Henry Goss Architects


BD Blog No. 4

Practice What You Preach

Construction is a perilous business.  The standard figures trotted out by the Health and Safety Executive bear testimony to the myriad hazards which anyone who so much as sets foot on a building site is exposing themselves to.  The variety of accidents which may befall the average tradesman whilst carrying out their basic duties reads like a list of arcane torture techniques: electrocution, amputation, crushing, waterboarding...?

Falling from height continues to represent one of the greatest dangers on construction sites and between April 2010 to March 2011 this resulted in 3,956 serious injuries according to the HSE. 

On too many occasions I have seen (and indeed been guilty of) mindless recitation of risk assessments and generic health and safety information in direct contradiction to the 2007 CDM regulations’ laudable ambition to dictate otherwise.

My increasing experience of building sites during the last few years and first hand observations of the potential dangers has led me to take this crucial facet of a designers responsibility rather more seriously than many. That is however until it comes to my own welfare.

I have always been something of a master of appearing to disregard my personal wellbeing. I like to tell people that this is all calculated risk and that somehow the general rules don’t apply to me.  However, during a recent trip to the south of France for a spot of casual building work on a friend’s house, this hubris over natures biological dominion took a bit of a battering. 

The CDM Coordinator was essentially replaced by a nagging mother who’s constant insistence upon ‘proper PPE’, dust masks in particular, was brushed aside with the petulant dismissal of a surly teenager. The wheeze began on day five and within three days my respiratory tract was becoming severely compromised.  A few days later I was tucked up in bed on a course of antibiotics for a sever chest infection, inhaler by my side with a temperature of over a hundred ruing the day I disregarded basic safety principles not to mention common sense and most importantly, Mother Goss.

Three months later the hoarse tone and continual clearing of the throat provide a salutary reminder of why health and safety in construction is more than form filling and that it isn’t just the headline grabbing accidents on big sites which are of importance.

Perhaps I’ll stick to less hazardous pastimes in future.  Cliff jumping perhaps, or is that ‘falling from height’?

henry goss