There were whispers afoot when Brexit was just an embryonic idea – if it went through, everything would all come tumbling down. There were fears that the property market would crash, and it was looking rather gloomy for the construction industry – along with everyone else.
Now the whispers appear to be different. Even though there was a scary moment of housebuilder share plunge right after the Brexit vote in 2016, and then after the threat of ‘no deal Brexit’, and a noticeable contraction in UK manufacturing in late 2018, remarkably, the residential developers then turned in some pretty positive numbers. They were in good shape growth-wise.
If you read the news, you’ll see that Birmingham and Manchester are enjoying vigorous urban transformations – the latter in the residential sector especially. The property market overall appears to be encouragingly stable. We know that the construction industry was asked to deliver certain nationwide initiatives, such as the government’s target of one million residential units by 2020. That could still be on track despite Brexit fears – if the skills shortage doesn’t interfere, but then that’s another discussion.
So now we look towards the re-awakening of the construction industry this spring, and its promising potential for increased activity and progress. However, my mind turns to site safety. With heavy building programmes, fuelled by the welcome growth-spurt, construction sites will be very busy indeed. Workers will be pushed to complete on time and on budget. But then, during the stresses and inflated activity of this abundant building, I hope that the industry remembers to be safe.
As supporters and creators of safety technology, we at SiteZone are often told by our clients that occupational safety belongs to everyone. It’s not just the employer’s responsibility, but a collective obligation, from directors to operatives on the site front line. At every level, exercising safer work practices depends on so many factors – it’s about effective communication, learning and unlearning behaviours, collaboration, observation, innovation, diligence, courage, discipline, and change (the latter often being the hardest part). I could go on, but the bottom line is that keeping employees safe from harm at work, cannot be achieved in isolation within the organisation to maintain a high and consistent standard.
The construction industry remains a high-risk when it comes to occupational health and safety hazards, and the two elements affect one another - the relationship is almost tangible. We know from consistent monitoring and reporting by bodies like the Health & Safety Executive and RIDDOR that annually, thousands of employees continue to be injured at work, many seriously, and others, fatally.
It is a never-ending task to continuously improve our safety standards, so empower workers to get involved, listen to their concerns, and factor them into new implementations. Site and Health & Safety managers, I hope, continue to embrace technological innovation that can make the difference between a worker going home unharmed at the end of the day, or not, or ever again. By supporting the development of smart safety technology, they also have the power to raise the bar on safety standards nationwide, leading by example to their peers throughout the industry.
So, my wish for all the hard-grafting employees in the construction industry this year is that you enjoy the boom in production responsibly. Don’t be tempted to cut those safety corners – wear the ear defenders and the safety glasses, keep your hard hat on, and harness up when working at height., Put on the protective gloves and face shields, wear your high-vis clothing, and your safety boots. And definitely, do not ignore the alarm on your proximity warning system when it goes off.