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The Need For A High Standard of Training In The Builder’s Merchant Industry

The UK’s construction industry is currently besieged by doubt, plagued by economic slowdown, the collapse of firms such as Carillion and fears over Brexit. However, the CITB has forecasted that despite these fears, over 150,000 new construction jobs will be created in the next five years. Many of these roles will be in the merchanting sector.

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This growth, however, highlights a key issue – do merchants, and the industry as a whole, invest in adequate training? Employees should ideally be trained for situation-specific tasks such as working at height or operating plant machinery such as fork lifts. Will the employees created by this 150,000 job surge be trained adequately, or will the building industry fail them? While employees must complete the mandatory FLT and HASAW qualifications, what about tasks slightly outside of our current training provision?

Let’s take working at height as an example. Legally, employers are not required to train those working at height when performing low-risk, short duration tasks. Employees in your building yard, for example, may occasionally need to encounter mild heights. Training is encouraged, but the only legal mandate is that someone is ‘competent’ to work at height, which is a somewhat vague term.

However, 49% of all fatal injuries within the construction sector are due to falls from height. With such a high rate of deadly injury, it’s clear we need to invest in more safety training around all levels of work at height.

For merchants, common health and safety training is also important but may be ignored. 24% of injuries are sustained within the industry thanks to slips, trips or falls on the same level. 21% are due to injuries that occur when handling, lifting or carrying – an area that is regulated by the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR) but does not necessitate training.

Considering that there are 30.8 million working days lost in the UK due to musculoskeletal problems such as back pain, neck pain and limb problems, it is increasingly apparent that you may be losing out on profit, and productivity, by not giving staff additional health and safety training such as a manual handling course.

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While not necessarily related to health and safety training, the skills gap is widening in the UK – further highlighting the need for construction skills training. 20% of employers reported skills gaps to the CITB in 2016, compared to just 8% in 2014. The CITB also forecasts that between 2017 and 2021, the UK’s construction output will grow at an average of 1.7% per year. To support that growth, extra training will be necessary. Whether your employees are going to work in the office, out in the yard or in the warehouse, all can likely benefit from further skills tuition to avoid the chance of injury and enhance overall efficiency.

It’s clear that quality supplementary training can help keep employees safe – and even help them re-skill into other roles if a merchant needs an employee to diversify. It is important to remember that health and safety regulations are simply a minimum, and employers should aim to offer a better standard of training to minimise the risk of potentially fatal accidents and recoup potential lost time due to avoidable injuries.