Health and Safety in a Construction Environment

Health and Safety in a Construction Environment

It was not until 1974 that the Health and Safety Act came into effect and before that about 8 million employees had no legal safety protection. This was put in place to introduce and to promote high safety standards in the workplace. The act places responsibility on the employer as well as the employee to ensure the health and safety and well-being of individuals in the workplace and the general public.

In the UK the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the government agency which is responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare. The Health and Safety inspectors may enter any work premises at any time.

The inspector has 5 powers:

  • to carry out examinations and investigations
  • to take possession of an article and arrange for it to be dismantled or tested
  • to seize and make safe any article or substance that could cause serious personal injury
  • to request information and take statements from people they think can help an investigation
  • to inspect and copy documents

If the inspector considers that you or your company are breaking health and safety law, or that your activities give rise to a serious risk, they have the powers to:

  • issue an informal warning, verbally or in writing
  • issue an improvement notice or prohibition notice
  • prosecute the company and/or individuals

In 2017/2018 144 individuals were killed in the work place (RIDDOR) in the UK. Of these, 86 were aged 16-59, and 55 were 60+. 96% of these were males. 38 of the fatal injuries were in the construction industry, which is over 26%.

  • The main types of fatal injury were from:
  • falling from height
  • being struck by a vehicle
  • being hit by a moving object
  • being trapped by something collapsing or overturning
  • contact with moving machinery

The number of injuries in England is lower than in Scotland and Wales and is strongly influenced by the variance of industry and occupations.

The construction industry takes health and safety very seriously as it is high risk work and a high risk workplace. Obviously the industry is looking at prevention as there can be serious implications if they do not address health and safety issues. Companies can be fined or banned from working at all if they are served with a prohibition notice or prosecuted and convicted for neglect or be sued. The Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) came into effect in the 1990s as the government and the Health and Safety Executive felt that the reason for high rates of fatalities was due to a lack health and safety training in the construction industry. The construction industry is diverse and some form of standardisation needed to be in place as it was impossible to determine the health and safety on a construction site. The CSCS test was a standardised way of measuring health and safety awareness in the industry and could be applied across a range of trades in construction. Passing a CSCS test provides proof of competency in Health and Safety.

The Labourer Card qualification was developed in partnership with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). There are over 2 million cardholders in the UK.

Who runs the CSCS?

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) runs the CSCS. The CITB is an organisation set up by the Government to work with construction companies to help build the UK’s reputation for having a world-class construction industry.

Employers pay a levy to the CITB who then use the funds to pay for projects and improve skills and promote training in the construction industry. The CSCS was set up as part of this – to help reduce accidents on construction sites and to help them to run more smoothly.

How does one get the qualifications for a Labourer card?

As of 1st July 2014, you must have passed the Level 1 Award in Health and Safety in a Construction Environment (this is a lifelong qualification) or hold a valid one-day Site Safety Plus Health and Safety Awareness Course certificate (this is a standalone qualification) or one of the alternatives referred to on the CSCS website.

If you want to work on any major construction site in the UK you must have a valid CSCS card. There are different types of cards including Labourer, Apprentice, Experienced Worker, Skilled Worker, Supervisor and Manager cards.

In order to obtain a CSCS Labourer card you need to do the following three things:

1. Get a Level 1 Health and Safety in a Construction Environment qualification

2. Pass the CITB CSCS health, safety and the environment test

3. Pay the application fee for the CSCS card

Level 1 Health and Safety in a Construction Environment is designed for learners working in, or aspiring to work in, the construction industry. It gives learners the knowledge to undertake their jobs safely.

The total qualification time (TQT) for this qualification is 29 hours, and of this 21 hours is recommended as guided learning (GL). Anyone over the age of 14 who has a basic level of literacy can enrol on the course.

Topics covered

1. The principles of risk assessment for maintaining and improving health and safety at work

2. The importance of safe manual handling in the workplace

3. The importance of working safely at height in the workplace

4. Knowledge of risks to health within a construction environment 5. The importance of working around plant and equipment safely

The course costs around £100 plus VAT including manual and online learning and support.

What do I do once I have the CSCS qualifications?

Once the Level 1 Award in Health and Safety in a Construction Environment or the Site Safety Plus Health and Safety Awareness Course AND the CITB Health Safety and Environment test has been completed, the Labourer card can be applied for. More details about how to apply can be found on the CSCS website.

Contact details for CSCS may be found on the CSCS website. Information about how to contact the CITB is on the CITB website Contact details for Level 1 Health and Safety in a Construction Environment course can be found on The Training Brokers website