The Principles of Prevention
Updated: Aug 29, 2018
When carrying out construction work, understanding and implementing the principles of prevention will help with ensuring that you protect the health, safety and welfare of workers and anyone who may be affected by work activities.
The Principles of Prevention are key requirement of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
So what are the Principles of Prevention and how might we apply them?
1. Avoid risks
The most effective way to avoid the risk is to eliminate the hazard that increases the likelihood of risk.
Example: When cutting any sand based product which could be bricks, blocks, paving slabs etc. The use of water based dust suppression will eliminate the introduction of silica dust into the atmosphere/ working environment.
2. Evaluate the risks that can’t be avoided
When evaluating the risks, communication between all duty holders (Client, Principal Designer, Designers, Principal Contractor and Contractors) at the pre construction stage is critical. Health and Safety must be a key consideration when designs are proposed and they must be subject to design reviews.
Keep a written record of all design evaluation and pass on all essential information to other duty holders.
Remember: The Principal Designer is the conduit through which all project information should flow and subsequently be passed on to all other duty holders.
Once the project reaches the construction phase. Project specific risk assessments and method statements should be prepared, implemented, monitored and reviewed. Significant findings must be recorded and changes made there required.
Remember: When it comes to risk assessments. Think dynamic and not generic.
3. Combat the risks at source
Address all risks that have been identified and deal with them at source. Risks can be addressed by introducing control measures and all control measures need to be effective in reducing the risk.
Example: Carpentry and joinery work creates dust from wood and mdf which can be harmful if inhaled. Using power tools such as circular saws, reciprocating saws, jig saws and sanders creates a dust that’s finer than dust created by using hand tools. Most power tools associated with carpentry and joinery now come with connection points for attaching mechanical dust extraction. Capturing the dust at the point of creation is an example of combating the risk at source.
4. Adapt the work to the individual
Workers come in all different shapes and sizes and we all have physical limitations. As well as physical limitations, the ability to analyse and implement instructions can also vary and this needs to be considered when thinking about working methods, the choice of work equipment and the workplace layout.
Example: Repetitive tasks can be monotonous which can lead to an increased risk. Rotating the work among additional workers can be one way of reducing the risks involved with repetitive tasks.
Work environments that are too noisy, to cold or as has been the case in the UK this summer: exceptionally hot, may lead to a more stressful working environment or increase the likelihood of risks already identified. Consultation with the workforce, specifically those who carry out the work can be a really successful way to reduce the risk.
Remember: Consultation with your workforce has many positive benefits such as improving the culture of safety within your organisation, underpinning your organisations commitment to health and safety, improving the culture of communication within your organisation and improving productivity.
5. Adapt to technical progress
Technical progress within the workplace improves year on year and will continue to influence the modern workplace. Make sure your organisation is informed of the latest technical developments, advances in working methods, new products and materials that come to market and the latest advances in work equipment.
Example: Battery technology has seen huge technological advances in the last few years. This has in turn led to many construction sites introducing a policy of battery power only. While 110v is not prohibited in construction sites, many sites will new insist on a permit to work for the use of 110v.
All of the major professional power tool manufactures are now paying close attention to HAVS (Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome) and are bringing products to market that vastly reduce the risk of HAVS though engineered dampening systems built into the tools.
An instant benefit of considering the two examples above would be a reduction in slips, trips and falls (no 110v trailing leads). A reduction in musculoskeletal disorders (no heavy transformers to carry or move) and a reduction in the risk of HAVS.
Remember: Making sure that your organisation is aware of the latest technological advances their implementation will lead to reduced risks, improved performance, better ergonomics and increased productivity.
6. Replace the dangerous with the non dangerous/ less dangerous
Known as substitution. This is achieved by looking at the overall task and considering the working environment, any plant and tools that may be required to complete the task and also the materials that are to be used. When looking at each element within the task, you should consider whether risks within individual elements can be reduced thus contributing to a greater reduction in risk for the overall task.
Example: Substituting solvent based paints for water based paints thus reducing the risk of allergic contact dermatitis, eliminating flammable liquids on site, the storage of flammable liquids on site and possible COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
Substituting 7N concrete blocks for 3.5N ultra lightweight concrete blocks where engineering design allows, thus reducing musculoskeletal disorders from manual handling.
7. Develop o coherent overall prevention policy
How do we control the risks? To effectively control the risks we need to develop an overall prevention policy that considers the whole safety system within and organisation and individual projects.
To achieve an coherent overall prevention policy the following items will need to be considered:
The organisational structureManagement of the projects
Communication within the organisation
Communication channels within the projects
The culture of health and safety within an organisation
Senior management’s commitment to positive culture
The workplace environment
The wider environment.
Remember: Commitment to developing a coherent overall prevention policy is not a one step process that will generate overnight success. Each specific area needs to be looked at individually and also collectively and performance targets need to be set which are also realistic. Some of the areas that need to be considered can be evaluated and actioned quickly. Some make take weeks and others will take months to implement successfully or even years.
Improving the culture within an organisation can happen in a relatively short space of time but is unlikely to be achieved by throwing money at the problem.
Improving the culture within an organisation takes a strong and decisive approach from all tiers of management and in particular, a strong commitment from senior management/ the company director/s. If the senior management team don’t believe neither will anyone else.
Behavioural Based Safety is a long term strategy that requires commitment from all employees with the whole of the organisation and positive leadership and commitment from the top tiers of management. Think years not months for the successful implementation of BBS.
8. Give collective protective measures priority over individual protective measures
If we can implement control measures or eliminate hazards collectively for everyone on a construction site, this has to take priority over any individual control measures that you could implement. Personal protective measures do little or nothing to prevent accidents occurring and if they fail they often fail to danger.
Priority is always given to the collective measure. PPE should always be a last resort.
Example: When cutting sand based products for example: bricks, blocks, paving slabs etc. The use of water based dust suppression will eliminate the introduction of silica dust into the atmosphere/ working environment. This is a collective measure that will protect everybody from the dangers of silica dust. If the worker who is cutting sand-based products chooses to wear RPE (Respiratory protective equipment) while cutting sand based products, they are the only person on that construction site who is protected from the occupational health issues associated with silica dust. Whether or not they are actually protected will depend on the RPE used, whether it has been face fitted/ tested for fit to that worker and whether it has been properly stored/ cleaned/ maintained.
At best, the individual control measure will protect one person and still depends on many factors. The collective measure which is dust suppression will protect everyone on the construction site, be it two workers or two hundred workers.
9. Give appropriate instructions to employees
All employers have a duty to provide information, instruction, training and supervision. Often known as I.I.T.S. Appropriate instructions should describe the risks associated with the particular task and this includes the task itself, materials to be used and any tools/plant or machinery.
Instruction should be comprehensive and relevant and most importantly it should be communicated in such a way that it it understood by all workers.
Remember: Good communication is the key to instructions given on site and this could include incorporating the following techniques:
Daily activity briefings
Information should be in a form that is easy to understand and should ensure that everyone working for you should know what they are expected to do.
Health and safety training should take place during working hours and it must not be paid for by employees.
All employees need access to appropriate instruction and in addition to that, you should also consider the additional needs of:
People changing jobs or taking on extra responsibilities
People returning to work following a period of absence