Managing your health and safety briefing process on mobile can save you time, futureproof projects, and reduce risk in your workforce.
All industries have some level of risk associated with them, however, some are more prone to dangers than others. The rail and construction industries certainly fall under this bracket; the manual nature of these sectors presents numerous health and safety risks. This is why clear, thorough health and safety briefings throughout a rail or construction workforce are so important.
There are many factors that play a part in making the construction and rail working environment high-risk. In an ever-changing environment, sites often require employees to handle heavy loads, work at a height, and operate large machinery, to name a few. Statistics from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the construction industry is responsible for a third of fatal injuries that occur in the workplace, as well as 10% of other major work-related injuries. Injuries and fatalities typically occur as a result of workers falling from a height, being struck by moving objects such as an oncoming train, or being crushed by vehicles or machinery.
Rail and construction workers are also susceptible to work-related illnesses, including vibration white finger, carpal tunnel syndrome, occupational deafness. In addition to this, fatigue is a widespread issue within these highly manual industries, which can affect the quality and safety of work being carried out. If not managed effectively, fatigue can lead to burnout and subsequent loss of workers.
It’s because of all these potential dangers that stringent health and safety measures must be clearly communicated and implemented to keep workers and employers alike protected.
Why are health and safety briefings so important in rail and construction?
Health and safety briefings are vital as they offer critical information on the risks and how to avoid them, giving everyone involved the knowledge they need to safely get the job done. It cannot be stressed enough how important this is within a high-risk rail or construction setting; these briefings can quite literally make the difference between life and death.
Additionally, the repercussions of unsatisfactory health and safety measures span much further than danger to workers; the risks to business stability are considerable. If a worker was to be injured and subsequently require time off work, for example, the business would lose a significant number of man hours and productivity, which has a detrimental impact on the profitability of the company.
There’s also the issues faced from a legal standpoint. By failing to implement and maintain the proper health and safety measures, a rail or construction business is at risk of breaking the law and facing fines from the relevant governing body (the HSE for construction and the ORR for rail). More severe cases can also result in the company being banned from operating, as well as being sued by employees or passersby who have been affected by the lack of health and safety measures.
Some rail and construction businesses have had their memberships or accreditations from industry bodies confiscated, when they have failed to abide by health and safety law. As a result, the business’s reputation is damaged, sometimes beyond repair.
With so many risks associated with the rail and construction industries, both from a human and business standpoint, it pays dividends to implement proper health and safety protocol.
Nutshell Apps vastly improved safety throughout the Murphy Rail workforce with a suite of bespoke apps.
Where does the health and safety information come from?
The health- and safety-critical information comes from a range of different sources. Firstly the works must be planned in line with information from the relevant health and safety industry body such as the RSSB for rail or the HSE for construction. These bodies have published strategies and standards which must be followed and briefed to the rest of the team.
Health and safety information also comes from a detailed analysis of any dangers present on that specific work site and regular risk assessments, carried out by assigned inspectors.
The health and safety brief must be drawn up before any works are allowed to be started. Once the work has been planned, the health and safety industry body must be notified for sign-off and to provide a certificate.
Who does the health and safety information need to be communicated to?
The information needs to be communicated throughout the entire rail or construction workforce to ensure everyone is aware of all the associated risks and how to avoid them. There is usually a hierarchy-based flow of information, for example in the rail industry the safety information will be communicated from the RSSB to the Person in Charge or PIC, who will then draw up the safe systems of work documentation. These then must be relayed to the COSS, and then the workers on site must be fully briefed before work can go ahead.
The most important member of the team to be informed on health and safety protocol is the supervisor. Both construction and rail sites need to be closely monitored, with assigned supervisors ensuring everyone is working in a safe manner. Levels of training and experience should be taken into consideration when deciding on who should supervise the work on site.
The inspectors involved must also have the adequate safety information to hand in order to carry out the checks to a high standard.
What challenges are associated with paper-based health and safety processes?
There are considerable challenges associated with a paper-based health and safety briefing document, particularly in the rail and construction industries. From an administrative point of view, the volume of inspections and information to be recorded creates a mountain of paperwork to fill out and then communicate. This is made even more difficult due to the disparate nature of the rail and construction industries; relaying updates is an arduous task when distributing across miles of track or site.
More importantly, from a safety perspective, the time it takes for safety-critical information to reach the relevant worker creates a communication lag, meaning workers are left in the dark to potential risks. With safety, time is of the essence – a few minutes can make the difference between life or death. For example, a line block could have been improperly implemented and so there is danger of an oncoming train hitting a worker. This is why it’s so important to have real-time communication flowing between workers on site and in the back office.
There is also the issue of passing physical forms in itself. In a time of a global pandemic, human interactions are being seriously restricted to reduce the transmission of infection. Workers within the manual rail and construction sectors need to be particularly aware of working in a Covid-compliant manner — the paper-and-pen approach makes this difficult.
Human error and lost forms are a common occurrence when using a paper-based approach, which jeopardises health and safety auditing. If a crucial piece of information is lost, it can’t be communicated and an accident could occur. This is in addition to the fines a business could incur if they are found to be lacking on safety-critical information.
What is a health and safety briefing app and why should my business implement one?
A digital app solution makes it possible to brief all staff in relevant health and safety procedures when they’re on the go. They can access this vital information instantaneously from their personal device, wherever and whenever, which leads to safer working behaviours. A traditional health and safety briefing at work would be in person, delivered once to a group who could potentially be distracted, mishear, or forget certain protocol. By having all the details on their person at all times, they are empowered to protect themselves and have no excuse for not following guidance.
The obvious factor of paper costs needs to be taken into consideration here; as there are so many health and safety measures to enforce in rail and construction, there is subsequently a huge stack of paperwork associated with them. An app instantly eliminates this cost and administrative nightmare, which also frees up your staff to concentrate on the work at hand, boosting productivity.
Saving information in the cloud is a much more robust method than filling out then filing paper forms. An app solution keeps all information stored safely in one digital space, making lost forms a thing of the past. This safeguards the business against penalties while ensuring your staff are fully informed on health and safety procedures.
What health and safety briefing apps are there to choose from?
There are plenty of health and safety app solutions on the market for varying business needs. Here are a few options that we think stand out from the pack:
Safesite provides a wide range of health and safety form templates in their app library for quick and easy implementation. These include safety inspections, audits and checklists, and incident reports, all available across iOS and Android. These forms are set up in a standardised way, so may not include all the specifics a construction or rail business may need, but is an easy option for those businesses looking for something quick and simple. There is the option to upload your own existing forms into this platform, but you have to do this yourself rather than having a member of the development team create something bespoke.
Nutshell can create bespoke, company-branded apps that mimic your specific health and safety procedures. We realise that businesses within rail and construction all have slightly different forms and processes, so a one-size-fits-all approach wouldn’t work. Nutshell also boasts an offline mode, which is a crucial feature for the rail and construction industries; many areas of the worksite will have little to no internet availability. This feature eliminates the dreaded issue of lost information and maintains a clear audit trail. Additionally, you can save your health and safety briefing template so you don’t have to continuously create forms from scratch.
This app monitors and detects falls specifically for the industries that are most susceptible. With features like a send for help button, automatic fall detection and a siren alarm, it is an effective platform for responding to risk. However you may want something which covers all health and safety bases. While falls pose a major risk particularly within the construction sector, there are other dangers at play which need to be monitored carefully.
Health and safety briefing is an essential part of high-risk rail and construction projects, however it doesn’t have to be such an arduous task. A paper-based approach hinders the clear, up-to-date communication that is crucial to worker safety. Knowledge is power, and having all the information they need in an app at their fingertips, wherever and whenever they need it, empowers them to work in as safe a manner as possible at all times.