April 29, 2013

Builder fined for failing to provide proper facilities

An employer has neglected to provide his workers with adequate facilities, Bodmin Magistrates’ Court has heard.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently visited a site being operated by a reinforcement specialist contractor in Cornwall and found there was no hot or cold running water, or even a basin to wash in.

A partner of the contracting company pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. He was given a two year conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of £2,141.

The inspector also found that an area for resting, drying clothes or eating was inadequate. There was a small portable office with room for three chairs, but there were eight workmen on site and there was no electricity supply connected to the office.

In addition, there was no supply of suitable drinking water, just a hose running from a neighbouring property into a plastic container.

An Improvement Notice was served requiring better conditions, but a follow-up HSE inspection revealed nothing had changed.

Speaking after the hearing, the HSE Inspector, said: “The need to provide running water to wash hands and arms is not a trivial matter on a building site.

“The workmen were pouring concrete and, when splashed on the skin, this can lead to dermatitis if it is not washed off. Apart from being an unpleasant condition, in some cases it can lead to the loss of use of fingers and hands.

“Site contractors and supervisors, who are responsible for the work of employees or subcontractors, have a legal duty to ensure that adequate facilities are in place for the welfare of the workforce from the very start to the completion of construction work.”

Organising site welfare

What you need to do:

Employment law states that clients and contractors have responsibilities regarding welfare facilities on construction projects.  Contractors must provide welfare facilities and clients must ensure this happens.

The pre-construction information prepared by the client should include the arrangements for welfare provision. On notifiable projects (longer than 30 days or 500 person days), the client must ensure the construction phase does not start unless they are satisfied that there are arrangements for welfare facilities to be provided.

Contractors must maintain the facilities throughout the life of the project.

The nature and scale of facilities required will depend on the size, location and type of project. Facilities include:

  • Toilets
  • Washing facilities
  • Drinking water
  • Changing rooms and lockers
  • Facilities for rest

Everyone who works on any site must have:

  • access to adequate toilet and washing facilities
  • a place for preparing and consuming refreshments
  • somewhere for storing and drying clothing and personal protective equipment

If mobile teams work at a number of locations over a few days (e.g. road repair and cable-laying gangs), these facilities can be provided at a central location accessible within a reasonable distance or time.

Decisions and action on welfare facilities need to be taken at an early stage of project planning.

Toilets

Toilets should be suitable and sufficient, ventilated, lit and kept in a clean and orderly condition.

Washing facilities must be provided so that workers can use them immediately after using the toilet or urinal, even if they are provided elsewhere.

Washing facilities

General washing facilities must be suitable and sufficient, kept clean and orderly, and with basins or sinks large enough for people to wash their face, hands and forearms.

The facilities should include:

  • clean hot and cold, or warm, running water
  • soap or other suitable means of cleaning
  • towels or other suitable means of drying
  • showers where the nature of work is particularly dirty or there is a need to decontaminate

Drinking water

Drinking water must be provided or made available at readily accessible and suitable places.  Cups are required unless the supply is in a jet from which people can drink easily.

Changing rooms and lockers

Changing rooms are needed where workers have to wear special clothing for the purposes of their work and cannot be expected to change elsewhere.  The rooms must be provided with seating, a means of drying and keeping clothing and personal effects secure.

Facilities for rest

Rest rooms or rest areas are required equipped with tables and seating (with backs) sufficient for the number of persons likely to use them at any one time.  There should be arrangements for meals to be prepared and eaten, plus means for boiling water. In cold weather, heating should be provided.

NGA Human Resources can provide health and safety advice, site checklists and site inspections to help employers ensure they provide the correct welfare facilities during construction projects.

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