Health and safety is important in any workplace, whether or not it uses temporary structures. Employers have a legal duty of care and, while the tabloids may report on many cases of apparently frivolous health and safety decisions, the reality is that breaches lead to numerous deaths and serious injuries every year.
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) replaced the previous CDM 2007 regulations and quite simply, as the guidance states, “these regulations cover the management of health, safety and welfare when carrying out construction projects”.
When using temporary building structures, it is safe to say the key issue is how the new rules apply to small-scale projects.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance notes a number of areas that are highlighted by the new regulations and are central to the maintenance of health and safety.
Falls from height is a big issue, with the guidance noting that ladders need to be in a good condition, should be set up at a 1:4 angle and tied or footed to ensure they stay in place.
Other measures include making sure fragile roof surfaces are covered and that netting or other edge protection can guard against falls from roofs.
With any new structure steps must be taken to ensure it does not collapse, with the right support structures being required to ensure walls, ceilings and beams are secure. This, of course, would apply to temporary and permanent structures alike.
What does not apply
Of course, there are some important regulations that are unlikely to be applicable to the use of temporary structures. These would include maintenance work and anything involving asbestos, with the latter issue only applying to older buildings in which the fireproof substance was installed before it was banned due to the health risks it poses becoming known.
Similarly, because temporary structures are not established on foundations, the digging work this covers and issues arising from it – like the risk of excavation channels collapsing – is unlikely to be relevant.
Falls from height remain a big issue, as do general concerns like making sure visitors to a site are kept safe. Keeping a health and safety log also matters, because failure to report any incidents to the HSE is an offence.
Overall, the ultimate principle is that laid down in the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, which stipulates: “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.”
It is important that those bringing in temporary structures make sure that they are compliant. If needs be, they can seek guidance on any areas of uncertainty from the HSE. Ultimately, however, the key is to be sensible, plan work to make it safe and do not take unnecessary risks.