Michael Barker, managing director of Safety Platforms, discusses how the endeavor for perfect health and safety practices should never end, and why innovation in this area should be on everyone’s agenda.

Having supplied access equipment to the construction industry for more than 30 years, I have been witness to radical changes in the equipment being used on-site. Heavy steel scaffold towers, wooden hop-ups and, dare I say it, beer crates were all common sights in the early days.

Thankfully, things have moved on and we now see equipment on-site which was previously not thought of. These new developments make site work much safer and more efficient. All areas of work have seen vast improvements, too, with much more thought now given to, for example, work at height, noise levels and the consequences of manual handling.

A prime example of change would be that, up until 15 years ago, a ladder and scaffold board were considered an acceptable working platform in a stairwell – “That’s how it’s always been done”, the common excuse heard. Through proactive contractors and suppliers working together to develop solutions to improve safety, usability and productivity, the industry solved a problem and moved another step towards realising sensible health and safety protocols.

We have possibly all heard or said the phrase “Health and safety gone mad”, and when talking about children not being allowed to play conkers in the school playground, this may be relevant. However, when talking about protecting people and improving working conditions on-site, developments have been vital, and consideration of further refinements should be ongoing.

Improvements in site safety have come about not just because of legislation but also by people looking at what we do and thinking “Is there a better, safer way of doing this?”. By continually reviewing current practices and by keeping health and safety on everyone’s agenda, our industry can be made even safer, even more productive and better positioned to face the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Who knows what we will see on construction sites in 20 to 30 years?

Michael Barker is managing director at Safety Platforms