In the current issue of Highways Magazine our Operations Director Christian Berenger explains how the latest workforce management systems can help contractors safeguard road workers and meet their compliance obligations.
The tragic death of a Balfour Beatty employee whilst working on the M3 in July last year provided a stark reminder of the risks facing thousands of highways workers in their day-to-day role.
The dangers facing UK road workers remains a real and significant threat as the biggest expansion to the UK motorway and road network continues.
This is reflected in the industry’s fatality rate and accident frequency rate, which remains one of the highest amongst UK employment. In 2014-15 the accident frequency rate for on-road staff was 0.36, compared to 0.34 in the previous year. That equates to an accident every 278,000 hours worked.
The introduction of ‘My Daddy Works Here’ signs along some of the busiest routes has been a simple but effective step by Highways England, as part of a wider strategy, towards making UK’s highways a safer working environment. As a father myself, they certainly encourage me to think more about the workers behind the barriers.
But whilst educating motorists inevitably has a key role to play, the onus is also on contractors to evaluate how they monitor their workforce and put robust systems in place to improve health and safety measures.
Workforce management technology can support contractors to safeguard their workers and meet compliance obligations.
One of the biggest strengths of modern systems is their ability to enhance communication with workers out on the highways by standardising the capture of employee attendance and locations using a combination of portable 3G hardware and smartphone devices and transfer the data back to virtualised software without the need for an IT infrastructure.
This enables managers to check for regular location updates, identify worker movements and gain an insight into the time allocated against specific jobs from a budgetary perspective.
The real-time nature of today’s systems allows manager to immediately spot if a worker fails to verify their attendance at a particular site. The software will highlight the anomaly to managers so they can make contact with the employee to check their welfare, thus safeguarding their health and safety.
But that’s just the start. Today’s systems have evolved beyond simply Time & Attendance, offering multiple functionalities to support contractors better cope with the unique characteristics of the highways industry.
In particular they help to mitigate potential risks and the possibility for negligence by ensuring only the right people, with the right skill sets are on site at any one time.
Acting as a comprehensive HR tool, they record everything from workers’ personal data, to important compliance documentation, such as qualifications and training history as well as health and safety accreditations.
The flexibility of most systems to accept and integrate with CSCS accreditation smartcards allows contractors to add an extra level of security to the clocking process; with the cards used to prove not only worker identity but that they have the skills needed to carry out the work.
This empowers contractors to improve on-site security by gaining assurances that only certified workers with the relevant CSCS credentials are on site at all times. Users must hold a valid card. If they don’t or it has expired they are denied access.
Furthermore, the latest systems allow Toolbox Talks and briefing meetings to be scheduled and recorded so the contractor can create an array of briefing meetings depending on the projects, with workers required to register their attendance at those meetings as well as their arrival on site.
If a worker fails to attend a meeting for site risks, health and safety challenges, risk assessments, it flags up alerts in the software to say who hasn’t attended the briefing meetings and for which task.
Daily Task briefings and other site critical information can be easily assigned to employee records, ensuring workers are fully aware of what needs to be done on site that day, week or for a particular element of work.
All too often we hear about the health and safety failings of contractors after an incident has occurred. A move to workforce management now provides an opportunity for contractors to adopt a proactive approach to road worker safety and gain complete transparency at site level.
Of course any investment comes at a cost. But what price can you put on worker safety?