Throughout April and May, workers at the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria voted to take action against health and safety standards. We take a look at two of the nation’s most dangerous industries and offer advice on staying safe at work.

How many accidents occur at work?

1.2 million working people suffered from a work-related illness between 2013 and 2014 (according to the Health and Safety Executive), 133 workers were killed and 629,000 injuries at work were reported under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations).

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Such shocking statistics have implications not only on victims and their families, but on business too. In 2012 to 2013, new cases of ill health resulting from poor work conditions cost an estimated £14.2 billion to the UK economy. In total 28.2 million working days were lost due to ill health or injury.

Accidents in agriculture

Agriculture is considered to be one of the most dangerous industries to work in, with one person killed as a result of agricultural work every week for the last decade (according to the HSE). The industry represents 1.8% of the workforce in Great Britain, yet accounts for 19% of reported fatal injuries each year.

In an industry which requires heavy tools and labour-intensive work, health and safety is paramount, and the cost of an injury can be devastating. The total annual costs of injuries in farming, forestry and horticulture are estimated at a staggering £190 million, whilst fatalities account for an extra £55 million.

Common agriculture injuries and suggested precautions:

  • Falls from height
  • Ensure that buildings are kept in good repair.
  • Provide handrails on stairs.
  • Ensure that you take special precautions if you are constructing a steel frame.

Transport

  • When travelling on public roads ensure that trailers are secure and protected by an appropriate guard.
  • Audible alarms should be fitted to the vehicle
  • Always plan your journey.

Machinery contact

  • Ensure all machinery carries a ‘CE’ mark and is carefully maintained.
  • Many agricultural machines have dangerous moving parts. Ensure that these parts are maintained and carefully protected.
  • Never use a machine if you haven’t received training, never wear loose clothing and never distract somebody using a machine.

Contact with electricity

  • If you suspect that there are underground cables in the vicinity, then someone who is experienced in cable detection should locate them for you.
  • Make sure that you don’t overload power supplies and that wiring is correctly installed.
  • If you receive an electric shock always remember to disconnect the power and never touch the electrocuted person with non-conducting items.

Chemicals and waste

  • You should comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.
  • Waste falls into three categories: Hazardous (lead batteries and dangerous chemicals), potentially hazardous chemicals which need to be tested (inks or paints(, non-hazardous (edible oil)
  • Pesticides and dangerous chemicals should be stored in their original containers with approved product labels.
  • There are strict controls on the movement, recovery and disposal of farm waste.
  • If you dispose of any hazardous waste, you need to record every incident in a records register. If you receive hazardous waste you are a ‘consignee’ and you must keep detailed records how the waste is stored and the quantity.
  • More about chemicals can be found here.

Agriculture employee rights

You can avoid potential risks by following health and safety rules that govern farming. By undertaking a health and risk assessment you can limit the likelihood of accidents occurring. This assessment includes maintenance checks on all equipment and appropriate signage.

It is a legal requirement that training is provided, protective clothing is used and that safety procedures are followed. National vocational qualifications are available at three academic levels and are supported with training courses.

Further information can be found at the Farming Health & Safety Guide at gov.uk.

Accidents in construction

Spurred on by the government’s investment in property, construction is one of the leading sectors for the UK economy. Construction is an intensive industry in which workers may be relied upon to use machinery, lift heavy goods and complete high-risk tasks.
According to the HSE, there have been significant reductions in the rates of injury across the last twenty years. However, it remains an industry laden with risks, as 40% of construction sites failed health and safety checks last year. Injuries and new cases of ill health from working conditions in construction have cost the industry over £1.1 billion between 2013 and 2014.

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Source: HSE

All construction businesses should ensure that they follow all health and safety guidelines whilst providing adequate training for their employees. This will vary from sector to sector in construction. The HSE has provided a guide on how to assess, control and review any potential risks in the construction industry.

Common construction injuries and suggested precautions:

  • Slips and trips
  • Clear any designated walkways
  • Provide adequate signposting and lighting.
  • Remove any trailing cables or any potential hazard that may cause an uneven surface.

Working at height

  • Fall restraints and safety equipment should be provided at all times.
  • If you are building tower scaffolds this safety guide will provide more detailed information.

Electricity

  • All electrical equipment should be properly maintained and used by an authorised individual.
  • All work near overhead power lines should be carefully planned.

Fire

  • A responsible person on-site should be appointed fire marshal and should assess means of escape and fighting fire.
  • All flammable materials should be kept away from ignition.

Vehicles

  • All vehicles should be regularly inspected with considerations needed to segregate vehicles from pedestrians.

Construction employee rights

On a construction site there are generally contractors, sub-contractors, self-employed workers and casual labourers. This means that when an injury occurs the responsible individual can be unclear. By law all employers are required to maintain employer’s liability insurance. These cases can often be complicated because not all workers can be legally classed as employees. In which case insurance cover may not in fact be operative. These cases are complicated and legal advice and the instruction of a solicitor is often necessary. This equally highlights the need for self-employed individuals to carry their own insurance to cover lost earnings and financial commitments in the event of them being unable to work through injury.

The Health and Safety Executive subjects the construction industry to particular scrutiny. Most accidents and injuries tend to be attributable to a breach of safety regulation.

Further information on safety in construction can be found here at the HSE website.