inherent in workplace activities. This is something which is part of everyday life on construction sites. However, as these documents are so regularly completed, there is a risk of complacency setting in and the standards of documents starting to slip. Taking time to stop and review your risk assessment with 'fresh' eyes might highlight that something has been missed. For example, is your risk assessment specific to the task being performed at the current time; does it reflect any updated practices, tools, the work conditions and location itself. Are the control measures suitable and sufficient for the work or could they be improved?

The next important step is to sense check that the work being undertaken is being done in line with the risk assessment.

It is not just your documentation that might benefit from closer scrutiny. Risk assessments and method statements submitted by contractors should be reviewed in detail before being accepted to begin work. As the job progresses, hold contractors to the standards they have outlined in those documents.

Information, Training and Supervision

Consider if everyone on site has been the subject of a suitable site induction and are appropriately qualified and experienced for the work they are carrying out. Holding toolbox talks before work tasks begin provides an opportunity to highlight the risks and corresponding control measures so that this information is fresh in the minds of those undertaking the work and may result in greater focus and care being taken. In addition, ensure there is adequate supervision and oversight of how the work is being done. This can be achieved by on-site staff and by regular health & safety audits of the site and the practices of contractors.

Turning a blind eye to unsafe work practices could have tragic consequences, so remind staff of their individual legal duties in terms of s7 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 "to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and others who might be affected by their acts or omissions at work". Encouraging an open reporting culture for health & safety throughout the business is widely acknowledged to help improve standards.

Management and company directors have individual responsibilities in terms of s37 of the 1974 Act, which states that if a breach has been committed with the consent, connivance or neglect of duty by such an individual, then they are liable to be prosecuted in addition to the company as a legal entity.

For more information on any of the issues raised above, please contact our Victoria Anderson or download our free health & safety app here.


Victoria Anderson

Senior Associate