pwa wrote: mikeymo wrote:
Building sites are, by very definition, unfinished. Because they are unfinished they are inherently less predictable places than most, and combining that with lots of serious machinery makes them relatively dangerous places. Why wear a hard hat? there might be low scaffolding bars at routine head-head in places with no lights installed yet. Why not bother in the finished building? Because the roofs are all 8 feet up and the corridors are well lit.
If you look at risk management systems they place PPE at the bottom of the pile and they put engineering the risks out higher up. On a building site it's harder to removed the risk with engineering because you haven't finished doing the engineering yet, so you've brought up a false equivalence. Another place where everyone routinely wears PPE is potholing and caving. Why not re-engineer the caves? Because then you'd destroy the very thing you wanted to experience. Having said that you'll find discreet recessed bolt hangers for ladder & rope anchors because they have minimal visual and environmental impact and they do give you predictable places to hang your lines. But everyone will wear wellies with steel toe caps and hard hats.
PPE does have its place, but that place is where you can't reasonably tackle the main risks in other ways.
As a matter of interest, have you spent much time working on building sites?
I have and a lot of the time the PPE makes no immediate sense. Like having to wear safety glasses while planting shrubs around a newly constructed old folks home because somewhere else on site somebody might be drilling something. And a hard hat too, with no scaffolding in sight and only the birds above. The PPE can be a nuisance in circumstances like that. BUT my point is that safety on building sites has improved markedly in recent decades, with PPE use insisted on. The PPE has not been the main driver of this improved safety. The main driver has been the creation of a safety culture with every activity risk assessed and conducted with safety in mind. People have not been putting on PPE and thinking that is all they need to do for safety. If they had been doing that the PPE might actually have been counter-productive, making people feel safe when they are not.
I mostly agree. "Culture of safety" is the right phrase. And quite often that culture changes, in part, because of enforcement of one sort or another. Construction is famously macho, and even 30 years ago we had to nag like hell to get workers, especially the younger "tough" ones to take it seriously. The old ones, not so much, as they had frequently seen a thing or two.
Although it's not the same domain, I would argue that changes in attitudes to social equality have happened in part because of legislation, anti-discrimination laws, same-sex marriage etc. If people get used to the idea of a man and his husband, same sex relationships become a little more normalised. Similarly, if people see PPE being used, even if sometimes its usefulness is doubtful (often dependent on the exact use case) a culture of safety, the idea that safety is important and needs thinking about, develops. So a lot, or maybe even most, of the time, even if a particular item of PPE isn't actually reducing risk, if it doesn't actually do any harm, then using is still better than not, because it contributes to a culture of safety.
I agree with you about helmets. I left construction in the early 80s, and haven't worn one since. Well, apart from at the Albert Hall (clang!), and that was for comic effect, at the request of Bonnie Langford (double clang!). Most of the sites I worked on, both as a labourer and as an engineer, were flat open civil engineering sites, with not much to fall on me. Though I enforced helmet wearing on the occasions we used explosives. Some of the occasions when helmets were useful (confined spaces) were actually also when standard issued site helmets were a damned nuisance, and something like climbers helmets would have been better.
I'm not sure I'd agree with you about safety glasses. I've got things in my eyes when I wouldn't expect to. I had to go to hospital to get a particularly stubborn spec of gypsum plaster out when I was labouring for a plasterer. Small things can come at you from the most unexpected directions.
The thing about much of the PPE used in construction is that there are many examples of downsides that counter the upsides.
Eye protection stops things going in your eyes, but also limits visibility, sometimes a lot, if the glasses are old, scratched or prone to misting. That in itself may introduce more risk*.
Helmets increase height, and in cramped spaces enough to make movement difficult.
Masks make breathing uncomfortable and I feel that they increase body temperature (don't know if that's true).
Ear protection means you can't hear. Which is both a pro and a con. Though having now developed mild tinnitus I wish I had paid more attention to what I already knew was a risk in the music industry. And if there had been a law, and it had been enforced
, I wouldn't be cursing myself.
I still do some work around my house, and if I have the full kit on, safety glasses, anti-cut gloves, ear defenders, heavy jacket, I do sometimes think - "blimey, this is a bit claustrophobic". But I do it, because I think on balance I'm at less risk.
*As an aside, when I saw the very high price of some cycling glasses, I got a job lot of dirt cheap safety glasses from Screwfix. Which I use when I'm out cycling and there's a lot of beasties about.