We found this article on Construction News by Lucy Alderson and felt that it was an important discussion which needs to be addressed throughout the industry.
A scaffolder accidentally drops his spanner 50 m above ground, down into the middle of a busy construction site.
It lands on someone’s foot and breaks it, forcing that worker to take eight weeks off work. Yet it could have been much worse.
That spanner could have landed on a worker’s head, or on someone’s back as they were picking up materials.
The risk of hypothetical scenarios like this becoming all too real increases significantly among those workers who are physically and mentally exhausted, working long shifts up to seven days a week – in some cases for months on end.
Research suggests that inadequate sleep can increase the chances of an accident by almost 10 per cent among those working on site.
Concentration dwindles, awareness of your surroundings lowers and reactions are reduced.
All of this makes fatigue a hazard on site that must be closely monitored.
For an industry that is now so focused on raising health and safety standards, you would think that tackling this culture of long working hours would be a major consideration.
Yet CN has seen numerous instances of job adverts for 15-hour and 16-hour-a-day roles on two high-profile projects: Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium and the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (although the main contractors were not involved in the creation of these adverts).
Such long shifts are far from uncommon across the industry – especially when there are plenty of workers willing to put in these hours.
But the benefits of having all hands on deck for as long as possible must be weighed against the risks of running your workforce into the ground, both physically and mentally.
CN has revealed today that Mace has written to the MDs of subcontractors on the £800m Spurs project stressing the importance of safe working hours in response to our investigation.
It is promising to see Mace take steps to tackle this issue.
However, the wider industry is not being as proactive as it could be in addressing excessive working hours.
No doubt tight deadlines and even tighter margins are driving some contractors to put in as many hours as possible, one health and safety director at a major contractor tells me.
Yet the longer these attitudes to working hours persist, the more likely serious accidents become.
If the industry allows this mindset to fester, it risks project deadlines being prioritised above the health, safety and wellbeing of the workforce.