Category Archives: Plastering Health &Safety

Risk assessments – what you need to know

a word cloud of risk assessment related itemsLegally, every new job needs to have a risk assessment done, in order to comply with health and safety in the workplace regulations.  If your main business is re-plastering domestic buildings, or dry lining new builds, it is likely that the same risk assessment will apply for all jobs, needing only a few tweaks depending on the site specifics, such as stairwells or large windows posing a fall risk in certain buildings, or issues around on-site power and trailing cables.  It is vital that each new job is approached with the mind-set of finding and identifying risks before any work is started, and that these risks are noted.   From the assessment, a plan of action can be drawn up to minimise the possibility of injury arising from these hazards.  A method statement is also useful for jobs where there is an unusual risk, as it sets out the ways in which the workforce will address and work around any potential risks.

The acronym RAMS is often used with regards to risk assessments, and this can stand for Risk Assessment Management System or Risk Assessment and Method Statement.  They both mean similar things, but the first definition is most often used to refer to software or paper systems that address risk assessments and make them easy to produce.  There are a number of apps and software programmes available that will produce a risk assessment with very little input from a human, but it is a good idea to run through the process fully from start to finish a few times when you start out doing risk assessments.  By being totally involved at all stages you gain a much better understanding of what constitutes a risk, how to overcome them and what to write on a method statement than relying on software to do the job for you.  It also means that when you do use an app or software you will notice any shortfalls in the assessment it produces, and you can properly address unusual risks that will not be accounted for in standardised software.

Method statements are also useful for other trades you may be collaborating with, especially if you are both working in the space at the same time.  Should any issues arise between the two trades regarding working practices, it is good to be able to produce a risk assessment and method statement to back up your ways of working and demonstrate that there is a need to work in a certain way to address any risks present.

CITB offer a risk assessment app which is free to download.  After inputting some job details it produces a risk assessment and a project plan with tips on health and safety in the workplace.  The HSE and partners also offer downloadable templates that you can use to do your risk assessments, or use as a starting point for creating your own – plasterers working on renovation projects and with different materials, such as lime plasters, may find that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t cover the very specific risks associated with working on older properties.

When taking on new staff or employing labourers it is very important that they are provided with the risk assessments and method statements so they can work safely, and that they are provided with the correct equipment to do so.  Additionally, if members of staff have not been trained in ladder use, or in how to use a spray plastering machine, they should not be allowed to use that equipment until they have had the proper training.  Employers leave themselves open to litigation if they fail to make employees aware of risks, how health and safety is managed or fail to provide proper training.  Once you get going it can be surprisingly easy to undertake a full risk assessment and address potential issues without it taking too long.

First Aid on site – what you need to have and what you need to know

Accidents can happen even when all necessary precautions have been taken, a fact which red small case with white cross in center often comes as a surprise to people who get injured despite wearing high-vis; that incredible piece of PPE that protects the wearer from any misfortune just by virtue of the colour and reflective stripes.  There is certainly a staggering number of people out there who put far too much faith in the powers of a flimsy neon vest, believing that a hard-hat or steel toe caps are optional if they’re wearing the high-vis. As a plasterer, whether you are working on a construction site or in someone’s living room, here’s what you need to know.

Every site is required by law to have a first aid kit and a named person, who is responsible for keeping the first aid stocked; a person needs to have an up-to-date first aid at work certificate, if they are responsible for more than five people, and it is vital that this is renewed when it runs out (every three years).  The advice about what to do in certain situations can change from year to year, so it is vital that the first aider has the latest knowledge for the sake of safety, as well as for legal protection against the company.  There should be at least one person trained in construction site first aid for every 50 people working on site.

As a plasterer, if you contract casual labour it is important that you, as the employer and responsible person, are first aid trained and have a fully stocked first aid kit on site.  If you are self-employed and work alone you are still responsible for your own health and safety, but are not required to hold a valid first aid certificate.

A site first aid kit will contain plasters, sterile dressings, disposable gloves, compression bandages, triangular bandages, safety pins, antiseptic wipes and an eye bath kit.  The eye bath kit is of great importance for plasterers (as with any trade using materials that could end up in the eye and cause inflammation) and should be replaced as soon as it is used.  It is a good idea to keep two or three in the kit so there is always one available.

Even without formal first aid training there are some basic things every plasterer should know for their own safety;  Any cuts or lacerations should be treated with an absorbent dressing, an antibacterial wipe to clean away any dust, pressure and then elevation.  Sharp plastering trowels are the main culprits for cuts at work, so it is worth knowing how to treat them on the spot.  Anything that does not stop bleeding within five to ten minutes should be treated at hospital, as stitches or tissue glue may be needed to close the wound.

Sprains should be treated with elevation, compression and ice, and medical advice should also be sought as soon as possible.  Burns caused by mixing plaster should also be treated at hospital; any burn or scald larger than a postage stamp is considered to be a medical emergency.  Any falls, or knocks to the head, should also be attended to by medically trained personnel and the victim should never be moved after a fall.  The only exception to this rule is if there is more danger in leaving them where they are, than in moving them.

Basic first aid courses are available for a small cost nationwide, the St Johns Ambulance service are the leading provider of first aid training and can tailor their courses to site specific requirements.  Even if you do not need training for work purposes (for example if you work with a trained first aider on site), it is still very useful to know what to do in an emergency should anything happen at home or away from the workplace.

Plastering Companies Can Be Fined for Worker Injuries

If you’re the owner of a plastering company, it’s critical that you’re aware of the liability Health and safety register with goggles and helmetthat you could be held to. Those who do not ensure that their workplaces are safe with a low risk to health could be leaving themselves open to fines.

We recently read of how an Australian based plasterer fell at work. The company that he worked for were given a AU$25,000 fine for not making the workplace safe enough to protect their worker from suffering from severe spinal injuries.

The company pleaded guilty for breaking the Australian work safety laws. We’re bringing this to your attention as it’s essential that you are vigilant with regards to safety.

Over in Australia, the worker in question was at a construction site and busy working on a platform on scaffolding. There were no protective rails installed. Unfortunately, as plasterboard was loaded onto the platform to be ready for application, the plasterer fell to the ground and landed head first, causing a fractured skull and breaking his back.

Experiencing something like that not only impacts a worker physically but mentally and emotionally. They are likely to be left with PTSD and it could even affect those who witness it. The poor Aussie guy found life difficult afterwards as he was reliant on a wheelchair and crutches and could not play with his kids or enjoy social activities to the same degree.

We are all aware how dangerous construction sites can be and how important guard rails are. However, once we get busy on a job, it’s easy to allow basic checks to go out the window. The trouble is, it’s these basic checks that can save lives and prevent injuries.

Safety in the workplace needs to be everybody’s responsibility but there also need to be clearly defined roles with regards to who is responsible for what. Hazards need to be recognised and minimised in order for injuries to be avoided.  Stay safe.