Timber Industry makes moves to measure health & safety to reduce accidents and ill health

4 April 2017

Dave Campbell, Membership & Training Director

The Wood Safety Group (WSG) is made up of all the major trade associations in the timber sector and allied sectors, and is administered by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Woodworking is one of the HSE target sectors due to its high accident rate, allowing them to undertake surprise inspections on any woodworking business. If a material breach is found then this can lead to Fee for Intervention (FFI) charged at £129 per hour. Apart from the potential for serious and life changing incidents through poor health & safety practice the negative impact could also result in a conviction, the business losing money, drop in productivity, low staff moral and damaging publicity.
Fortunately, BWF members have a significantly stronger record on health & safety than the wider woodworking sector, due to a strong commitment from businesses to uphold health & safety practices and the support they received through the BWF’s advice and resources.
At the meeting, we had a ‘best practice’ presentation from the metal foundry sector, who showed how they managed to reduce accident rates significantly through an industry-wide health & safety initiative.  This provided training and support resources, as well as statistics from each business about RIDDOR incidents, ‘near-misses’ and other data not picked up by mandatory reporting.
The initiative has had a significant effect on culture within the sector, which is also predominantly SMEs. This has elevated the pressure on them from the HSE.
There was a willingness around the table from all parts of the sector to look at a similar initiative – at least in terms of statistical data collection and reporting – so that woodworking as a whole can reduce its problems.
All sectors were asked to feedback about the key issues affecting their members, and there were some clear similarities that could be measured, including respiratory problems, muscular-skeletal disorders, dermatological, hearing, slips, trips & falls, and manual handling, to name a few. The group is now tasked with finding the common statistics that can be compared across the woodworking sector, plus any additional statistics that are specific to each facet of the industry.
The BWF has been working in this field for a number of years through the Health & Safety Hero campaign, which is about changing culture through training and resources that are easily accessible and relevant to our predominantly Micro and SME sector.
Jon Gorf, one of our technical consultants is now leading the charge in this field along with Member Health & Safety lead Robin Baker of Premdor. Jon will be looking to compile statistics from BWF members, as well as undertaking a review and relaunch of the Health & Safety Hero campaign and its resources. Recognising the importance of Health & Safety and the need to make our high-risk sector safer, we will also be convening a sub-committee from within the membership to drive forward this agenda, and to work towards our ‘zero accidents in the workplace’ ambition for our membership. We are also looking at how we can develop the BWF Code of Conduct to link in with different levels of health & safety management and accreditation, including to the Safe Systems In Procurement (SSIP) which many members must undertake to tender for certain contracts. 
You can visit the website to find out more about the Health & Safety Hero Campaign and its resources, as well as all the resources we have that are specific to the joinery sector, including our guide to health & safety, templates and publications, and our machine safety cards.


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