3.6 Safety performance
Safety: work in progress
There is no set format or regulations detailing how to run a site safely. All work must use competent, trained people, carrying out tasks within their capability, with good equipment and good leadership, and having due regard for their own safety and that of their team members and visitors to the site. Work will obviously draw on the information already gathered in the site safety plan, the experience of the team on similar jobs and advice from specialists. This information only describes in general how the job will be carried out – it is up to the team leader, the client supervisor or the planning supervisor to set out their own vision of how the job will work, and to establish the right attitudes and safety culture for the site. Different sites will need different solutions, and different teams develop their own ways of working. There is a great difference between a well-run, safe and productive site and a poorly managed site. The aim is to create a productive and safe site that has good team working. Establishing and maintaining good practice on your site will have a positive impact in several areas:
- productivity: well-ordered sites get the most work done;
- safety: well-managed sites build in safety and team members look out for each other;
- quality: attention to detail helps get the job done right first time;
- good relations: well-run sites keep the client, the owners and the public happy;
- workplace: well-managed sites are enjoyable places to work.
Sites that are operating efficiently and safely have a good leader behind them. Over time, you should develop your own leadership style that suits you and your team. On a well-run site:
- everyone knows what they are doing and why;
- it is clear who takes the decisions and what has been decided;
- the opinions of the whole team are included;
- each task is thought through with good planning and a bit of foresight;
- there is attention to detail and a motivation to get things right;
- there are regular reviews to see that everything is going according to plan, or if things need to be changed; the site is busy, but not rushed – there are realistic targets and rewards for good performance;
- there is a friendly attitude to visitors to the site and a genuine concern for their welfare.
The roles of the team supervisor and the client supervisor are in many ways similar, and often complimentary. The client supervisor should not be ‘afraid’ of stepping in and discussing safety issues on site visits and should be prepared to ask the team plenty of constructive questions, particularly about tasks that lie ahead. Teams should not be ‘fearful’ of site visits, and should make good use of the time that the client supervisor is on site every week. It is good to have an open attitude, with contractors contributing to the planning and clients contributing to practical solutions on site. There should not be a division between the ‘paperwork’ done by the client and the ‘real work’ done by the contractor. Getting the paperwork right at the planning stage and establishing a good relationship between the team and the client should help get the job done smoothly on site, with integration from both sides of the contract team.
Communication is key between funders and client; between client supervisor and team leader; and between team leader and construction team. Recording decisions and discussions simply helps document the work as it progresses.
Keeping track of safety on site
You will only have a limited amount of time to devote to safety issues on site, and these will have to be juggled with productivity and other priorities. Some safety issues will need to be considered every day, whereas others will need reviewing at different intervals as the project progresses. Do not wait for something to go wrong before you check that everything else is going right! At the beginning of the project make a list of the safety issues you will check at the following times:
- day 1, when the project starts;
- daily, for the duration of the project;
- weekly or fortnightly;
- at the end of the contract.
Issues to check and review are listed below.
- There should be a clear chain of command, with someone to deputise when the leader is not on site.
- The team should have the right skills for the jobs – matching skilled and inexperienced workers.
- There should be short team ‘meetings’ to discuss progress, including safety issues – see the example of a note from the log of a team meeting.
- Everyone should be aware of their responsibilities and what they are doing next.
- You should run through procedures and check that they are being followed.
- You should keep a log of activity on site.
The equipment and site
- Mark out services on site.
- Mark areas to be cordoned off and check that this has been done.
- Erect site signs and check that they are in position.
- Check that equipment is in good order and the right tools are available for the job.
- Check machinery logs and ensure that maintenance is taking place regularly.
- Brief the team on public access across the site.
- Cordon off or reroute sections you want the public to stay clear from.
- Speak to the public and explain the work, and check that your team is making the public welcome on the site.
- Check that the site is made safe for public use when the team is not on site, particularly before the weekend or any other breaks from work.
- Brief the team on the safety plan.
- Check that the plan is being used.
- Check informally that all safety procedures planned are taking place.
- Carry out a more thorough ‘inspection’ of all the safety equipment and procedures and team members’ knowledge of the safety routines.
- Make a note of items that need attention – this is often included on the client supervisor’s site visit report.
Informal checks on safety in progress
In order to thoroughly check that everything in the safety plan is either happening, or is ready to happen, it is necessary to carry out a safety inspection once or twice during the contract. This is a rigorous look at safety performance, and requires a dedicated and more formal approach. The planning supervisor will lead the site visit. The team leader, possibly their employer, the client supervisor and possibly the client will also be present. The safety inspection is in addition to routine site visits and informal observation, and can either be an agreed date or be impromptu. The aim is not to catch the team out, but to have a comprehensive look at work practice to see whether it conforms to the planned way of working. Changes to either the way work is performed or the contents of the plan or future safety files should be discussed. The visit may last 1–3 hours and a brief written record of performance and follow-up actions should be agreed and circulated.
Keeping site safety on track
If work is not going according to the safety plan, then you need to act swiftly. The way in which you respond and how it is remedied will depend upon the severity of the risk, whether this is the first time the problem has arisen, or if it seems to be recurring.
|Level of risk||Examples||Action by client||Solution by team|
||Talk to the team members and remind them of the standard needed, and raise the issue with the team leader.||Keep working to a high standard. Occasional checks and reminders by the team leader.|
||Stop the action by the team members. Ask them to go through the action again following the agreed procedure. Discuss it with the team leader and make a note on file. Check out that it has been done on your next visit.||Review the way work is carried out. Team leader work alongside the weaker team members. Point out to the client supervisor when it is being done right next time.|
||Stop the operation immediately and disable it if necessary (take away the pulley from the cableway!). Instruct that work must not start until a risk assessment has been prepared and you have seen it safely in operation. Write to the team leader or company manager to confirm what is needed.||Cease work and do not return to the task until situation is remedied. Prepare a risk assessment. Carry out a ‘dry run’ and instruct the team. Demonstrate the new procedure with the client supervisor on site, and write to inform them of the new risk assessment when you have approval to proceed.|
In general, pathwork has a good safety record. There are, of course, occasional accidents on site, but because of good planning these are mostly minor events. There have been occasions when a site has been evacuated but all the training and planning has enabled this to be carried out swiftly and with a minimum of fuss. On several occasions, footpath teams have been called to the aid of other people on the mountain and have used their resources to help. Therefore, inform the Police Mountain Rescue Section of the location and duration of the project, and provide full contact details and a copy of the site map and brief details of the project.
In recent years, an area of weakness on path sites has been poor response to minor injuries. Heat stroke, hypothermia, infected cuts and abrasions, and even frostbite leading to severe blood poisoning, may start off with someone feeling unwell or having a small cut. Relatively minor injuries can become far more serious if they are not taken seriously and attended to immediately. Teams often feel that they should push on if minor things go wrong, or are concerned that they may be blamed if they show any weaknesses. A strong team will be more open, keeping an eye on each other and not begrudging the time to get medical attention for minor problems or ailments.
The health part of health and safety extends beyond the site and the project in hand. Team leaders and company managers will need to have some background information about their team members and be prepared to offer support, particularly if family issues are troubling someone while they are staying away from home. Staff should be reminded to have a health check for longer-term health issues that arise from outdoor manual work, such as sore shoulder and knee joints, respiratory problems or Lyme disease. The relatively small company size and transience of path teams makes it difficult to keep track of health issues, but several of the more progressive organisations are making sure that their staff have health checks once a year.
At the end of project work on site, you will need to collect together all the information and carry out a short review of the operation of the whole contract, with particular emphasis on health and safety. This could be carried out by the team leader and the team members, and then between the team leader and the client supervisor. This could be combined in one meeting. It is good practice to talk through the issues briefly, look for ways to improve the work, planning and safety, and record this in a short note for people working on the same site in future. Some issues are:
- minor accidents or ‘near misses’ during the project;
- parts of the site, or periods of the project when the team felt uneasy or at risk;
- equipment on site and its condition/suitability;
- a resurvey of the site – this is essential for future maintenance and safety audits;
- a quick check through the risk assessments to see if anything has been missed out or can be amended;
- any other information that should go into the site safety file, and a risk assessment for the future use of the site, for maintenance by the contractors and use by the public.
At the end of the project make a note of what would you do differently next time.