Health and safety: ‘Attitudes are changing but there’s more to do’

John Crockett: The health and safety of remote workers is key

LOOKING back over more than 40 years in construction and health and safety, Acorn’s Health and Safety Manager John Crockett has seen it all.

From the use of bucket toilets for staff working on construction sites in the 1970s to the present day where he is playing a leading role as health and safety partner on a multi-million-pound solar farm park in Devon, John has dedicated much of his working life to keeping people safe.

His career began at the age of 17 when he started working for his uncle on a construction site earning £10 a day. He moved into health and safety in the 1990s as he was initially fascinated by investigations. Here, he explains more about the way health and safety in general is changing.

Health and safety: ‘Attitudes continue to change’

John explained: “I like to find out what’s going on, why things have happened and how we can improve upon them.

“Over the years people’s attitudes to health and safety have changed a lot.

“It used to be that people wanted to see what they could get away with quickly and cheaply whereas nowadays they are much more concerned about safety. It’s important that this message comes from the top of firms though and that people are aware of their roles and responsibilities.

“Even now though, that’s not always the case. I do refresher courses and even architects are surprised by some of the things I tell them they should be doing to be compliant. Designers must be aware of hazards and identify how they are going to control or eliminate them.”

Offering guidance and support when it is needed most

With a wealth of experience under his belt, John remains one of the UK’s leading health and safety experts, offering support and advice to a growing number of high street businesses, taking part in lectures and presentations to a wide range of institutions, including the Chartered Association of Building Engineers and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and working on major projects including the installation of a state-of-the-art pharmacy at Northampton General Hospital.

He said: “There is no doubt that the health and safety industry is changing.

“Technology leads the way, and advances in equipment such as machinery guarding and suspension rescue packs which can be used if an operative becomes unresponsive while suspended, are undoubtedly making sites much safer. But there are also enormous challenges.

“People don’t usually contact health and safety experts until it’s too late. If an accident happens, they will bring in an external consultant in to record it and say what can be done about it.

“But to avoid serious incidents, clients need to be more proactive and get health and safety experts involved in their projects right at the beginning. If we are employed at the start, we understand the project and the client can take our lead.”

Never cut corners when it comes to health and safety

With businesses now facing the threat of recession and economic uncertainty, John fears that some may choose to cut corners when it comes to fulfilling their health and safety obligations.

“Despite being banned in new buildings more than 20 years ago, asbestos remains one of the biggest threats we face in the UK and yet it still isn’t taken as seriously as it should be.

“This year, we’ve seen a real increase in the numbers of businesses who have been fined for not keeping up to date with their surveys and not doing so will undoubtedly put lives at risk. The same is true of fire risk assessments and legionella testing, which need to carried out regularly to be effective.

“The simple truth is that the cost of not keeping up with health and safety is much greater than the cost of arranging an asbestos survey or risk assessment and the rules are in place for a reason.”

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