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Last updated: 1st April 2016

Health & safety can often be overlooked. It is essential that you read and understand all the below headings to ensure the safety of yourself and others. Please call Charles if you have any questions, or speak to your Foreman on site.

For more information, please see the Health & Safety Law Leaflet, which you will also find displayed in the workshop.

Potential risks

Working in the construction industry is both rewarding and satisfying but as the below list shows you, you could be exposed to various risks if the correct safe methods of work as described below are not followed.

Some health and safety risks you may face on site include:

  • Exposure to electricity. Overhead and underground cables
  • Falls from height
  • Climbing steps and working platforms
  • Risk of vehicle overturning
  • Risk of eye injury from flying particles and dust
  • Slips trips and falls due to untidy work area
  • Manual handling activities
  • Using various types of machinery and tools
  • Moulds, fungi and bacteria
  • Dermatitis
  • Cuts and abrasions
  • Struck by machinery
  • Loss of fingers/limbs
  • Exposure to noise
  • Struck by falling objects
  • Vibration white finger
  • Hand and foot injury
  • Sun exposure

Think about the various Health & Safety risks that could be found on your site, speak to your Foreman about ways of eliminating or reducing those risks in order to keep you healthy and safe.

Training

As a landscaper working for Charles Hoare landscape & garden services, the following list gives a idea of the potential tasks you could be involved in:

  • Prepare sites
  • Digging shallow holes and trenches
  • Drain laying
  • Concreting
  • Timbering
  • Erect hoardings
  • Prepare building materials such as cement and plaster
  • Erect barriers
  • Transport, stack and remove materials
  • Lay pipes
  • Slinging
  • Operating plant
  • Road works
  • Using hand and power tools
  • Paths, steps and driveways
  • Terraces, porches, decking and patios
  • Concrete slabs for paving
  • Laying foundations for garages, sheds, greenhouses & conservatories
  • Fencing repair and replacement
  • Electric cable trenches for sheds or garages

All of the above require training to ensure that you work safely and without risk to yourself and others. Training also keeps you up-to-date with current Health & Safety to ensure you follow proper recognised procedures on site.

Your health, safety and welfare at work are protected by law, Charles Hoare landscape & garden services has a duty to protect you and keep you informed about health and safety and provide adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to enable you to carry out your work in a safe manner.

If you require any training then please speak to your Foreman or Charles directly.

Requirements

You also have legal duties too as follows:

  • Take reasonable care for your own health and safety and of others who may be affected by your work, such as other workers or members of the public
  • Comply with instructions or control measures, such as the wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Cooperate with your employer on health and safety and training requirements
  • Correctly use and report any defects on work equipment provided by your employer - this could be machinery, tools or PPE
  • Do not interfere with or misuse anything provided for your health, safety or welfare

Self-employed persons also have duties under the law in relation to their own Health and Safety and ensure that their work does not put others at risk.

If you think there is a health and safety problem on your site you should discuss it with your Foreman or with Charles directly.

Hand hygiene

  • Hand hygiene is essential. The hands are the most likely part of the body to come into contact with harmful substances. Failure to take basic precautions can lead to skin complaints.
  • Dirty hands should be cleaned using proper supplied skin cleansing products (antibacterial gel is available in all vans). Do not clean hands with white spirit, thinners, petrol, turpentine etc.
  • Always ensure that you wash your hands after a visit to the toilet.
  • Always ensure that your hands are clean before handling food.
  • Anyone who prepares food for others must have been trained in food hygiene procedures.
  • Failure to observe basic hygiene precautions could lead to food poisoning, which at worst can be fatal.

Working with concrete

Outlined below are some safety measures that you can take to stay safe when working with concrete. 

  • Fresh concrete can cause eye injuries and skin burns. When working with fresh concrete, wear protective clothing (a long- sleeved shirt, rubber boots, long overalls and rubber gloves) and eye protection to avoid getting fresh concrete on your skin or in your eyes.
  • If you must stand in fresh concrete while it is being placed, screeded, or floated, wear rubber boots high enough to prevent concrete from getting into them.
  • If you do get fresh concrete on your skin, wash it off with neutral soap and clean water.
  • Clothing worn as protection from fresh concrete should not be allowed to become saturated with moisture from fresh concrete because saturated clothing can affect the skin.
  • Waterproof pads should be used between fresh concrete surfaces and knees, elbows, hands, etc., to protect the body during finishing operations.
  • Eyes and skin that come in contact with fresh concrete should be flushed thoroughly with clean water.
  • Clothing that becomes saturated from contact with fresh concrete should be rinsed out promptly with clear water to prevent continued contact with skin surfaces.

Remember, accidents don’t just happen. They are more often than not the results of poor planning, improper training, or not thinking through each of your work activities.

WARNING

Contact with wet (unhardened) concrete, mortar, cement, or cement mixtures can cause SKIN IRRITATION, SEVERE CHEMICAL BURNS (THIRD-DEGREE), or SERIOUS EYE DAMAGE.

Skin problems

Health problems can occur through inhalation of certain chemicals and ingestion, some areas of the Landscaping industry can expose workers to skin conditions such as dermatitis, work-induced skin irritation of the hands, arms, face, and lower extremities are the most common affected areas. The symptoms of Dermatitis are:

  • affected skin gets red, sore, itchy, scaly and blisters if it gets worse, the skin can crack and bleed and the dermatitis can spread all over the body (it often starts on the hands)
  • it is a very painful condition but it is not infectious.

Occupational dermatitis is caused when the skin comes into contact with certain substances at work. Some cause dermatitis by irritating the skin, others cause an allergic reaction. The length of time it takes to develop depends on the substance, its strength and potency, and how long or how often it touches the skin. Once someone has developed an allergic reaction, even the tiniest amount might bring on the dermatitis. The most common substances that cause building workers to contract dermatitis include:

  • cement products
  • latex rubber
  • nickel and chromium
  • epoxy and other resins
  • oils, soaps and detergents
  • some paints and wood preservatives

Employers must assess the risks of work which could cause dermatitis
Ensure washing facilities are provided wherever possible
Prevent employees coming into contact with them as far as reasonably practicable provide those workers with regular health checks.

What you should do:

  • ask for health checks to be carried out by the employer under COSHH and ask to see general information about the results
  • check all substances you come into contact with for labels identifying potential skin irritation
  • insist on substitute products wherever possible
  • if substitution is not possible insist on limited exposure
  • ensure you receive the necessary training to reduce the risk
  • ensure you are provided with proper washing facilities
  • insist on free protective clothing from your employer, such as gloves
  • ensure all hazardous chemicals are stored safely.

Asthma

Asthma is a distressing and potentially life-threatening disease that can be caused by breathing in chemicals called sensitisers. These are substances that can trigger an irreversible allergic reaction.

Things to watch for in yourself and the people you work with can include:

  • coughing
  • wheezing tightness of the chest
  • constantly runny nose
  • watery, prickly eyes

Substances known to cause asthma:

  • wood dusts
  • epoxy resins in some glues and resins
  • isocyanates in some paints
  • formaldehyde in some MDF
  • some paints and wood preservatives

Other problems caused by dusts

The relationship between asbestos and cancer is well known, as is the link between hardwood dust and nasal cancer. It is common sense that breathing in dust of any type is likely to be harmful and can cause diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema.

Damping surfaces can help to reduce dust as can working with hand tools rather than power tools. Also if you can ‘wet-sand down’ that is preferred to dry sanding.

Always wear the respiratory protective equipment provided. Training on how to treat exposure should be given by your employer, you must tell your supervisor if you see any early signs of dermatitis.

Too much dust of any kind can adversely affect your health.

As stated earlier in this booklet, breathing in dusts has been known to cause development of respiratory ill health, in particular damage to the lung tissue which can result in serious breathing difficulties, depending on the extent of exposure.

Working with certain materials can cause fragments and dust to enter the eye and cause severe eye injuries. Goggles should be worn at all times to prevent dust particles entering the eye, and the correct type of dust mask to prevent dust entering the body.

Proper dust extraction equipment should be used, hire companies can provide details on the latest equipment, such as wet systems or methods available to prevent dust exposure.

Breathing asbestos dust can cause serious damage to the lungs and cause cancer.There is no known cure for asbestos related diseases.

Many buildings built or refurbished before the mid 1980’s contain asbestos. Asbestos containing materials should be indemnified before work commences to prevent inadvertent exposure to asbestos. Asbestos insulation board, asbestos coatings and asbestos insulation should only be removed by a licensed contractor.

If you suspect you have been exposed to asbestos or you have identified it on site tell your supervisor or person in charge immediately

Lifting

  • Make sure you have been trained correctly as you could suffer from back injury and long term pain if you regularly lift or carry loads.
  • Materials to be covered with tarpaulin when stored on site to prevent taking up water.
  • Trolley to be used, if possible, for moving loads around site.
  • Check for any loads over 20kg and make lifting arrangements.
  • Any loads over 20kg, should be positioned using suitable lifting equipment used by trained persons.
  • Avoid awkward postures or repetitive tasks, or take frequent breaks.
  • Learn safe lifting techniques as it is not just the weigh of a load that can cause injury, light loads if not lifted correctly can also cause problems.
  • Keep work areas clear of clutter and equipment.
  • Use and maintain PPE correctly.
  • There is a risk of pain or injury from working in awkward positions, performing repetitive tasks, or lifting.

Apply the following to help prevent injury:

  • Avoid lifting manually where possible; use a lifting aid or device where practical to do so.
  • Bend your knees; use the strong leg muscles instead of your back.
  • One foot slightly in front of the other use a good stance for stability.
  • Keep the load close to your body.
  • Check the load for stability and look out for sharp edges.
  • Assess the weight of the load and if satisfied lift smoothly.
  • Don’t twist your body, use your feet to change direction.
  • Look out for tripping hazards prior to lifting or carrying a load, plan your route.
  • If in doubt, don’t lift, get help or speak to your Foreman.
  • Make sure your work area is clean and as even a surface as possible.
  • Wear suitable approved footwear with non slip soles.
  • Clear up after you at intervals, and at the end of the day.
  • Waste should be disposed of in skip.
  • Clear up spillages that you see, don’t walk past, clean it up.
  • Safely store cables to help prevent tripping.
  • Ensure you have adequate lighting.
  • Report any defects that you see to equipment or work surfaces.
  • Keep an eye out for visitors to your work area.
  • Access and egress steps to plant and equipment should be kept clean and any damage reported.
  • Safe route to workplace agreed and maintained at all times.
  • Ensure you wear safety footwear whenever on site.
  • Tripping hazards should not be common on site – report them immediately
  • All hand tools and equipment should be visually checked for faults before use,
  • If using electrical powered equipment a Residual Current Device (RCD) connection should be used or equipment should be 110 volt or battery operated.
  • Don’t use a chisel with a mushroom head as particles can fly off and enter the eye or other parts of the body, always use a hand protection grip and gloves, ensure the mushroomed head is ground off safely by using eye protection and grinding in a safe area.
  • Ensure tools are used correctly and as intended by the manufacture, don’t get involved in horseplay.
  • Do not use power tools unless you have been trained and authorised to do so.
  • Ensure you report any defects and that all equipment is inspected before and after use.
  • Your employer should ensure that a maintenance record is available and kept up to date, power tools should be pat tested.

Please click here for more guidance.

Hand-Arm Vibration

Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted onto your hands and arms when you use hand-held powered work equipment such as concrete saws. Prolonged vibration is known to affect blood vessels, nerves, muscles, tendons and other body parts.

The main complaint arising from continued vibration from hand tools is Vibration White Finger (VWF), in which surface blood vessels become damaged, resulting in circulatory problems, pain and in the worse cases gangrene.

You are at risk if you regularly use hand-held or hand guided power tools and machines such as:

  • Chainsaws
  • Sanders, grinders
  • Drills
  • Hammers
  • Saws

How can help reduce the risks?

It is your employer’s responsibility to protect your welfare, but you should help by asking your employer if your job could be done in a different way without using vibrating tools and machines. If this cannot happen:

  • Ask to use suitable low-vibration tools.
  • Always use the right tool for each job (to do the job more quickly and expose you to less hand-arm vibration).
  • Check tools before using them to make sure they have been properly maintained and repaired to avoid increased vibration caused by faults or general wear.
  • Make sure cutting tools are kept sharp so that they remain efficient.
  • Reduce the amount of time you use a tool in one go, by doing other jobs in between.
  • Avoid gripping or forcing a tool or work piece more than you have to.
  • Store tools so that they do not have very cold handles when next used.
  • Encourage good blood circulation by:
    • Keeping warm and dry (when necessary, wear gloves, a hat, waterproofs and use heating pads if available).
    • Giving up or cutting down on smoking because smoking reduces blood flow.
    • Massaging and exercising your fingers during work breaks.

Hearing loss

Noise induced hearing problems, including deafness, are all too common in the construction industry. Very often the attitude has been that it is all part of the job. Report defective machinery, bearings that are not properly greased can increase noise levels; loose panels can also increase noise levels.

You could suffer from hearing loss if using noisy equipment, or working near others doing so e.g. concrete saws, chain saws, planers, machinery etc.  

  • Ensure all panels and guards are correctly fitted.
  • Machines should be inspected for noise to and not rattling or vibrating, machines can be sited on noise absorbing materials to reduce noise.
  • Other machines should be sited far enough away from each other so as to reduce noise and provide more work space.
  • Tell your Foreman if you think that noise is a problem on your site.
  • Noise assessment to be implemented if noise is a problem.
  • Hearing protection if required should be worn and maintained.

Electric shock

Electric shock is a major hazard on a building site, a 240 volt supply is often enough to kill a person, which is way 110 volt supplies are used. If 110 volt supply cannot be used always use a Residual Current Devise.

Don’t take chances with electricity cables, treat all cables as live until you know otherwise.

  • If using powered hand tools make sure that the supply voltage is correct for the equipment.
  • If using MEWP (cherry pickers) or Telescopic Handlers beware of the danger of death, treat ever cable as live until informed officially otherwise, do not work near overhead power lines with these machines.
  • Check all plugs and leads are in good condition a free from defect.
  • Ensure only correct fuses are used ‘no nails’.
  • Don’t make any temporary repairs, have those that are trained repair all equipment.
  • Keep cables off the ground whenever possible; do not let them run through water, wet areas or mud.
  • If cables have to be on the ground ensure that they are protected from damage and not a trip hazard.
  • Keep extension leads as short as possible.
  • Do not use extension leads that are still wound on a reel as the cable can melt due to heat build up.
  • Do not use insulating tape to cover breaks on a cable, have it repaired, all electrical equipment must be inspected and tested before use.
  • (RCD) connection, but make sure it is tested.

Injuries from vehicles

You could suffer serious or even fatal injuries from vehicles and machines on site - particularly when they are reversing.

  • Make sure that you only walk to your work area on a safe agreed route, report to your Foreman if this route becomes blocked. Wear your high visibility vest at all times and never use your mobile phone on or near a route provided for vehicles or plant as you could be struck or run over.
  • Never approach a machine operator from behind his/ her vehicle as you could be crushed.
  • Never except a lift on an item of plant unless a proper passenger seat has been fitted by the machine manufacture.

Sun exposure

Too much sunlight is harmful to your skin. In the short term, even mild reddening of the skin from sun exposure is a sign of damage. Sunburn can blister the skin and make it peel. Longer term problems can arise. Too much sun speeds up ageing of the skin, making it leathery, mottled and wrinkled. The most serious effect is an increased chance of developing skin cancer.

  • Keep your shirt or top on.
  • Wear a hat with a brim or a flap that covers the ears and the back of the neck.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, during your breaks and especially at lunch time.
  • Use a high factor sunscreen of at least SPF15 on any exposed skin.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Check your skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots. See a doctor promptly if you find anything that is changing in shape, size or colour, itching or bleeding.

Falls

alls from height is the main cause of death in construction, you need to follow proper procedures before any work at height starts, don’t take chances on this issue, ‘think’ before you start working at height and confirm with your employer that all proper procedures have been followed, don’t use a MEWP or working platform unless you have received adequate training and keep a look out for overhead cables. Do not start any work at height if cables are near until you have reported and received further instruction, you also have a duty to warn others about the dangers on site and that includes overhead cables.

As stated, when working at height, serious or even fatal injury could occur, this applies to all work at height.

  • Make sure that edge protection is in place to stop you and materials falling.
  • Proper risk assessments and method statements prior to any work starting are essential to prevent or control this type of activity.
  • Ensure that persons are not working underneath you or if this is not possible ensure that all precautions have been taken to prevent materials falling onto them.

Ladders

The Working at Height Regulations reinforce the hierarchy of fall prevention which means ladders should only be used if it is not reasonably practicable to use other safer forms of access: and it is reasonable to use ladders having regard to:

  • The nature and duration of the work task and;
  • The risks to the H & S of the users of the ladders.
  • The ladder should be angled to minimise the risk of slipping outwards and as a rule of thumb needs to be one metre out for every four up.
  • Access ladders should extend about 1m above the working platform. This provides a handhold for people getting on and off.
  • Ensure that ladders are tied on both stiles to prevent slipping.
  • Ladders should be in good condition and examined regularly to make sure they are free from defects.
  • Ladders should not be painted as this can hide defects.
  • Ladders used must be in good condition, adequately secured (lashed) and placed on firm surface.
  • Do not overreach; if you are working from a ladder, make sure it is long enough and positioned to reach the work safely.
  • Do not climb or work off a ladder unless you can maintain 3 points of contact.
  • Minimise openings in scaffolds that have been created for ladder access
  • Use anti-slip devices or stabilizing units, fixed to the top or bottom of the ladder, but only if considered suitable for the application.
  • Fix a ladder guard to prevent unauthorised access.
  • Microlite and ladder belt restraint in use.
  • Ladders should be correctly angled; one out for every four up.
  • Use anti slip devises or satbilizing units.

Step ladders

Step Ladders are not banned but they should only be used for short duration work and used with caution, look at other alternatives but if you use a step ladder follow common-sense rules for using them safely.
Here are some tips on how to minimise the likelihood of a ladder-related accident:

Inspect the ladder:

  • Take time to check the condition of the ladder both before and after use.
  • Check that the ladder is sufficiently robust to support your weight.
  • Make sure the steps are free of oil, wet paint, mud, or any other potentially slippery substance.

Erecting the ladder:

  • Clear the area around the ladder from any clutter. Make sure that no electrical cords or wire leads are close.
  • If the ladder needs to be in front of a door, consider locking the door to prevent surprise openings.
  • If the ladder is in a high-traffic area, draw attention to this fact in the house – a hand-written sign would do.
  • Make sure the floor is even and stable. Avoid wet or slippery surfaces.
  • Always support the ladder at four points.

Climbing the ladder:

  • Wear suitable shoes – no heels, barefoot is not good, nor are most sandals.
  • Never climb onto wet or slippery steps, make sure they are dry.
  • Never overstretch – do not climb beyond the last three steps of a ladder.
  • Keep your shoulders between the rails and don’t over- reach – move the ladder instead.
  • Always keep 3 point contact with the ladder.
  • Don’t let children climb up the ladder: prevent access at the end of the day if you have to, or fold it up after use.
  • Be prepared for an unforeseen vertigo attack – don’t look down, breath slowly and steadily, and go back down step by step.

Safety Critical

Some jobs in the construction industry involve activities that can place workers at risk, unless the person has full, unimpaired control of their physical and mental capabilities. These jobs are called ‘safety critical’ and the people who do them are ‘safety-critical workers’.

In particular, your employer will need to focus on health conditions that may involve:

  • sudden loss of consciousness (e.g. epilepsy, some heart conditions, diabetes (particularly insulin-dependent diabetes));
  • impaired awareness or concentration;
  • sudden incapacity;
  • impaired balance or coordination;
  • restricted mobility; and
  • impaired vision or hearing.

Before someone starts safety-critical work, it is good practice for the employer to agree what health checks and/or medical examination are required, and record the agreement.

It is important to be clear which aspects of fitness are relevant to the safety-critical work, and to specify the required level. The employer or self employed need to have clear agreed company policies in place to deal with these issues.

Example: Working at height

Your employer needs to be sure that you:

  • can climb the ladder or platform
  • can see well enough (this might mean making sure you use prescription lenses); and
  • that you do not suffer from a condition which might cause you to lose consciousness or reduce your ability to concentrate

Medication

Some medication can cause drowsiness and affect concentration. All safety critical workers should be encouraged to ask their general practitioner or pharmacist about the possible side effects of medication. In some cases, it may be necessary for a worker to do other tasks until the nature and extent of side effects have been established, and are properly controlled.

Drugs and alcohol

You should not do construction work if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol as you or someone else could suffer serious injury or death.

Disability discrimination

If health conditions are properly controlled a worker could be able to do many construction jobs safely.

Disability Discrimination Law protects workers who have a disability. However, the law allows an employer to prevent a person doing a specific task if the discrimination is for reasons that relate to compliance with health and safety legislation, e.g. it would be justifiable to transfer a Roof worker to other duties if he/she could no longer see well enough, even with glasses.

Stress

HSE defines stress as ‘an adverse reaction to excessive pressure’. Pressure is often part and parcel of work and helps to keep us motivated.

Excess, badly-managed exposure to pressure can lead to stress. Workers who experience stress, anxiety or depression are unlikely to perform effectively and if stress levels are not corrected it can lead to serious problems. In safety- critical industries such as construction it could have serious consequences.

HSE has identified six aspects of work that can lead to stress. These are:

  • demands: such as workload and pattern, adequacy of the management team, and the effects of client expectation
  • control: how much say someone has about the way that they work
  • support: whether employees receive adequate information and support from managers and colleagues.
  • relationships: the nature of work relationships, including mechanisms to deal with unacceptable behaviour such as bullying
  • role: whether people understand their jobs and have the skills, experience and support to deliver, and whether there is any conflict of responsibilities; and change: how change is managed and communicated in the company, and whether work is secure.

The ‘top five’ most stressful aspects of work in construction are:

  • having too much work to do in the time available;
  • travelling or commuting;
  • being responsible for the safety of others at work;
  • working long hours; and
  • having a dangerous job.

Remember that factors such as personal relationships, financial concerns, domestic issues and bereavement will affect someone’s ability to cope with pressure at work. The importance of these factors is likely to vary over time.

Regardless of where your work in safety critical or not, if you think that you are suffering from any of the health & safety issues mentioned above or in this book speak to your Foreman, or Charles directly, don’t suffer in silence.

PPE

PPE could be hard hats for head protection, high visibility vests or jackets, ear protection such as full ear muffs or if suitable plugs, safety boots or shoes, overalls etc.

Always ensure that PPE is cleaned, maintained and replaced when necessary, speak to your supervisor or supplier for further guidance on the replacement of certain PPE such as ear muffs and hard hats.

Stepping on nails and sharp objects

To help prevent foot injuries the following should be implemented:

  • Safety boots with steel toe caps and mid soles should be provided to all those working on site.
  • Waste disposed of in skips.
  • Nails clinched or removed from waste or stored timber.
  • Supervisor to explain the need to wear safety boots and dispose of waste in skips.

First aid

First aid provision is all about treating an injured person immediately and contacting the emergency services if need be. In extreme cases it saves lives.

All sites should have a sufficient number of trained first aid persons in keeping with the risks and the numbers employed.

The first aider should be the first person contacted in the event of an injury or health problem on site.