1.8 Health and Safety
The environment in which upland pathwork takes place presents hazards that cannot be ‘controlled’. They slow down any emergency evacuation: terrain is rough; sites are remote and exposed; weather and ground conditions are very changeable.
During all pathwork, providing for the safety of workers and the public is therefore essential. It is a legal requirement and an integral part of the planning for pathwork projects, from the design stage onwards. A safety plan should be in place, even for minor works. Health and safety management should take precedence over considerations of cost and time.
Safety management is about looking ahead to identify potential hazards connected with the site and the work, and wherever possible minimising risks by avoidance, use of alternative methods, or control. Pathwork involves physical effort, manual movement of heavy weights and working with equipment on steep slopes and wet ground.It is essential that safety training is given to all involved in pathwork. Four main Health and Safety issues should be addressed.
- Legal obligations
- Safety planning
- Risk assessment
- Safety training
Health and Safety Legislation
The Health and Safety Executive are responsible for enforcing regulations associated with health and safety legislation. The Health and Safety Commission are responsible for formulating policies and proposals regarding health and safety at work legislation. There are a number of pieces of legislation that are relevant to pathwork, some of which apply all the time and others which apply in particular situations. The following gives an outline of some of these.
Health and Safety at Work Act (HSAW) 1974
It is the legal requirement of the employer and employee to comply with the duties and responsibilities of HSAW. The employer’s responsibility is to provide:
- Health and Safety policy, or statement
- Safe work place
- Safe equipment
- Safe storage and use of substances
- Protective clothing and equipment
- Training in health and safety as required
It is the responsibility of the employee to:
- take care of self and not put others at risk
- co-operate with health and safety rules and regulations
- not mis-use or abuse health and safety provision
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992
The employer of five or more people must undertake risk assessments, have a safety policy or statement, and appoint a competent safety advisor.
Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
The employer and employees are required to carry out manual handling, in a safe manner. It is the responsibility of the employer to assess operations and take appropriate action to ensure that the employee is not at risk from injury, including provision of training and lifting equipment.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work Regulations 1992
The employer is required to provide employees with all necessary PPE to protect head, eyes, ears, hands, feet. It includes the provision of warm and waterproof clothing, and effective communication systems for outdoor work.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 1994
These require safe handling, use and storage. They apply fertilisers, fuel for plant, and other substances encountered whilst working.
Construction, Design and Management Regulations (CDM) 1994
CDM requires the consideration and removal or reduction of construction risks at the design stage. It provides a framework to define safety responsibilities; ensure good communication between client, designer, planning supervisor and contractor (see Safety Planning below). The regulations require the notification to the Health and Safety Executive of works lasting more than 30 days, or employing more than five people.
Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996
Requires the employer, self-employed and the employee to plan and control construction activities, and adhere to safe working practice. The employer must provide adequate welfare facilities. There is a duty on all workers to co-operate with others and report any health or safety defects to those in control.
Provision of Working Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) 1998
All plant and tools must be regularly inspected by a competent person, and where appropriate have certification to prove that it is in a serviceable condition under normal conditions of use. Winches and power barrows should be inspected and certificated every six months.
Working Time Regulations 1998
Where employees are working over 48 hours a week consent must be obtained, by the employer, stating that the extra hours worked have been voluntarily agreed to. Further information on the above regulations can be obtained from the local Health and Safety Executive office.
This is largely covered by CDM, which must be applied if the length of contract or work team warrants it, i.e. 30 days, or more than five employees. It also provides a sound framework for smaller projects.
The client, for whom the work is being carried out, appoints a ‘Planning Supervisor’ who is responsible for ensuring the preparation of safety plans, and the coordination of safety planning and management throughout all phases of the work. The client may act as the planning supervisor, and the designer. The inherent risks of the design, work site and pathworks are considered and assessed at the designstage. This information is included in a ‘pre-tender’ health and safety plan, which will highlight the key risks where action is required by the potential contractor to control them.
Contractors, or work teams are required to prepare a method statement which details how they plan to control the identified risks associated with the work. This can take the form of avoiding risks completely, training and equipping workers to safely carry out the work, setting limits, etc.
Before work starts the work team, as the ‘principal contractor’, is required to complete a safety plan which gathers all relevant information together, including site information, risk assessments, decisions made regarding action, and training required and carried out. The project is notified to HIE.
On completion of the contract the safety plan is reviewed, a safety file is completed detailing any risks associated with maintaining the completed work.
Risk assessments consider the whole site, the nature of the work and the safety of the worker and any other person that may come into contact with the site. In the case of pathwork this is predominantly walkers.
All risks caused by hazards associated with the work that may endanger the pathworker or the public are identified and assessed in advance of any work taking place. The assessment considers the likelihood of accidents and injuries occurring and what action or controls should be taken to remove, reduce or control the risk. This is normally recorded on a Risk Assessment Form.
Risk assessments may be carried out by the contracor, the work team supervisor, or pathworkers, and should be submitted to, or discussed with, the project manager. If risks are identified that have no controls in place, action must be taken to rectify the situation, prior to work starting.
The safety of the public must be considered at all times by pathworkers: when accessing the site; working on the path; gathering materials in the surrounding area. Some paths have very high numbers of walkers using them, particularly during the summer months. It is the responsibility of the pathworker, and path manager, to ensure that any possible risk to the public from the pathwork is controlled by signing the works, cordoning the site, re-routing or closing the path.
Clearly worded signs should be erected at all access points to the work site to advise the public of:
- when and where pathwork is taking place
- alternative routes, particularly on very busy paths
- diversions around the work site
- hazards, and procedures, if walkers need to walk through the site
Any dangerous excavations must be clearly marked with warning tape or temporary barriers, or covered over to prevent walkers falling into them. This is essential when the site is left unattended, particularly at weekend and when work is over for the day.
The training given to all pathworkers involved in on-site work, should include the following:
- Health and Safety legislation
- Safe working practice
- First-aid training
- Mountain safety training
Health and Safety legislation
All workers should be aware of the regulations that apply to pathwork and how they are affected as individuals. They should know how to undertake work in a safe manner, and raise any issues of concern with their team leader, supervisor or employer.
Safe Working Practice
Pathworkers are responsible for their own safe working practice, and must be aware of others. They should ensure they are adequately trained, and undergo specialist training as required. Issues that should be covered include the following.
- SAFE WORKING SITE: keeping tools stored safely when not in use; keeping access areas and routes clear; shoring up excavations above chest height; watching and signing when using plant or moving materials; securing unstable boulders or other large objects.
- SAFE WORKING DISTANCE: keeping a safe distance between workers, particularly when using hand tools such as mattocks, picks and sledge hammers.
- Safe and correct use of equipment: using machinery according to safety limits, manufacturer’s safety and user instructions; using trained machine operators; only using tools and equipment that are maintained in a safe condition and checked for damage or faults.
- SAFE LIFTING TECHNIQUES: manual handling to ensure materials are lifted properly, minimising the risk of injury; use of mechanical means wherever possible.
- PPE: making sure that appropriate equipment is provided and used; steel toecapped boots when excavating, moving and using large stone; safety goggles when smashing stone; hard-hats when working on excavations above chest height, or in areas of stone-fall danger, and when moving machinery; ear-defenders when using noisy plant such as power barrows and vibrating plates.
- PERSONAL WELFARE: avoiding working above personal capabilities; take regular breaks during strenuous activity, fatigue can lead to mistakes and accidents; wear appropriate clothing; stop work in adverse weather conditions; provide shelter and means of heating food; pay attention to and provide facilities for personal hygiene.
- TEAM WORKING: lone working should always be avoided; work in pairs or within sight of other pathworkers; have procedures for ‘logging in’ at the start and end of a work day.
- HEALTH RISKS: awareness and precautions against illnesses encountered whilst working outdoors - most commonly tetanus, Lyme disease, Weils disease, Orf virus and hogweed blisters.
Some other aspects of safe working practice are covered in working practise.
At least one member of a work team should be a qualified first-aider; one first-aider to four workers is advisable. All other workers should receive basic first-aid training. This should be relevant to working in an upland environment and the situations that a pathworker is likely to come across i.e. crush injuries, lacerations, sprains and fractures, hypothermia. The minimum standard of first-aid equipment for the number of workers, should be available on the work site, positioned at an identified first-aid point. All workers should be aware of procedures in case of an emergency situation. This should include knowing who first-aiders are, where the nearest telephone is, the details needed for calling emergency services: location, grid references, casualty numbers. The remoteness of some sites may require special communication links in case of such situations. It may also be necessary to have additional equipment, such as splints, casualty bags and stretchers in case the need to evacuate a casualty arises. The use of such equipment should be covered in the training given.
Mountain Safety Training
It is essential that pathworkers are aware of the dangers of working in an upland environment, particularly on exposed steep slopes, ridges, high altitude or remote sites. Upland pathworkers may often be exposed to extreme and very changeable weather conditions: high winds; torrential rain; snow blizzards; low cloud; poor visibility; freezing temperatures. Adequate warm and waterproof clothing and kit should always be carried. Training should include map reading, the use of navigational equipment, flares and bivvy bags; procedures in the case of an emergency; weather assessments, logging in and out procedures.
Information on Mountain Safety training and assessment can be obtained from Mountain Leader Training Scotland.