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New Cross Industry Commitment Agreed to Tackle Silica Dust

Industry leaders, academics and safety and health experts committed to a 12-month plan of action to tackle one of the enduring threats to people’s health at work.

Representatives from the construction, rail and mineral products sectors will join trade and health bodies, researchers and regulators in 2017 in raising awareness of, and taking preventative action against, harmful exposures to respirable crystalline silica (RCS).

RCS, or silica dust, is commonplace in industries that work with rocks, sand and clay, and products such as bricks and concrete, but significant exposure can cause silicosis and lung cancer.

Simple controls can prevent deadly exposure but studies have found that tens of thousands of people are still dying each year worldwide from occupational cancer caused by RCS.

Concerns over the threat and a lack of awareness brought together representatives from industry, academia and the safety and health profession for discussions in London early last year.

The aims of the group are:

  • To work together to reduce exposure to RCS through effective monitoring and management of dust.
  • To increase awareness and understanding of the potential health risks associated with exposure to RCS in order to change attitudes and behaviours.
  • To share good practice on the management of RCS across industry sectors.

The agreement details a range of planned activities, including promotional work, sharing of good practice and educational activities. It has been struck after a roundtable discussion held early last year at The Shard, in London, hosted by IOSH as part of No Time to Lose, its campaign to raise awareness of, and provide resources to prevent occupational cancers.

Small builders are NOT claiming CITB levy
A damning independent survey claims the CITB has “little or no impact on its primary mission of encouraging the provision of training” among smaller construction companies.

Research conducted by YouGov on behalf of Hudson Contract showed only 9% of SMEs said they receive CITB funding for training employees. And of that 9%, only half receive the full cost of training.

Hudson said SMEs pay twice as much levy as larger firms yet have less power to influence the CITB.

The survey also found that 60% of levy payers provide training without CITB grant funding.

Ian Anfield, Managing Director of Hudson Contract said: “Despite spending millions on websites, roadshows and PR, the CITB’s influence on training provision is negligible.

“In reality, the CITB is a hapless bystander while SMEs get on with the day job.

“More and more stakeholders are questioning whether there is a need for a levy and grant system at all. This needs an answer.”

Further results from the research show that:

More than half of the firms interviewed have either no knowledge or no opinion of the CITB levy’s effectiveness in ensuring training and skills development.

71% say the possibility of a CITB grant to cover training does not influence decisions to send workers on a training course; and a mere 2% say a CITB grant is the main reason for training.

38% of firms would continue training even without the possibility of a levy grant.

Anfield said analysis of the CITB’s own accounts show that large businesses receive a 92% return on their levy payment, whereas small and micro sized businesses receive 61% and 52% respectively.

Of those who say that they find it difficult to claim back grants, 55% say that the reason for this is that they do not have an administrator to support them, while 50% say the process is too complicated.

Anfield added: “Training is absolutely vital if the construction industry is to thrive and deliver our country’s much needed infrastructure and house building programmes.

“As the backbone of the industry, SMEs play a crucial role in this.

“Yet not only is the CITB offering scant support to SMEs, it is actually putting obstacles in their way by collecting a levy and passing most of it on to major contractors.

“Those with the narrowest shoulders bear the toughest burden. That is bad for business and bad for the industry.”

YouGov independently questioned more than 500 construction companies during the research.

Deregulation survey is ongoing - click here

The HSE have recently published their annual statistics for fatalities in the construction industry for 2015/16 - click here.

The HSE faces 12% grant cut.  The HSE's government funding is due to be cut by more than 12% over the next three years, according to the regulator's business plan - click here.

The CITB is looking for ways to hand back cash to contractors who will be hit with double levy payments next year - click here.