The construction sector is one of the most inherently hazardous industries in the UK. From 2019 to 2020 alone, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recorded 61,000 non-fatal injuries and 40 fatalities to construction workers at the workplace. The good news is, the majority of these risks are avoidable as long as employers and employees adhere strictly to safety and health measures. What are the most common causes of accidents at a construction site, and how can you reduce the risks?
Working at Height
Falling from heights remains the top cause of deaths in construction sites, contributing to 47% of the industry’s fatalities in 2019/2020. Additionally, about 19% of non-fatal injuries during the same period were due to falls, with some severe enough to require hospitalization and result in more than a week of absence.
The Working at Height Regulations 2005 requires employees to avoid the risk of falling by completing their tasks on the ground if possible. If working at height is unavoidable, employers should ensure that all precautions are done to reduce the possibility of falls. They should conduct thorough risk assessments and establish a safe work system, such as wearing the appropriate gear, utilizing the right equipment, and inspecting facilities regularly. More importantly, workers should have certified working at heights training to help them perform their tasks competently, whether it’s erecting scaffolding securely, using lifts correctly, or operating cranes safely.
According to the HSE, about 1000 employees experience electrical accidents every year. Many electrocutions and shocks are due to contact with exposed electrical cables, incorrect wiring, or uninsulated power lines. Additionally, an unsafe system of work, inadequate information, and poorly maintained equipment often cause accidents. There is also a growing number of incidents that involve unqualified workers doing tasks meant for trained electricians.
Companies and workers should adhere to the precautions specified by the Electricity at Work Regulations to minimise the risks of electrical accidents. Such rules include routinely checking tools, equipment, and facilities for defects. Companies do this through a Portable Appliance Test (PAT). The workforce should also have relevant and sufficient electrical safety training to ensure they know the hazards of working with electricity and how to avoid the risks.
Constant exposure to excessive noise can result in long term ear damage, including permanent hearing impairment. The HSE records about 17,000 individuals suffer from occupational deafness. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 requires all employers to minimise noise levels in the work premises. However, in construction sites sounds from machinery and other activities are almost impossible to restrain.
A few ways to address the issue are for employers to choose tools with low sound emissions or set up barriers and screens that reduce noise to a tolerable degree. Every worker should have access to proper personal protective equipment, such as earmuffs or earplugs. Also, they should have training on how to use the gears correctly.
The frequent carrying, lifting, and moving of objects pose risks to one’s health. Of the 81,000 work-related ill-health cases in the construction industry from 2019 to 2020, 46,000 or about 57% are musculoskeletal disorders. The most common musculoskeletal conditions workers suffer are sprains, back pains, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and bone fractures. Often, these illnesses are due to overuse of muscles and overexertion.
Workers should know their weight limits and practice proper techniques when moving large objects and use machinery to move objects such as rented waste skips or scaffolding. Good manual handling skills keep the muscles and joints from enduring prolonged and unnecessary strains, therefore reducing the risk of injuries and ill-health.