A construction site is an area of land where roads, buildings or some form of infrastructure is being built or renovated.
Working on a construction site means you will be working with and/or alongside large operational plant machinery and tools, working at heights or in environments where hazardous materials may be present because of the nature of the work.
Construction is one of the most dangerous industries in the world, the dangers in construction are heavily dependent on the type of construction work that is being carried out, for example, working with asbestos presents entirely different hazards from working at heights.
Some of the top safety hazards that are present in the construction industry are:
Working at heights
Working from heights is one of the most common causes of fatal injuries to workers. The HSE estimated that 47% of worker fatalities were due to a fall from height. All employees who work at height need suitable training in working on different pieces of equipment and planning such work appropriately.
Safety approaches and precautions should be adopted when working at heights, The way in which some tasks need to be performed can be changed to avoid the need to work at heights. For example,
- construct parts of the building on the ground and then have them lifted into position with a crane & team, Rather than working at heights to construct the entire piece.
- Put corrective measures in place when working at heights when the hazards can’t be avoided, such as the use of equipment to provide an extra level of safety and to reduce the risk of a fall, for example, a scaffold handrail with a double guardrail or edge protection to eliminate the consequences of a fall by providing a safety guard.
- Where the necessary PPE such as a safety harness and fall restrain/ arrest system.
Moving Plant & Equipment
HSE report that 12% of incidents on site are due to being struck by a moving plant, vehicle or object. A construction site is an ever-changing environment with many objects moving around often on uneven terrain. Delivery vehicles, heavy plant and machinery and overhead lifting equipment pose a hazard to site workers and personnel. Operators should always plan to manage plant and pedestrian interfaces whereby using physical barriers and suitable segregation in place to reduce the risks posed to workers. Workers should never stand behind large operating plant machinery and never stand under suspended loads and where possible avoid working close to moving objects and be careful of their surroundings, especially if they do not have lights or beepers. One way to help reduce the likelihood of an accident is to always ensure you have clear communication to guide plant & vehicles when reversing or manoeuvring on site and always wear PPE personal protective equipment such as high-visibility clothing to ensure you are seen.
Slippery, Uneven Surfaces.
Slips trips and falls can happen in almost any environment and in construction, there are slightly fewer incidents of these kinds of injuries than in other industries. The HSE reports that around 1/4 of injuries reported are due to slipping and falling, as construction sites often have uneven terrain and the ground conditions are forever changing. It is unsurprising that, slips trips and falls are common and that workers are injured every year following a slip or trip. Most instances could be avoided by effectively managing working areas and access/egress routes, such as designated footpaths. Managers and site supervisors on construction sites must effectively manage the site so that workers can move around it safely, hazards should always be reported and attended to, to reduce the chances of injury or harm due to slip trips and falls. Sites should ensure that all operatives are provided with, obstruction-free access and egress to their working areas, tidy working storage areas and designated areas for waste collection, and where surfaces are slippery with mud they should be treated with stone for better drainage.
High levels of noise when working around loud excessive and repetitive machinery can cause long-term hearing problems such as deafness or ringing. Noise can also be a dangerous distraction and may distract the worker from the task at hand which can cause accidents. A comprehensive noise risk assessment should be carried out where the risk assessment highlights a noise hazard and implements control measures to reduce the risks.
Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a debilitating painful disease of the blood vessels nerves and joints, it is typically caused by the continued use of handheld power tools including vibrating power tools and ground working equipment. There are nearly 2 million people at risk of developing HAV, resulting in the inability to work. Once the damage is done it is permanent, HAVS is preventable if construction workers correctly plan to minimise exposure to vibration during work and workers are monitored or given appropriate protection when using vibrating tools and equipment.
Material handling manual and equipment.
Materials and equipment are constantly being lifted and moved around construction sites, whether manually or by equipment, either way, handling carries a degree of risk for manual handling. Training should be provided to ensure employees can lift and carry materials safely. For lifting equipment handling there are lots of risks especially when operating equipment on uneven ground, if an employee is required to use lifting equipment they must be trained to operate the equipment safely and a regular Verification of Competency (VOC) should be performed to check their ability to use the equipment and to examine the plant equipment to ensure it is fit for use in that it’s certificated and inspected.
Incidents commonly occur within excavations on construction sites, such as an unsupported excavation collapsing with workers inside. There are some safety measures that can be put in place to prevent excavations from collapsing and to reduce the risk of workers falling into excavations
- Never work in an unsupported excavation
- Ensure an excavation is supported and fully secure.
- Regularly inspect the excavation both before and during the work shift
- Always check that the edge protection of the excavation is 100% intact before you enter it.
- Always maintain a safe distance from the edge of all deep excavations
When asbestos is damaged it releases fibres into the air and, once inhaled, these fibres can cause severe and fatal diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. Workers on construction sites must be trained to understand what to do should they come across any suspicious materials that may contain asbestos. If there is asbestos on the construction site, workers must be informed of where it is and how to handle it safely. When handling asbestos you need to wear fully regulated PPE equipment at all times to prevent fibres from being inhaled or absorbed through the skin
HSE reports that 1000’s electrical accidents at work occur every year, and most of these accidents arise from contact with overhead or underground power cables. The strikes happen when excavation is undertaken without adequately checking the ground for existing services, consequently, incidents can easily be avoided by using technology and scanning equipment to scan an area for live potential services and prevent service strikes.
Airborne fibres and materials
Unsurprisingly, a lot of dust is produced on construction sites. This dust is often an invisible mixture of hazardous materials and fibres that can damage the lungs and lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, silicosis, and other such diseases. All employers have to ensure protective equipment is used and workers should maintain and wear the PPE as per the manufacturer’s requirements.