This report is written on 07/02/2015 following Health and Safety inspection of Capstan construction site in Kutno, Poland. Capstan project involves approximately three hundred people working on ap. 20 000 square meters, the aim is to build a snack factory. The factory will include main production building, utilities building, waste water treatment plant and other facilities.
The factory main building is already erected, wrapped with sandwich panels. The project has already reached its milestone but there is still a lot of works performed on site. Most of them, inside of the building. Civils, mechanical works, pipe installation (hot works) and Manufacturing machinery installation are main activities at the moment. There are also pressure and other tests carried on. The works are being performed by 8 contractors and their subcontractors. Each has at least one works supervisor and one first aider with certification. Construction Management company with 25 engineers staff is managing the project on the spot and supervising all the works.
Inadequate access and egress routes inside of the main building make it a high-traffic area with too many pedestrians and mobile elevating work platforms or forklifts passing by every hour. Outside is not bad, pedestrian paths and a road for vehicles are both separated and kept clean. There are signs informing about speed limit and a ‘zebra’ straps marked for crossing the road.
Every task must be first planned and introduced in a method statement including time and equipment used (Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007),
Despite a large amount of time spent on trainings, working at height is an issue to be solved. Some of workers were wearing their safety harnesses incorrectly, or did not anchor themselves while working. Mobile Elevating Work Platforms should be operated only by certified operators. There was equipment out of date for inspection found on site. Working at heights is one of the biggest killers in construction, therefore there must be an extra care and awareness along all the people involved.
Hot works is a big issue on this contruction site. Cutting, grinding and welding are only allowed when Permit-to-work has been issued. Permits are clear instructions and a source of information for both workers and supervisors, yet lack of firefighting accessories, lack of fire watch after works are completed and poor housekeeping are everyday threat.
Cabling and electrical works should also be improved. Many cables were found lying without protection on the floors easy to be damaged by MEWP, they are a trip hazard for people and, if destroyed, may cause an electric shock.
Main findings of the inspection
Working at height
There are MEWP (mobile elevation work platforms), scaffolds and ladders used every day on site. Despite of a monthly inspection, some of the above equipment was found damaged and missing manufacture manual instructions. Before using MEWP, all the documentation of each machine must be checked (Ustawa z dnia 21 grudnia 200r o dozorze technicznym Dz.U.z 2013, poz. 963) according to Polish law. Also, this documentation should be on the workplace for all times attached to the machine. All the works at heights, including MEWP are marked as a dangerous zone. Workers must use a safety tape to barrier they area and protect people from falling objects.
All works at height must be performed with fall protection system. International (Amendment of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulation 1998/2005) and Polish (Rozporzadzenie Ministra Pracy I Polityki Socjalnej, 26/09/1997 no. 169, 1650) laws are clear about this matter. To prevent falling and death risk, no worker is allowed to work at heights without ‘harness training’. Workers are using safety harness when working above 1 meter height. This PPE must be not only visually inspected each time before and after use but also annually checked by a proper company / third party organization. This inspection should result with a mark or certificate as ‘good to use’. Without such proof, no harness should be used.
Mobile scaffolds must be erected, used and maintained according to its design and manufacturer instruction to prevent displacement and collapse ( ILO R175, art.17) Only after an inspection made by a certified engineer, works on scaffold are allowed. Workers should always check by themselves if the scaffold is levelled, wheels are blocked and authorised to use by an inspector.
Lack of anchoring, safety harness worn too loose or damaged, missing parts of scaffolds are one of the most common problems found during inspection. The management must take care of these matters every day putting pressure on daily inspections of the equipment, placing barriers where applicable and wearing safety harness according to manufacturer instructions. The indirect costs of WAT accident may be crucial for an organisation, moreover, potencial loss of a human life and living with responsibility of somebody’s death are higher cost than any money.
Fire is one of the main dangers on construction site. Along with WAT, it can cost life, time ‘ dalay, loss of property, materials, equipment. It is much cheaper and easier to prevent fire than maintain the workplace after fire occure.
When hot works performed, there must be Permit- to- work system introduced. Also, ongoing supervision is a must in order to execute all the actions/ preventive measurements included in a hot work, method statement, risk assessment, safety plan and a legislation of a country we work in.
Before working, all the flammable materials must be removed, area should be barried and marked as a Hot Works Zone/Workshop. Fire blankets and extinguishers must be always on the work place and gas cylinders kept properly: stored vertically, minimum 10 meters from the flame, secured in order not to fall. Works can be performed after supervisor check the workplace comparing to measures and information from a Hot Work Permit.
Every activity with using electricity must be supervised. Labels, LOTO procedures, Work Permit, are one of the ways to avoid shock, death and burns. Only certified electricians and engineers should have access to life electricity. All the cables and electrical tools must be checked by an authorised inspector once a month, and labelled according to a ‘sticker system’. Each month has its own colour and all the equipment missing current label is being removed from a work place immediately. In order to avoid damage and tripping, all the cables lying on the floor must be protected.
The temperature inside of the building was less than 10C. Hand function drops very fast in the cold. Workers are forced to perform activities with safety gloves which are not warm enough for them, and tend to restrict hand movement. Workers are also at risk of cold stress injuries. According to International Labour Organisation (Ambient Factors in the Workplace, paragraph 8.4.) the employer has a responsibility to lower the risks connected with cold workplace. The temperature held in the work area is unacceptable.Workers must be provided with more heating.
Moreover, the lighting went on and off during the inspection making it very difficult for people to work, and creating a very dangerous Environment.
With that amount of traffic and works at heights, problem with lightening is a huge risk. Tripping and falling along with collisions are more likely to happen, especially during late/night shifts.
A Lack of breakfast break was also noted, workers are only allowed to have a lunch break. This is inadequate, especially taking under consideration the low temperatures in the workplace.
Housekeeping standards aren’t bad, but can be higher. Tripping and slipping hazards should be taken under consideration and removed.
Chemical substances must be stored properly, marked with safety signs, labelled and kept as the manufacturer recommends. Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) should be attached in the area and available for everyone involved to read.
The amount of supervisors on site would be enough if not for a poor safety culture among engineers. Health and Safety matters are only HSE department problem according to many people on site. Safety should be everyone responsibility and priority.
Working at heights must be taken seriously at all times, ongoing inspections of MEWP, scaffolds, laders and fall arrest PPE is very important, sharing awareness throughout contractors by trainings should be carried out.
Fire is a grate cost in many dimensions. Therefore, Hot Works must be done as carefully as possible. The area must be checked before, during and after performing works. This takes less time, than delay and loss caused by fire.
Welfare is a big issue, the organisation must improve lightetnig and rise the temperature in order to avoid workers sick leave payments or legal threats.
All in all, the safety culture and supervision must be improved, Hot Works, Electrical works must be authorised by a Permit- to- Work, WAT supervised. Each activity on site is a potential risk of harm for people working around.