For all the rules and regulations that are now in place, the construction sector is still one of the most dangerous in Ireland. Between 1989 and 2016, 338 fatal accidents were reported – more than one fifth of all work-related accidents, according to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). Part of this is due to the unique and varied hazards that are present on a construction site. But awareness and risk assessments ensure that such hazards can be identified – and prevented.
This basic guide provides an overview of the familiar hazards that construction workers face on the job – and what can be done to mitigate the risks to avoid unnecessary injuries or fatalities.
Slips, trips, and falls
The various tools, wires, and surfaces that workers encounter on construction sites provide no shortage of opportunities for slips, trips, or falls. While these incidents can be relatively minor, the injuries caused can have a major impact. Cuts and bruises can heal pretty quickly. Broken bones or dislocated joints, however, will stop a person from working for weeks or months.
So, it’s essential that all sites are kept as clean and tidy as possible from potential hazards.
A construction site is often bustling with various noises. From power tools to heavy machinery, prolonged exposure to the noises generated by site equipment can lead to long-term problems with hearing. In order to protect themselves, employers have a duty to check that workers are equipped with PPE such as ear defenders to reduce the potential effects of loud noises.
“Construction workers engage in many activities that may expose them to hazards – such as falling from a height,” said HSA chief executive officer Dr Sharon McGuinness. Construction is one sector in which falls from height is a leading cause of death and injury. This includes falls from scaffolding or roofs, as well as instances where a ladder collapses from underneath.
In addition to falls, height-related hazards also include objects that fall towards the ground. It is a situation that doesn’t just affect workers either. Passers-by can sometimes be an innocent victim of a tumbling tool or falling object – all of which contributes towards the HSA’s data.
Tools and machinery
Of course, few sectors use specialist tools and machinery like construction. With various pieces of equipment and plant designed to cut, dig, demolish, and compress, it’s no shock that there’s significant risk of death and injury when they are misused. It can be the result of poor training or improper use to name just two scenarios – and the impact can be catastrophic.
How to reduce hazards and remove injuries
All these hazards (and others) are part-and-parcel of construction work. But that doesn’t mean they should be seen as an accident waiting to happen. Employers have a duty to make sure all sites are as safe as they can be for their workers. And it means providing the correct protective equipment and training, as well as putting in place measures for tidying and organising sites. It won’t stop construction from being a dangerous sector. But it can reduce the risk so that we see fewer deaths and injuries in the workplace – something that surely everyone can agree to.