Construction Safety Week lies just round the corner. The entire last week in October, from Monday 25th to Friday 29th, will see Ireland’s construction industry come together to celebrate best practices in construction safety.
The goal of the week is to eliminate accidents at work and to drive continual improvement in safety and health, says CIF’s Safety & Training Executive John Egan. Safe habits are more important in construction than other fields.
Over a quarter of Ireland’s 1,616 work-related fatal accidents between 1989 and 2016 involved construction businesses, says
Ireland’s Health and Safety Authority. Falls from heights made up 28 per cent of these. In 2020, 15 people lost their lives working on construction sites in Ireland.
This is a number that has “shown considerable variation in recent years,” says the HSA. It declined after the Celtic Tiger years, and dropped to as low as five in 2017, but has been increasing since.
Safety is no accident
But the message for the industry’s safety week, though, is a positive one.
“And it represents Ireland’s construction sector coming together to “reinforce and promote the importance of safety, health, and overall wellbeing in work and in life,” says John Egan.
Each day will feature a different theme. Monday, October 25, the October bank holiday, will focus on a message to ‘Drive safe this bank holiday’, with the slogan ‘Safety is not automatic – think about your journey’. Tuesday moves the focus to ‘Mind your health’ and ‘Look out for one another’.
Wednesday packs a message to ‘Work safe at height’ and reminds those participating that gravity kills.
Thursday is given over to ‘Safe lifting’ and a message to ‘lift smart, inspect all’. This fits in with a broad emphasis on musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) across European Safety Week, which takes place in the same week.
The Europe-wide theme ‘Lighten the Load’ responds to the fact that three in every five EU workers report MSD complaints in their
back or upper and lower limbs. And then Friday wraps up the week with a theme of ‘Managing Hazardous Energies’ and a message ‘The power of safety, it’s in your hands’.
From crane simulators to ice-cream vans
Safety weeks in recent years have featured hazard hunts with prize-givings, and barbecues and ice cream trucks, said Barry O’Brien, from the Kirby Group. The focus is “about engaging the contractors, the people who could get hurt, and engaging with our supply chain,” he says.
“Visual learning is one of the best forms of learning,” says O’Brien, who has been his group’s environment health and safety manager since 2005.
So recent safe driving campaigns have featured car and crane simulators, more useful than PowerPoint, and better too for workers whose first language may not be English. Kirby has used simulated emergencies where training staff “bring in a dummy, set it on the floor, put an electrical switch over it, raise an alarm, and then see how people know what to do in an emergency”.
“It’s easy to read something off a document, but when you’re trying to put it into practice, not everything goes to plan,” he adds. “So you learn from that and update your procedures and practice,” O’Brien says.
A hugely popular speaker on electrical safety in previous construction safety weeks has been Louise Adamson (formerly Taggart), he says. She speaks extensively about the death of her brother Michael at the age of 26 due to a workplace electric shock in 2005.
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The CIF is calling on all construction companies, organisations and individuals working in construction, and in other sectors, to get involved in Construction Safety Week in 2021, to celebrate best practice, to reinforce and promote the importance of safety, health and overall wellbeing in work and in life. The goal is to eliminate accidents at work and to drive continual improvement in safety and health performance. What events or campaigns is your company planning for Construction Safety Week? Get in touch or share your stories and photos with the CIF on social media. #CIFSafety21 @CIF_Ireland
Working safely from home
And with many in the construction sector working from home in the last year, the most recent Construction Safety Week included a strong focus on mental wellbeing. “How to mind yourself by staying positive, and exercising. And sticking to a normal work
routine, not working out of hours,” says O’Brien.
A 2020 CIF report on mental health in the Irish construction workplace found larger companies were more likely than smaller
ones to devote time to thinking about mental health on the job. Fully 100 per cent of Irish construction businesses with 250 or more employees said their company had given thought to their employees’ mental health in the last 12 months.
For businesses with four or fewer employees, this fell to only 33 per cent. But for smaller businesses which are time-poor, there are abundant resources to help them address mental health in the workplace.
Ashbourne native Rory O’Connor, of Rory’s Stories fame, has given toolbox talks about mental health, and has been a CIF Safety
Ambassador. Work related stress, at 44 per cent, was the most frequently reported cause of mental health issues in the CIF’s 2020 study.
Unrealistic work targets (29 per cent) and long working hours (22 per cent) followed close behind.
Safety is at the core of everything we do in Irish Water – the safety of our own people, our contractors, our partners and, of course, members of the public we engage with through our works and our services. We all have a right to go home at the end of every day unharmed. We firmly believe that no action is so urgent or important that it cannot be done safely and that we all have a role to play in achieving our safety vision.
What Safety Week supporters have to say:
Irish Water is delighted to support CIF Safety Week as a valuable initiative in helping to promote the importance of safety, health and overall wellbeing in work and in life.
Brian Sheehan Head of Asset Delivery, Irish Water
Construction Safety Week (CSW) provides the opportunity for the industry to send a clear message that by working together, regardless of being competitors in the marketplace, our people are the most important part of everything we do, and their occupational health, safety and wellbeing is essential. As CSW Gold Sponsors 2021, Designer Group will again be supporting the CIF with promoting daily themes and ensuring the week is another success story.
Derek Murphy Head of Environmental Health & Safety, Designer Group
We are delighted to be working in partnership with the CIF to promote safer practices and wellbeing during Safety Week. Our mission is that no worker or their family should feel alone in a crisis so we want to ensure that everyone knows all about the support they can access.
Bill Hill CEO, Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity
2021 BRONZE SPONSORS Irish Water, Collen, Gas Networks Ireland, ESB Networks, Kirby Group, Hilti Ireland, JJ Rhatigan, Jones Engineering