Border Barriers | At what point does cost justify sacrificing safety?
The answer to the title question is, of course, that ‘It doesn’t’. Safety is paramount for any business in the highways sector. Every business you interact with will tell you that.
Yet, there’s a worrying elephant in the room – cost.
Although there is a general understanding that cost of materials, labour, fuel has risen quite dramatically over the last year, it begs the question;
Have companies had to compromise on safety to achieve their budgets/project costs?
“Pre-Covid and Pre-Brexit the key focus amongst enquiries was undeniably health & safety.” says Border Barriers Business Development Manager Kate Bessant.
“However, following recent price increases, it now, alarmingly, seems that compromises are being made in this vital area in order to save budget or meet projects costs. Reliable, robust safety systems being continuously used on projects in recent times, are in some cases being phased out and replaced by cheaper and, at times, unapproved systems.”
Whilst cheaper products, services and systems may provide a budget friendly option, a commitment to safety is something that shouldn’t come with a price tag. Questions that need to be asked in order to protect roadworkers and public alike include:
- Is this the safest system that the project could be using?
- Is this product sustainable? What is the life span on the product and its accessories?
- What is the wind-loading on this system? – cheaper systems are genuinely lighter as they use less raw material/polymer to manufacturer, and therefore can cause issues further down the line on projects when stormier weather arrives.
- What is the cost of counterweights for cheaper/lighter systems? Unforeseen costs may be down the road.
- Are we supporting SME’s throughout supply chains?
No company in the highways sector would voluntarily confess that it purchases unapproved, unfit for purpose safety systems to save costs.
So, why does this happen?
If as a sector we know that this is wrong, why are companies facing these challenges?
“Recently we’ve seen a few instances of roadworkers being struck and tragically killed.” Kate continues.
“Whilst we don’t know about, and therefore couldn’t comment on every detail of the safety protocols in place for these horrible occurrences, what we do know is that as a sector we should be doing absolutely everything we can to make sure that if there is any possibility of fatality or serious injury, no stone is left unturned when it comes to the safety products and protocols implemented to protect our people.
“Border Group hire barriers along with other safety systems so that companies don’t have to make the substantial investment in buying safety solutions themselves. This approach enables them to not only benefit from the many years of Border expertise in identifying the most suitable safety solution to hire, but this also means that the safety approach can adapt to the stage of the project, with alternative products available to suit changing project needs.
“The ‘Buy cheap, buy twice’ sentiment is seemingly as old as time itself. It’s one thing to ignore it if all that is on the line is ultimately replaceable, but when buying cheap is potentially life threatening to roadworkers and road users alike, there should be zero tolerance.”