Tackling Occupational Carcinogens on Irish Construction Sites

The Irish Health and Safety Authority (HSA) have completed two dedicated campaigns addressing occupational carcinogens on Irish construction sites. Over 600 inspections in total were carried out during the summers of 2016 and 2017.

Prior to both campaigns, HSA Construction inspectors were given detailed internal briefings on occupational carcinogens including ultraviolet radiation, asbestos, respirable crystalline silica (RCS), wood dust and also a focus on respiratory protective equipment (RPE). Operational guidance, part of which was based on new SLIC guidance addressing RCS, was developed for inspectors, which included initial enforcement expectations to ensure a harmonised approach by all inspectors. The guidance also included plenty of photographs depicting good practice. Specialist support was available from the HSA Occupational Hygiene Unit during the campaigns.

Social media was used prior to and during the campaigns. Inspectors submitted photographs depicting good and poor practice to the HSA Communications Unit and these were shared during the campaign week. Information sheets on sun protection (provided by the Irish cancer Society), RCS and asbestos were provided by inspectors to site personnel during inspections.

The HSA online risk assessment tool was expanded to include the construction sector and risk assessments for RCS, sun, RPE and asbestos were included.

Inspectors found evidence of good and poor practice during the site visits. Enforcement notices and written advice was issued where poor practice was found but Inspectors sought to provide as much advice as possible and distributed information sheets.

As a result of the inspection campaigns, there has been an increased focus and awareness around control of occupational carcinogens on Irish construction sites. The Construction Safety Partnership Advisory Committee (CSPAC) has taken on board the message of raising awareness of OH issues in construction and this was the theme of their recent 2017 Annual Construction Safety Forum. It is also one of the key objectives in the CSPAC 3 year plan.

The construction industry has held several events to promote good practice and the HSA have provided inspectors to speak at these. Tool hire companies and tool suppliers have also contributed to raising awareness of the hazards.

An overview of the inspection campaigns was provided to over 130 delegates at a recent conference in Dublin (16/11/2017) supporting the EU Roadmap on Carcinogens.

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Darren Arkins
Health and Safety Authority
Solution types
  • 3. O – Organizational measurements