Construction Health and Safety Consultancy and CDM Adviser Services

Health and Safety Frequently Asked Questions

The Law

Do I really need a written Health and Safety Policy ?

By law, any person, business or undertaking that employs five or more people must have a written Health and Safety Policy.

What should be included in a Health & Safety Policy?

1. A statement of aims, to the effect that your business will meet established health and safety standards.

2. A description of how the business is organised, and who has responsibility for different aspects of health and safety.

3. A description of the procedures and arrangements to ensure that work is conducted safely and without risk to health.

What are Health and Safety Regulations?

Health and Safety Regulations are made under the Health and Safety at Work Act, usually to regulate specific hazards, such as lead, asbestos, pressure equipment, hazardous substances, noise, etc.

What are the penalties if I break Health and Safety Law?

Maximum : Unlimited fine and / or imprisonment.

What is a ‘Workplace Risk Assessment’?

Workplace risk assessment is a logical analysis of the hazards present in your work and the safeguards adopted to control the risk, to make sure that no harm can arise.

Generally, risk assessments must be written down if you employ five or more people.

What is meant by ‘hazard’ and ‘risk’?

1. A hazard is anything that has the potential to cause harm (substances, electricity, working at height, machinery, etc)

2. Risk is the chance that harm actually results from a hazard.

How should I do a Risk Assessment?

There is no right or wrong way. Simply list hazards in your work, whether due to machinery, electricity, hazardous substances, etc and decide if they are ‘significant’. If they are significant, appropriate control measures must be implemented, and anyone affected must be told. You are not required to assess risks that are not significant.

What accidents must I report?

1. Any accident resulting in more than three days off work.

2. Any dangerous incident, whether it involves injury or not (collapse of scaffold, contact with overhead lines, failure of lifting gear, etc).

Where do accidents have to be reported to?

Any accident involving construction work is normally reported to the HSE.

What about the environment?

Waste control is strictly regulated, and it is also illegal to discharge noxious liquid effluents or vapour emissions into the environment.

What about insurance?

If you employ people, you must have insurance to cover you against any claims from your employees as a result of injury or ill health.  It is advisable to have additional insurance to cover injury or loss to other people.  Insurance will not cover a fine imposed as a result of a breach of law.

Premises and Conditions

What responsibility is there for working conditions?

1. You must ensure that there is safe access and no dangerous obstructions.

2. Edges and openings must be protected by handrails.

3. There should be sufficient protection from weather, and good lighting should be provided.

4. Trade waste and dirt should be removed regularly.

What welfare facilities should I provide ?

People must have access to toilets and washing facilities.  These may be provided by a main contractor on a site, by the client, or other means.

What should I do about first aid and emergencies?

It is good practice to have first aid kits immediately available, and some thought should be given to first aid training.  Emergency action may need to be planned, for instance where work is undertaken in a remote area.

Do I have any responsibility for fire precautions?

If you are working in someone else’s premises, you must make sure that you know what to do in the event of a fire.  If your work entails the use of gas torches for stripping paint, you must take precautions. For instance, provide fire extinguishers and arrange for the isolation of smoke detectors in consultation with occupiers.

What is a ‘confined space’?

Any unventilated enclosure from which escape is difficult, or where there is insufficient oxygen or which may be filled with toxic fumes.

Plant and Equipment

How do I choose the right sort of access equipment?

When deciding on the type of access equipment take into account the height, duration of work, type of work and site conditions.

What is my responsibility for mechanical equipment?

If you provide power tools or other mechanical equipment, it must be maintained in a safe condition.  Have items serviced regularly and inspect before use.

How can the risk from electric shock be minimised?

Have tools maintained and tested regularly, and inspect before use.  Use battery operated tools if possible, purchase 110 v tools in future, use ‘trips’ on 240v equipment.

How can I be sure that equipment I purchase meets safety standards?

Equipment meeting essential health and safety requirements carries the CE mark.

Can anyone use power tools?

Generally yes, provided appropriate training has been given.  However, there are restrictions for young persons, and users of equipment with specific risks may need special training and certification (e.g. chainsaws).

I have a compressor.  Does it have to be inspected ?

Most commercial compressors operate at a nominal working pressure of 150psi (10 bar).  Unless the receiver exceeds 25 litres in volume, it does not have to be inspected.  However, like any equipment, it must be maintained in a safe condition.

What is meant by ‘manual handling’ ?

Manual handling is any work that involves lifting, carrying or moving loads.  Manual handling should be avoided, if possible, by using sack trucks or lifting equipment.

When do I have to take action on noise?

If you cannot clearly hear someone speaking from 2 m away, then noise is likely to be above a safe level, and ear protection of some sort should be provided.  The law on exposure to noise requires specific actions to be taken when noise exceeds certain levels.

Hazardous Substances

What are hazardous substances?

Any solid, liquid or gas that can result in ill health or harm.  Can be either preparations (paints, coatings etc), materials (asbestos, cement), fuels or gases or harmful dusts.

How do I know when a substance is hazardous ?

Manufacturers are required to label substances they supply according to the harm they can do.  They also have to provide information on how to use a substance safely.

Are there any other harmful substances associated with buildings?

Yes, harmful bacteria from animals and pests, as well as viruses and fungi.


When is personal protective equipment (PPE) used ?

PPE is used as a last resort, only when safe systems of work and physical safeguards cannot be extended.  Construction workers should have hard hats, safety boots, gloves, safety specs or goggles, and overalls.  Ear protectors and respirators may also be needed in some circumstances.

What is my responsibility for training ?

All employers have a duty to ensure that their employees are competent to do the work they undertake.  Training is essential, particularly if changes are made to working methods, new machinery is introduced, or new substances are used.

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