CIC Blog: built-environment
The Diabetes Safety Organisation
I spend much of my working day visiting construction sites telling people about the consequences of unmanaged diabetes, such as erectile dysfunction, and telling managers that they could be at risk of liability if they are not correctly managing the risk associated with diabetes. Diabetes is a condition most people have heard about. It is in the media most weeks yet very few people understand the impact the condition can have on their bodies, their lives, their families and to their companies.
Diabetes is a hidden epidemic and the fastest-growing health threat facing our nation. 4.6 million people have the condition in the UK, 700 people are diagnosed a day (one every two minutes), it is the leading cause of blindness in the working population and 75% of men who have diabetes, suffer from erectile dysfunction at some point. Diabetes does not discriminate.
Diabetes can cause people to black out or act as if drunk when they are not correctly managing their condition. Those on high medications are required by the DVLA to test two hours before driving and every two hours whilst driving. This is not, as yet, a legal requirement on sites, but the same people may be operating heavy machinery or huge cranes. They are at risk of acting drunk or passing out with no regulations in place. Few companies have in place diabetes specific policies, risk assessments and diabetes first aid kits.
Diabetes is progressive, slowly impacting people’s health. As it cannot be seen in the early stages and the symptoms can be put down to late nights and other lifestyle factors, helping people and companies understand and manage the risk is crucial to today’s aging, busy workforce.
Why does it all matter so much to me, well we can save lives if we get this right and make a difference to people’s health. That is surely enough and if it’s not then we also help companies ensure they comply with their duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Workers who are diagnosed with diabetes do not have to inform their company under the equality act (unless otherwise stipulated). However, employers have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that their employees and those affected by what the employer does are not exposed to risk to their health and safety (Health and Safety at Work Act 1974). If someone had a diabetic episode on site that resulted in a serious or fatal accident and an employer had taken no steps to assess and reduce risk, then the employer would commit a criminal offence and face a significant fine.
The other question I am regularly asked is why is no one else pushing this and why should we spend time and money in our company? My answer, do we need to wait for people to die or a clinical paper to show there is a problem, we know there is a problem, it is time we did something. Diabetes is a condition already recognised by the DVLA to be a high risk and is regulated. Additionally, the symptoms of diabetes expose the individual who has the condition, other employees and non-employees, to risk. The employer therefore has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people are not exposed to this risk. I believe that it's an obvious risk once it has been pointed out. Employers must therefore assess and it and take reasonably practicable steps.
Currently diabetes has not been individually recorded at accident sites, so there are no criminal cases we can show you specifically, however that does not mean it wasn’t diabetes that was the cause. We know 500 people a week die in the UK from the complications of diabetes, but it may not be what is written on the death certificate! Do we need to wait to see diabetes as the written cause of death in the construction industry before we do something? I do hope not!
Taking reasonably practicable steps around diabetes safety does not need to be expensive to your company, there are simple measures that can be put in place to keep your staff safe and healthier. Doing nothing after reading this blog is not reasonably practicable.
With diabetes having a national prevalence of 7%, do you know the 7% of people in your company with the condition? Have you delivered diabetes awareness training to your staff, have those with the condition and roles that are required, been risk assessed and do you have policies and diabetes first aid kits across your business? If not, are you doing enough?
As diabetes continues to rise and risk increases, we are working with the international law firm, Gowling WLG, to increase awareness and safety. We believe it’s imperative that employers start to understand the risk that their employees and they themselves face and work together to eliminate it.
By using online training courses that educate people about the condition and its symptoms so that they manage it better will hopefully stop the accident and mean your company discharges the duty.
Don’t let a diabetes related episode contribute to a workplace accident leaving you open to a criminal offence and facing significant fines. Take steps to make your company ‘diabetes safe’. Why not sign up to the diabetes charter and commit to increase awareness to your staff. To find out more about the diabetes charter please go to diabetessafety.org.
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Kate Walker (Director)
CIC Champion on Higher Education and Deputy Convenor for the Higher Education Group of the Construction and Built Environment Education Advisory Committee (CBEE)
The UK construction and built environment industry faces a huge challenge in securing enough skilled labour to deliver the predicted volume of projects over the next few years. The Construction Industry Training Board estimates that the industry needs 168,500 new people to come into the workforce by 2022 (Construction Skills Network report, February 2019).
Supply of labour from the EU may become constrained post-Brexit due to changing immigration regulations, exacerbating the problem and increasing the need to recruit and train workers from within the UK. Apprenticeships represent a huge opportunity for the industry to address the growing skills shortage identified by employers and professional bodies.
Since the 2012 Richard Review of Apprenticeships it has been a central part of the UK Government’s skills policy to increase the volume and quality of Apprenticeships. This has involved setting a target of 5 million starts between 2015 and 2020 and introducing employer-led standards to replace the existing frameworks. A further policy driver is the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in May 2017.
Employers are putting more resources than ever into apprenticeships following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy with approx. £2 billion/year being allocated to apprenticeship provision. Feedback from UK employers indicates that the Apprenticeship system is not yet delivering the benefits that employers are looking for, with an estimated 86% Levy funds unspent after 18 months.
Issues identified to date include:
- Slow and confusing processes to approve new standards, leading to long delays in some cases, especially at higher and degree level where standards that are urgently required to meet skills gaps (such as Construction Site Manager, Building Control Surveyor and Construction Surveying Technician are still not available for employers to use)
- Lack of consistency and transparency in allocating funding bands to standards, rendering some standards undeliverable without employers providing additional top-up funding
- Lack of flexibility in design of End Point Assessment, leading to well-established processes for assessing professional competence being rejected
- Bureaucracy associated with meeting compliance requirements, which may deter some employers from wishing to be involved in Apprenticeships
Professional Apprenticeships Task and Finish Group
“Good progress has been made across numerous aspects of the apprenticeships agenda over the last year. But there are still many areas to improve if the system is to fully meet the needs of employers in the built environment industry. In particular we need to ensure that in these challenging times employers can realise the huge potential of the apprenticeships system to address their future skills needs.”
Tony Burton, Partner, Board Member, Gardiner & Theobald
A CIC Task and Finish Group will investigate such issues in greater depth and seek to identify potential improvements to the Apprenticeships system from a sector specific perspective. It is important to find out how it’s working for the built environment industry, to understand what’s going well (and what isn’t).
The aim will be to identify improvements which would make the system work better for the built environment industry and generate a series of practical recommendations which could be presented to policy makers for action:
- To specify how the industry can derive greater value from the apprenticeships system following the introduction of the Levy
- To make recommendations to Government to implement the changes required to achieve better outcomes for employers, apprentices and the economy
- Apprenticeships at all levels (3-7) in all built environment subjects
- To identify the main challenges experienced by employers in dealing with the apprenticeships system (e.g. in terms of availability of standards, use of Levy funds, flexibility to address business needs etc, taking account of a range of data sources)
- To articulate actionable improvements to the apprenticeships system for the benefit of the built environment industry
- To make specific evidence-based recommendations to policy makers
- Interim report by May 2019, timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the Apprenticeship Levy - the point at which employers start to lose access to unspent Levy funds.
The Task and Finish Group will represent the views of constituencies including employers, trailblazer groups, professional institutions, education providers and communicate effectively with others, including Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education, CITB, Construction Leadership Council, CBEE Advisory Committee and Government and its relevant departments.
For further information please send your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributor: Aled Williams is Director of Research, Innovation and Partnerships at University College of Estate Management. (https://www.ucem.ac.uk/)