HSA begins intensive construction site safety campaign

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has announced that it will begin an inspection and awareness campaign targeting the construction sector.

Inspectors from the HSA will be inspecting construction sites nationwide over the next fortnight, with a particular focus on safe working around excavations and safety in timber frame house erection.

In the past 5 years there have been 5 fatal accidents where workers were killed as a result of an excavation collapse or from engulfment in earth or other materials. The Authority wants to raise awareness of the risks and will be focusing on the provision and management of safe work practices where excavation work is occurring on site.

Michael McDonagh, Head of Construction Policy with the Health and Safety Authority said: “Working in excavations can be particularly dangerous and it is important that a competent person carries out a thorough examination of the excavation prior to anybody entering it. Subsequently it must be inspected by a competent person daily or before each shift begins. Another thorough examination of the excavation and support equipment must be undertaken every seven days thereafter, or after any alteration, and written records of this inspection must be kept. It is important to focus on surface conditions, the excavation banks, access and egress, shoring equipment and of course the weather conditions.”

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013 set out the precautions that must be taken during excavation work:

  • Employers must risk assess their work and ensure appropriate controls are identified and implemented. This may include:
    – battering back the sides of the excavation,
    – use of shoring,
    – sheet piling, and
    – trench boxes.
  • Other alternative methods such as directional drilling may also be considered at design stage.
  • Care must be taken not to undermine any structures adjacent to excavations.
  • Edge protection should be installed to prevent workers and materials falling into the excavations.
  • Safe access and egress to the excavation must be provided.
  • Daily and weekly inspections of the excavation must be carried out by a competent person.

Speaking about why there will be a focus on timber frame houses, Michael said: “Timber frame houses are again becoming popular with builders. They provide a quick and efficient method for construction of housing. However, they pose some different challenges in relation to safety than those presented when using traditional building methods. When constructing timber frame houses it is important to consider; loading and unloading of frames, handling of frames on site, supporting the frames during erection, fire issues during the construction stage, working at height issues including different scaffolding requirements.”

Further information is available from http://www.hsa.ie/eng/Your_Industry/Construction/