Health and Safety in Engineering

On Tuesday this week I went down to London to represent BOHS at a reception in the House of Commons held to launch a new document on the business case for health and safety in engineering. It was produced by the Inter-Institutional Group on Health and Safety, an organisation made up of representatives from the engineering professional bodies.

The document highlights the essential and growing role of engineering in supporting health and safety risk management and economic sustainability, listing some key steps for engineers, managers and government to consider. The business case for health and safety engineering solutions is outlined, providing real-life examples of many engineering-related successes and failures, supported by an explanation of how and why the case needs to be made more strongly. The examples are largely safety related, particularly focussing on major construction projects, but there is mention of occupational health.

The need for health and safety to be considered early in an engineering project is stressed and that really is key. It’s usually much easier to incorporate effective controls at the design stage. Retrofitting engineering controls such as containment and local extraction is not always easy and often results in ineffective design and use of “off the shelf” solutions which may not be appropriate to the nature of the risk.

A multidisciplinary approach is recommended with project engineers involving health and safety specialists, including occupational hygienists, at the design stage and throughtout the project. Working togethor problems can be identified and resolved at an early stage.

It’s good to see engineers taking health and safety seriously. Hopefully the document will be widely circulated and the principles it advocates implemented, reducing accidents and injuries and preventing ill health.

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