Health and Safety is a fundamental part of every project, process and operation in the renewables sector and there are some very good reasons for this that include, but go beyond, simply falling foul of the law.

  • The law requires that certain standards are achieved and maintained to prove a company’s adherence
  • Failure to implement a sufficient Safety Management System as well as all requirements can result in significant fines and prosecution
  • Renewable companies with poor health and safety measures in place suffer reputationally
  • Investment and attention into health and safety is paramount in order to create a healthy, happy and motivated workforce who feel valued. This in turn, acts as a catalyst towards the promotion of a positive health and safety culture
  • Accident claims can be incredibly costly
  • Other “hidden” costs can arise as a consequence of negligence and a lack of care with HSE such as future insurance premiums

The importance of risk assessment

Risk assessments play a pivotal role when it comes to the implementation and management of any Health and Safety Management System. The purpose of the risk assessment process is to identify and evaluate hazards, then remove that hazard or minimise the level of its risk by adding suitable and sufficient control measures, as necessary. By doing so, a business will create a safer and healthier workplace.

Moreover, it is a legal requirement for employers, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, to assess the risks that employees face while working for them (this also extends to those who are not working for an employer but may still be affected). Under this regulation, as an employer, the minimum you must do is:

  • Identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards)
  • Decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)
  • Take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk
  • Risk identification and assessment is required for each work activity and the Health and Safety Executive recommends regular consultation with employees when it comes to the risks they face.

What are the consequences for a lack of health and safety legal compliance?

For companies in the renewables sector, a lack of health and safety compliance can be particularly problematic. Damage to reputation can be long term, affecting not just the ability to attract business, but also recruitment prospects and how the company is viewed as an employer.

Financial penalties as a result of prosecution can be severe – six-figure sums are not an uncommon occurrence and the loss of earnings that can be the result of gaining a record for poor health and safety can be difficult for renewables businesses to absorb.

Where accidents have occurred that could have been prevented by having a better health and safety management system and controls in place, there may be legal claims by those affected.

Specific challenges for the renewables industry

There were 11 million people working in the renewables industry in 2018, in a variety of different roles, according to analysis by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Some of the roles within the renewables sector can be very physically demanding (such as Wind Turbine Engineers, who sometimes have to climb the 70-80m towers of the Wind turbines), whereas others may involve being on a construction site and handling hazardous materials. Therefore, right from the start, the renewables industry has a unique set of challenges when it comes to health and safety.

A company can combat these challenges by implementing a Safety Management system, providing suitable and sufficient training, equipment and provisions, perform annual audits and inspections as well as actively engage with their workforce.

By Adam Richardson – Group HSE Manager

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