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Health and Safety/Training – Covid-19 Must Not Distract Us From Everyday Safety Hazards

– Dermot Carey, Director, Safety and Training, CIF, writes that Covid-19 will still be with us in 2021, but the sector has led the way in adapting to keep our workplaces safe.

construction industry fatalities 2017

Dermot Carey, Director, Safety and Training, CIF.

The past year was an extremely challenging year, with Covid-19 coming out of the blue, but we’ve managed it very well, from what was a very difficult start due to a lack of knowledge. We have a very good structure in place now, and that will continue into 2021 until the vaccination programme is fully rolled out. However, it is still going to be an issue, but we’re continually monitoring the number of cases. We need to do all we can to keep the levels low. I see Covid as being on the agenda for the first six to nine months of 2021. We will need to see how contractors manage the rollout of vaccinations on sites. Will we reach a point where contractors are not going to allow people on site unless they have been vaccinated? We need to wait and see.

Health And Safety

The focus went off traditional health and safety issues in the advent of Covid-19, and we have since tried to re-focus on it. Unfortunately, despite the sector being closed for two months, we had 13 fatalities. We can’t be complacent about that. However some of these may yet be re-categorised as other sector fatalities, but those aside, fatalities are too high. Even one fatality is too high. There were five falls from heights and three mobile plant deaths, so we need to re-focus on those key things that have been in the industry for years, but we still haven’t been able to crack them. We can’t lose sight of addressing these serious risks.

Training

We should see the delivery of a virtual programme of Safe Pass in Q1 or Q2 of 2021. Considering that 100,000 people go through this programme each year, we are hopeful that we will see this happen.

From a training perspective, CIF has received funding from Skillnet for our Construction Professional Skillnet. We plan to build on this in 2021, and we would like the members to get more involved in Skillnet and understand what it can do for them. We can provide funding for the training that members identify that they need. We would encourage people to visit the website www.cpskillnet.ie to understand better what Skillnet can do for them.

A Home For Everyone

In skills development, we have embarked on our careers campaign ‘A Home for Everyone’, and this will continue in 2021. This has been a long time coming. Before Covid, we were struggling to get enough people into the industry, and we always had a plan to roll out a coordinated campaign targeted at school leavers to showcase the industry. We launched the A Home For Everyone campaign in October, with a design challenge for schools. There are currently 90 teams signed up for that, so we’re hoping to build on it next year. the sector wants to engage more with the teachers’ groups and school leavers and career changers to try to promote the industry as a career destination.

Traineeships

We were involved in the 2019 Ireland Skills event, but that fell foul of the pandemic in 2020. However, it is now planned for September 2021. This is a three-day event targeted at school leavers that highlights the careers in trades, and apprenticeships specifically. The CIF is also working with groups to develop a series of traineeships; we’ve completed traineeships in curtain walling and utilities. Both are up and running, so we hope to expand on those, which give qualifications to people who want to join the industry and give them pathways to careers in the sector.

Diversity

The CIF has for the past three years run our diversity campaign, traditionally targeted at women. But, it is more than just women that we want to attract into construction. We want to attract a more diverse range of people into the sector. However, 94% of the people in the industry are men, so that’s not a healthy ratio, and we must change that.