An expanding Dorset company at the forefront of efforts to cut construction industry workplace deaths and injuries is urging other firms to follow suit.
Steel decking manufacturing and installation firm SMD demands all site operatives adhere to stringent workplace health and safety regulations due to the hazardous nature of working at height.
But what sets Poole-based SMD apart from most competitors is that it directly employs site operatives rather than utilising sub-contractors and so is wholly accountable for their welfare.
Therefore SMD has for many years booked accommodation for site operatives working away from home in national chain hotels to ensure they are fresh for work every day.
Health & Safety Executive (HSE) provisional data released in July reveals there were 30 UK construction industry fatalities in 2016/17 – including 12 falls from height – although the annual average number of deaths over the last five years is 39. The latest full-year HSE statistics available show there were 66,000 non-fatal injuries in the construction industry in 2015/16 – 20 per cent of which were falls from height – resulting in 400,000 work days lost.
SMD Business Development Director Dan Williams said: “We take health and safety very seriously – our operatives are working at height in a high risk and hazardous construction environment.
“It is imperative that they are fully alert, refreshed and 100 per cent fit for work when arriving on site each day – and that’s why we feel it is vital to manage their accommodation.
“This is certainly not a cheap option, but because we prioritise health and safety we invest a significant amount of time, effort and money to ensure every aspect of our business is absolutely right.”
Dan added that some companies had been known to pay their staff an accommodation allowance, although workers would sometimes prefer to spend the night in less-than-adequate accommodation or even in the back of a van.
He said: “We know exactly where our workers are sleeping. We will not entertain a system of paying a hotel allowance and looking the other way if staff chose not to use it, with no thought to the effects on their tiredness or safety.
Dan added: “Companies turning a blind eye to the whereabouts of their staff for sleeping arrangements is something SMD wants to stamp out, as it saddles the construction industry as a whole with a bad reputation.”
Evaluation of the scheme from SMD site operatives has included ‘It takes away the hassles and responsibility of having to find accommodation’ and ‘we just have to turn up at the hotel and eat, sleep and sometimes use the gym’.
SMD, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, has its HQ in Tower Park, Poole, bases in Leeds, Nottingham and Glasgow, a satellite office in Dubai and a design base in India.
The company, founded in Ringwood in 1987, has carried out more than 200 construction projects locally, including at the RNLI headquarters in Poole, Bournemouth Airport and Bournemouth University.