UCATT safety survey exposes industry failings

An online survey of members of construction union UCATT has highlighted the massive safety failings that workers in the industry continue to face.

Over 21% of respondents did not believe that their employer took their health and safety seriously. A worrying 11% of members who took the survey believed their workplace had become more dangerous in the last 12 months, with 55% of respondents saying that there had been no improvement in safety in the last year.

The three biggest safety concerns of members were falls from heights, concern about manual handling/lifting and stress.

The survey also highlighted continued failings by employers to ensure that workers are not exposed to asbestos. Not all survey respondents reported that they came into contact with asbestos, 60% of respondents reported their work could result in them coming into contact with asbestos. Where workers did come into contact with asbestos 63% believed it was a major safety concern.

Where workers had reported that asbestos was a potential issue at work, a shocking 36% of respondents recorded that they or their colleagues had been exposed to asbestos in the last 12 months. A total of 38% of respondents said that their employer did not have adequate procedures in place to prevent exposure to asbestos. Also 28% of members reported that they did not believe that they had received adequate training on asbestos awareness and what to do if asbestos was discovered.

Steve Murphy, General Secretary of UCATT, said: “Asbestos kills thousands of workers every year and construction workers are now at the greatest risk of being exposed to asbestos. The results of our survey show that employers are persistently failing to prevent workers being exposed to asbestos, they are playing Russian roulette with construction workers lives.”

Despite it being a legal requirement for an employer to supply workers with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), 8% of respondents said that this was not supplied by their employer. Where PPE was supplied a further 15% reported it was not regularly replaced and did not meet their workplace needs.

With construction being the most dangerous industry in the UK it is revealing that 37% of respondents reported that they or a colleague suffered a workplace accident in the last 12 months. Half of these accidents resulted in the injured person requiring time off of work.

The survey also demonstrated that employers are failing to protect workers who work outside and are exposed to extreme weather (heat and cold). A total of 46% of respondents said that their employer made no special provisions for them working in extreme weather.

Mr Murphy added: “The findings of this survey are alarming and demonstrate that far more needs to be done in order to improve workplace safety. Employers are playing fast and loose with the safety of workers. When considering these findings it also must be remembered that in general levels of safety are higher in union organised workplaces.”

Over 750 UCATT members took part in the survey.

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