Trailing Cables – The Law and what it means to you.
Over the past four decades since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), a wave of health and safety laws and regulations have been brought in to reduce the accidents and fatalities synonymous with the construction industry. It’s currently the most dangerous land based industry in Europe (with fishing being the most dangerous overall) and trailing cables are a major hazard that we feel aren't properly addressed.
Site management teams have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of their employees.
“It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.” Health and safety at work Act (1974)
The term 'reasonably practicable' is used several times in the HSWA and it refers to the level of risk and the precautions that should be in place regarding that risk. For example, people working on the roof should wear a harness. These are expensive and have to be regularly checked and tested but the risk of someone falling off is high and the injury severe. Therefore, it’s reasonably practicable to spend any amount of money to mitigate that risk.
"Where you need cables for temporary lighting or mains-powered tools, run them at high level, especially along corridors"
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who are the legal body responsible for enforcing the HSWA (1974) address the issue of trailing cables in the construction section of their website, stating:
“Where you need cables for temporary lighting or mains-powered tools, run them at high level, especially along corridors.” - Health and safety at work Act. (1974)
It’s important to note that every single building site in the country will require temporary lighting, power and mains-powered tools at some stage. The majority of heavy duty power tools require mains power of 110v and any sizeable building will require temporary lighting throughout until the permanent light fixtures go in place which is often at the end of the project (see image above).
Also, due to the fact that mains power in the UK is 240v and the maximum allowed on site is 110v, each site needs at least one transformer that is connected to the mains 240v power and has plug outlets that provide 110v power.
The recent rise in personal injury lawyers has made it incredibly easy for people who have had accidents to make a claim against their employer often on a no win no fee basis.
Dedicated to the issue of trailing cables in the workplace
Farleys Solicitors LLP are a leading personal injury firm with a section dedicated to the issue of trailing cables in the workplace. Here’s a quote from their website:
“The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) requires your employer to ensure the safety of all employees whilst in the workplace, whilst the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require that floors are free from obstructions, such as trailing cables." https://www.farleys.com/solicitors-for-you/personal-injury/accidents-at-work/tripping-over-trailing-cables/ - 23/06/14
The high chance of someone making a claim if they’ve had an accident has created a ‘blame culture’ within the construction industry.
If someone has an accident, or something goes wrong, there must always be someone to blame. Although it’s widely stated that every one on site is responsible for health and safety, there’s always one person who is ultimately responsible for a sites safety and it is this person who is ultimately to blame if someone is injured. This person is the health and safety officer and they will be the key personnel we will be targeting within the construction companies.
Dave Jordan, a Construction Inspector from the Health and Safety Executive addresses the issue by stating:
“The most common reasons for slip and trip accidents are that corridors or stairs are obstructed with materials or waste, lighting cables are strewn around on the floor, footpaths aren’t properly stoned or leveled, and simple things like steps into site cabins aren't built properly.”
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The Solution to Trailing Cables