Reducing the accident risk

24 April 2008

With Over 12 Million employees and an output of over e900 billion a year, the construction sector is one of Europe’s most important industries. But the number of construction-related accidents is having a negative impact on the industry’s image, as well as leading to loss of time, money and damaging the lives of those involved.

According to European statistics, the incident rate of non-fatal accidents among people aged between 18 and 24 is +50% higher than for any other age group. This high risk group is the focus of a new campaign - Safe Start -and is being jointly supported by FIEC and the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW).

Much work has already been done at European, national and company level to improve health and safety in the construction sector. FIEC and EFBWW have been actively involved in improving health and safety in the industry for 15 years and also published a health and safety best practice guide for small- and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs) in 2003.

Nonetheless, FIEC believed that more needed to be done to raise awareness of risks and reduce the high rate of accidents in younger construction workers. According to FIEC, one of the most promising ways to achieve real improvement is through implementation of appropriate health and safety training for young people entering the construction sector.

With this in mind FIEC and EFBWW adopted a joint statement formalising their support of the European Youth Pact in March 2005. The pact proposed improving the education, training and vocational integration of young people in Europe. Through the statement, FIEC and EFBWW agreed to provide information to young people about the health and safety risks in the construction sector.

To continue the safety focus,FIEC and EFBWW are supporting the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work’s Safe Start campaign. Safe Start aims to ensure that risk awareness and risk prevention are promoted in enterprises, schools and colleges to make sure that young people make a safe and healthy start to their working lives.

The Safe Start campaign was officially launched on 30 June 2006 in Brussels, Belgium and will involve a range of awareness-raising activities and dissemination of effective preventative measures. The main focus of the campaign will be the ‘European Week’, which starts on 23 October and highlights the issues behind Safe Start.

Practical tools - ranging from an interactive online magazine with quizzes, competitions and animations through to awareness-raising posters- have been developed by the agency to promote good practices. These tools, which also include fact sheets for employers, supervisors and parents, can be ordered directly from the agency or from its national organisations which are listed at contacts and activities

It is hoped that health and safety managers within the construction sector will also support the campaign. The European Agency for Health and Safety at Work is calling for them to get in contact with their national agency and get involved in the Safe Start events this year. The types of events being organised includes, workplace safety demonstrations, open days, training sessions, television advertising campaigns, seminars, workshops, awards and competitions.

FIEC is also urging construction companies to get involved and has said that employers have a duty of care as regards the health and safety of young workers. But young people lack experience, maturity and awareness when they first enter the workplace, which makes them more vulnerable to accidents.

Every work place should have a good health and safety management system, which pays particular attention to the vulnerability of young workers. Adequate training should also be provided to beginners in order to cover common hazards in the workplace and the specific hazards related to their job. Employers should also ensure all young and new workers are provided with supervision, perhaps by twinning with an older mentor.

FIEC member federations have been invited to review their health and safety policies and risk assessment of young people, and organise appropriate health and safety events for young workers. However, FIEC believes that it is not sufficient to teach young people about health and safety when they have already started work. Young people should become involved when still at school or college, so they can become acquainted with a culture of risk prevention. Health and safety education is an issue for parents and should also be part of the school and college curriculum. Instilling these values in young people at an early age will help to promote a prevention culture in workplaces.

Only a joint efforts by all these parties will achieve the best results in reducing the number of accidents among young workers. Raising awareness of risk is vital if the construction sector wants to make meaningful progress in reducing accident rates on construction sites. Such EU campaigns also deserve to be well received and supported across the industry.

Further information on the campaign is available on the website of the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work

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