The online survey of members of construction union Ucatt revealed that employers have a long way to go to persuade their employees that safety really matters.
Of the construction workers questioned, 55% of respondents said that they had seen no improvement in safety on their sites in the last 12 months, while 11% actually felt that their workplace had become more dangerous. 21% did not believe that their employer took their health and safety seriously.
The three biggest safety concerns were falls from heights, manual handling/lifting and stress. The survey also highlighted continued failings by employers to ensure that workers are not exposed to asbestos. While not all survey respondents were likely to encounter asbestos hazards in their daily work, 60% said that they might. Of these, 36% 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 or on what to do if asbestos was discovered.
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.
Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy said of the survey findings: “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.”
On asbestos in particular, he added: “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.”