Managing Risks at a Wet Construction Site
Mitigate the risks of water at your site
Construction sites are often at risk of being exposed to an influx of water, mainly from outdoor sites being exposed to rain, or even indoor sites where a contractor may be fixing a leak for a customer.
Water on a construction site can represent a significant risk to you, your team and other visitors to your site, so take a look at some of these hints and tips to either prevent excess water at your site or mitigate the risks of water at your site.
How water could become a hazard on site
Water can collect at a construction site for a host of different reasons. Here are some of the ways that water can accumulate at your site.
If your site is outdoors, there is the risk that it may be exposed to the weather. The UK is well known for wet weather, where rain can appear at any time of the year; winter or summer.
If your site is close to a moving body of water, like a river, stream or sea, your site could experience a flood if that water escapes.
If you are working in a property, either building, demolishing or general plumbing work, could run the risk of a water pipe leaking.
Your team must have access to drinking water to keep them healthy and hydrated throughout the day. However, if you have a designated area for drinking, regular use can create spills. If your team have their cups, mugs or drinking bottles on site, there is the possibility they could spill their drink by accident.
Washing down equipment
To keep your tools free from rust and dirt, they should be cleaned following use, but cleaning your tools could also lead to standing water at your site.
Identifying site risks and how to manage them
Slips and trips
The most common workplace injury in the UK in 2019/20 was slips or falls (on the level ground), according to the HSE.
Having a build-up of standing water on your site can increase the chances of a member of your team or a visitor to the site having an accident from slipping.
To avoid slips caused by water on your site, encourage members of your team to report standing water, and act immediately by putting out signage so people are aware of the danger. Depending on how much water is creating a hazard, a member of staff can try to get rid of it using cleaning equipment, but a sign should remain in place to prevent slips and trips.
Electric Shock Risks
If you are working to fix electrical faults, you should be aware of any water on your worksite.
Water itself doesn’t conduct electricity, but the salt and metal ions in water are conductors of electricity, meaning that if electricity comes into contact with water, it can be dangerous.
It doesn’t take a lot of water to conduct a fatal shock, so to keep safe when working with electricity, ensure the area you are working in is completely free of water.
Water related erosion
If rain is particularly heavy, the water can start to erode some surfaces leading to unstable and potentially unsafe walkways.
Similarly to standing pools of water, unstable surfaces should be reported as soon as they are noticed, and signage should be placed to warn others of the potential danger.
Exposure to stagnant water
Stagnant water is particularly a risk for outdoor workers. When water has been lying for an extended period without freshwater to move it on, it can become stagnant.
Stagnant water can be a breeding ground for different kinds of parasites or bacteria, and if accidentally ingested, can make a member of your team or visitor very unwell.
Ensure your site has good drainage to ensure that water can move away from your site to prevent both slip hazards and stagnation.
If you are working around cooling towers, dry or wet cooling systems, hot or cold water systems, spa pools, humidifiers, air washers and other hot water storage systems, you could be at risk of Legionnaire’s Disease.
Legionnaire’s Disease is caused by Legionella bacteria, which can grow in water where temperatures are between 20-45°C and can feed off rust, sludge, scale, organic matter and biofilms.
Legionnaire’s Disease causes respiratory illness in the form of swelling in the lungs due to the legionella bacteria.
Tradespeople and contractor insurance with Premierline
Whatever type of work you do as a contractor, you need to ensure that you are protected should the worst happen. There will also be different insurance needs for different types of business, who might need employers’ liability insurance by law, or commercial vehicle insurance to protect their assets.