26 Apr 2011

Construction Inspections

The HSE has launched it's latest podcast which takes a look at construction inspections and follows a walk-through of a construction site in Worcester where the HSE inspector highlights the types of questions he might ask and activities he would look out for during a visit. For a full version of the transcript or to listen to the full podcast please visit the HSE website by clicking here.

Transcript from HSE podcast
The UK construction industry employs more than 2 million people. Last year 42 workers were fatally injured and more than 2500 seriously hurt. We spent a morning with HSE inspector Luke Messenger as he visited a site in Worcester to take a look at what they were doing to protect people during the building works.

Now Luke this morning we're here in Worcester and we're going to have a quick look at this construction site here and looking at it there's a lot of scaffolding up there and it's also in quite a unusual situation, isn't it, in that it's between a road and a railway line?

The way I'm looking at it from this distance is thinking about transport risks around vehicle movements around and about the site, pedestrians on the road here. As far as the railway line's concerned I would have thought that they would need to be thinking about not coming into contact with the railway and any foundations and footings that were going on, taking into consideration the embankment and the stability of railway line.

As we walk forward we can see there's the traditional mesh fencing on the outside and a few road signs saying pedestrians please use the other footpath, is that the kind of thing you expect to see?

Yes, that's right. Contractors have to make sure that the site is kept safe and that people who aren't meant to be in the site are kept out, children in particular, so it's typical to see fencing of that type to keep people out. Signs warning people that it's a construction site and the risks on the site. Protective clothing they might have to wear.

My name's Mark Palfrey and I'm the site manager for Spectus Construction.

So what are you actually building here, what's this project?

It's 19 flats.

So, 19 flats. What is the situation with the inspection of this scaffold? You know it needs to be inspected every seven days?

I inspect it every seven days but every two weeks I actually get the scaffolders back and we go through it together.

Okay. So you've had some training in the inspection of scaffolds Mark?


The sorts of thing we're looking for there is to prevent people falling off scaffold. That we have a top gird rail and a middle guard rail. That we also have a toe board or an up stand so that objects can't fall off. What you've also got up there that's good is, because you've got bricks and blocks that could fall off, is that you've got brick guards up there to stop objects falling off on to people. You've also got debris netting to stop debris coming off. And what I'm generally looking at is, does it look right to me, has it got the right edge protection, has it got some bracing on it so that any movement of the scaffold is prevented? Is it footed on some suitable footing? Some nice stable ground. This is all sitting on concrete so it should be nice and stable. And I can see that there are base plates and wooden boards under the scaffold. Okay. Right I think we've seen as much as we can see from this side of the road. Shall we go and have a look at what some of the lads are doing inside?

Spot and dab. On the walls.

The plastering. Any particular risks with this activity?

Not particularly, no. Just lifting really.

Are they using any hop ups?

They're using hop ups.

To get a bit of access? So that's a relatively low step or something for them to reach up and plaster the ceilings. Just walking around as we walk into the site here as you get to this sort of stage what are you doing in terms of making sure that they keep the amount of debris on the floor to the minimum from the slips, trips point of view?

They're all responsible for their own mess. If they don't clear the mess up they get counter charged for it. If I have to get a labourer in they get counter charged. Plus they get a warning.

Mark, when we were in the site office I noticed up on the wall there that you had some sort of emergency plan, a fire plan. How are you managing fire risks on site?

During the induction they are given all the fire exits the position of all the fire extinguishers, emergency exits, the meeting area and the plan is always on the wall anyway. The only thing I need to do at the moment I think is to adapt it for each flat. There's only one way out of these flats.

As the build is developing you're getting different staircases, doorways and that built, your plan is changing so you'll review that on a regular basis?


So we've come up on to the scaffold, so we've had a good look at it from below so we've seen that it has all its guard rails on it that it needs to have. I noticed when we came up that you've got a bit of good practice there in that you've got there a gate at the top of the access ladder so that should be inwardly opening and shut behind you when you come up so that the access way is kept safe. We've come up to have a look at these guys who are doing some roofing work. The thing I'm interested in here is if they're cutting any tiles are they aware of the risks from breathing in silica dust.

Should be wearing a mask and they should be wearing goggles and ear protection.

So we're here in the site office now and what kind of things are you looking for in the paperwork?

Well the paperwork, what we must remember, is a means to an end. It's what's going on out on site that's most important for me as an inspector, but Mark here as the site manager has certain responsibilities to keep certain pieces of paperwork on site. So initially the sort of things I'm looking for is that he's got a copy of the notification of this site to the Health and Safety Executive up on the wall. I can see that up on the wall as well he's got his loading plans, so a plan of how he's moving materials around the site, a very simple diagram but that's all it needs to be if it's clear to the workers on site then it does it's job.

Mark, just also before we finish today, engagement with the workers, keeping the workers informed of health and safety issues and how you're keeping them safe and them raising issues with you. How do you do that on your site?

Usually first thing in the morning we all meet to discuss the days work and then if there's a certain issued coming up as in dust, noise or anything else, everybody on the site is warned in that sort of little meeting.

So you have a meeting every morning when you can tell them or express to them particular risks on site, or things have changed. Is that also a forum where they can ask you questions and raise concerns?

Yes. I always express to them that if they've got any issues, come and see me. If there's a mess somewhere left by anybody come and see me. If there's a trip issue, come and see me. So yeah, we got quite a good circuit going on there.

Thank you very much.

*End of transcript*

For more information on how Good to Go Safety can help ensure the necessary checks are being completed on your scaffolding please click here to visit the Good to Go Safety website.

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