HSE: Who is responsible for the death of builders?

The Health and Safety Executive outlines its approach to preventing unnecessary deaths caused by exposure to dust on construction sites.

HSE: Who is responsible for the death of builders?

Thousands die every year from lung diseases caused by the job they do – this is wrong and needs to stop. Workers in construction develop lung cancer, silicosis and other chronic diseases that put a stop to any enjoyment of life and sadly often lead to an early death.

The Health and Safety Executive wants to prevent unnecessary deaths caused by exposure to dust on construction sites.

Up and down the country lives are devastated and these individual tragedies go largely unreported. HSE wants every construction worker, major contractor, specialist trade people, and workers across Scotland to be aware of the risks from dust, and to know how to stay safe.

HSE is not prepared to stand on the sidelines, to watch and document death and disease from exposure to dust. Our ‘Dust Kills’ campaign aims to raise awareness of the risks and encourage contractors and workers to visit our campaign website to get guidance on how to protect their long-term health.

HSE inspectors are visiting construction sites across England, Scotland and Wales throughout October to check the control measures in place to protect lives.

It’s easy to dismiss dust as an inevitable nuisance. It is far from that. 3,500 construction workers die every year from cancers related to exposure to dust, and many more succumb to other severe chronic lung diseases. These deaths are preventable. 

HSE is committed to raising awareness of the long-term health risks caused by exposure to dust. Our national consciousness of the basic need to breathe freely in order to survive has been brought into sharp relief by the Covid-19 pandemic. Families and communities across the UK and globally have been devastated by this respiratory disease. Let’s then consider the workers who build our homes, our safe spaces that we share with those we love and nurture - they frequently risk their own lives to build our proverbial castles.                                         

The impact of dust is not immediate, damage to lungs can happen without obvious symptoms. Not surprisingly, this leads to workers in the construction sector seeing no bad consequences to cutting corners and taking risks. There’s no immediate price to pay and no thought given to their long-term health.

You don’t need to see dust for the hazardous bits of silica for example to get deep into your lungs and start causing damage. Many young construction workers are unaware they may be storing up huge health problems in the future. They may live well without symptoms of a progressive disease for decades. Their dreams of a good life and the ability to pursue physical activities, passions and interests into later life can be harshly curtailed as breathing difficulties become evident. This must stop. As a caring society, we need to take action to ensure that every worker in the construction industry works safely and does not put their life at risk to build our homes, hospitals, roads and other vital infrastructure.

Employers are legally bound to protect workers, and if they fail in their legal duty, HSE will take enforcement action that could end in costly fines and  damage to hard-earned reputations. It’s not worth it. And it’s not right. What kind of employer wants to risk the lives of employees? 

For more information on the programme of inspections visit the Work Right campaign website.

Follow the campaign on Twitter at @H_S_E, on Facebook @hsegovuk, or on LinkedIn. You can also join the conversation at #WorkRight.

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