“It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye” or sustains a life changing brain injury…
Working in Safe Environments
It goes without saying we should all be working in safe environments; though naturally some working environments pose greater or more numerous risks than others. Working in construction, and therefore on construction sites, being a prime example.
It is “UK Construction Week” this week and so thoughts turn to the real life dangers, and all too often devastating results, of unsafe construction sites. Often, unsafe systems of work are the root of the problem.
“It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye” is a phrase originating from Ancient Rome, when the only rule in wrestling was no eye gauging and it is no less pertinent today. It is no secret there is a high level of comradery on building sites. Anyone with any connection to the industry knows the craic is as abundant as the work itself. Anyone who survives being an apprentice and being sent to buy tartan paint, or a replacement bubble for a spirit level, deserves a medal. But it really is all fun and games until someone gets hurt, and no, it is not “health and safety gone mad”. It is: “You try telling someone with a life changing injury, appropriate health and safety measures would not have prevented the incident!”
It is not about being kill joys, or trying to diminish the craic. It is about saving lives and preventing serious injury. There is a balance to be had and it is entirely possible for construction sites to provide safe working environments, without effecting the fun and enjoyment that is part of the parcel.
As brain injury specialists, it will come as no surprise one of the main causes of injury we encounter is objects falling from height and hitting workers on the head. This can be, and often is, compounded by the worker not wearing a hard hat. Though unfortunately sometimes even the use of a hard hat is going to make minimal difference when we are talking about steel beams falling on people. So a real focus must be placed on having safe systems of work to prevent things falling from height in the first place.
Life is not like a Tom & Jerry episode, you do not just get a massive red bump on your head which can be pushed back down. Skulls fracture, brains are irreversibly damaged and the individual can be left with all manner of life long problems. Brain injury affects everyone differently, but the common issues are:
- Memory loss
- Change in personality
- Extreme fatigue
- Inability to concentrate
- Irritability/mood disorder
- Altered or complete loss of smell
- Altered or complete loss of taste
Even minor brain injuries can result in many of the above problems. So again, everyone involved with construction should do everything they can to ensure the working environment is as safe as possible.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provide detailed information regarding all of the necessary health and safety laws, regulations, guidance and consequences for failing to meet the necessary standards on their website. Spoiler alert, there can be criminal prosecutions resulting in fines or imprisonment.
Additionally there is a wealth of information specific to construction.
If you work on a construction site, the following are some key things to consider:
- Have I received adequate health and safety training?
- Are there health and safety posters/information sheets displayed?
- Have I received adequate training for the jobs I am asked to complete?
- Have my colleagues received adequate training?
- Have I been provided with appropriate PPE?
- Are people wearing appropriate PPE?
- Does it seem like things are being done safely?
- Are my supervisors taking steps to ensure things are being done properly?
- Do I feel as though I can discuss safety issues with my supervisor?
- When accidents occur, are they entered into an accident book?
- Are accidents happening frequently?
- If accidents are happening frequently, are systems of work being reviewed/changed?
- If a serious accident happens, is it being reported to the HSE?
- Am I concerned with how things are done?
If you have concerns, prioritise you and your colleague’s health and speak to your supervisor. Increasing awareness is an essential part of invoking change and weeding out unsafe systems of work. Prevention is better than cure, and there is no cure for brain injury!
Of course the above considerations apply to all working sectors, not just construction. We all have brains to protect; let’s try and stick to the fun and games part!