Nearly 60 percent of UK Construction Site Workers Mistaken about Employer Insurance
Nearly 60 percent of UK construction site workers wrongly believe that their employers must have insurance in place to pay their salaries and medical benefits if they are off work, according to a survey among such employees conducted for cash plan provider Sovereign Health Care.
Fifty-seven percent of site workers questioned said they believed their employers must have this insurance, which would protect them against the financial consequences of illness or injury caused by their work.
In fact, cover of this kind is not compulsory for employers in the UK, despite it being mandatory in the USA and various other countries.
Almost half (48 percent) of respondents said they believed their employer provided adequate cover to fund their medical bills if they became ill or injured at work, with just over a fifth (21 percent) saying this was not the case.
In keeping with these findings, 40 percent of site workers questioned said they didn’t cover themselves by having a health care cash plan or private medical insurance, and over a quarter (27 percent) confirmed they didn’t have personal accident cover.
About a third of respondents (34 percent) said they had private medical insurance alone and a fifth (20 percent) that they had just cash plans, while only six per cent claimed to have both. Surprisingly, almost four site workers in ten (37 percent) had no idea whether they had personal accident cover or not.
Commenting on the findings, Russ Piper, Chief Executive, Sovereign Health Care, said: “Given the obvious dangers of working in the construction industry, the results indicate a worrying ignorance or misunderstanding among respondents about the extent of the protection employers must provide for them if they become ill or injured.
“This is despite a third of the site workers questioned admitting they have had to obtain medical treatment for an injury or illness suffered while working in the sector. In addition, 29 percent said they were concerned or very concerned about the possibility of suffering an industrial injury or illness requiring medical treatment while working in construction in the future.”
Piper added that, whilst employers might not be obliged, they could still proactively support their workers and help them to get back on site as soon as possible after absences by paying for cover for them. Indeed the Government has been actively encouraging employers to take more responsibility for supporting the health and wellbeing of their workforces by signing up to its Workplace Wellbeing Charter.
Despite making up only five percent of UK employees, the Labour Force Survey estimates the construction sector accounted for about 12 percent of workplace injuries resulting in over seven days absence, 13 percent of over three day injuries and 11 percent of all non-fatal injuries, based on results averaged over four years to 2012-13. The Labour Force Survey also estimates 1.4 million working days were lost in construction overall during 2011-12, 818,000 to ill-health and 584,000 to workplace injury, making the total per worker well above the national average.
For more information on Sovereign Health Care, its plans and its charitable trust, please visit www.sovereignhealthcare.co.uk
Why engineers must always consider human-induced vibration
Human induced vibration, or more accurately vibrations caused by human footfall, often conjures images of Millennium Bridge-style swaying or collapsing buildings.
But in reality, the ‘damage’ caused by human-induced vibrations is less likely to ruin a structure and more likely to cause discomfort in people. Though not as dramatic as a structural failure, any good engineer wants to make sure the people using their structures, be it bridges or buildings or anything in between, can do so safely and comfortably. This is why human-induced vibration must be considered within the design process.
Resonance v Impulse
There are two ways that human-induced vibrations affect structures: resonant, and impulse or transient response. Put simply, resonance occurs when Object A vibrates at the same natural frequency as Object B.
Object B resonates and begins to vibrate too. Think singing to break a wine glass! Although the person singing isn’t touching the glass, the vibrations of their voice are resonating with the glass’s natural frequency, causing this vibration to get stronger and stronger and eventually, break the glass. In the case of a structure, resonance occurs when the pedestrian’s feet land in time with the vibration.
On the other hand, impulse or transient vibration responses can be a problem on structures where its natural frequencies are too high for resonance to occur, such as where the structure is light or stiff. Here the discomfort is caused by the initial “bounce” of the structure caused by the footstep and is a concern on light or stiff structures.
Engineers must, of course, design to reduce the vibration effects caused by either impulse or resonance.
Potential impacts from human induced vibration
Human induced vibration can lead to a number of effects upon the structure and its users. These include:
- Interfering with sensitive equipment Depending on the building’s purpose, what it houses can be affected by the vibrations of people using the building. Universities and laboratories, for example, may have sensitive equipment whose accuracy and performance could be damaged by vibrations. Even in ordinary offices the footfall vibration can wobble computer screens, upsetting the workers.
- Swaying bridges One of the most famous examples of human-induced resonance impacting a structure occurred with the Millennium Bridge. As people walked across the bridge, the footsteps caused the bridge to sway, and everybody had to walk in time with the sway because it was difficult not to. Thankfully, this feedback can only occur with horizontal vibrations so building floors are safe from it, but footbridges need careful checking to prevent it.
- Human discomfort According to research, vibrations in buildings and structures can cause depression and even motion sickness in inhabitants. Tall buildings sway in the wind and footsteps can be felt, even subconsciously by the occupants. It has been argued that modern efficient designs featuring thinner floor slabs and wider spacing in column design mean that these new builds are not as effective at dampening vibrations as older buildings are.
- Jeopardising structural integrity The build-up of constant vibrations on a structure can, eventually, lead to structural integrity being compromised. A worse-case scenario would be the complete collapse of the structure and is the reason some bridges insist that marching troops break step before crossing. Crowds jumping in time to music or in response to a goal in a stadium are also dynamic loads that might damage an under-designed structure.
How to avoid it
As mentioned, modern designs that favour thinner slabs and wider column spacing are particularly susceptible to all forms of vibration, human-induced or otherwise, but short spans can also suffer due to their low mass. Using sophisticated structural engineering software is an effective method for engineers to test for and mitigate footfall and other vibrations at the design stage.