There are health & safety risks in any industry but if you work in the construction industry, you’re more likely to face health & safety risks due to the environments you face on a daily basis and the equipment and manual handling that comes with being on a site.
But what are the most common areas for health & safety-related dangers in the construction sector? In this article, we will go over the 10 most common areas to help you with spotting risks and preventing hazardous situations in the future.
1. Falling from heights
By far the most common and dangerous risks when working in construction is falling from heights with about 40 fatalities per year. Construction workers are often required to work from a height, but risks are increased dramatically when mobility is restricted, or the correct training isn’t in place. It’s important for site managers to make sure anyone required to work from height has the correct training.
2. Trips and falls
The second most common area for construction-related injuries is slipping or tripping. Working outside in poor weather can easily lead to slipping and therefore having the correct footwear and if possible temporary flooring in bad areas is highly recommended. Tripping is also a big risk if tools, machinery and materials are left lying around they not only are a trip hazard but can increase the severity of anyone who does fall and land on them.
3. Moving objects/materials
As a project develops sites can become chaotic with materials and vehicles passing through. All of these create potential risks and things you need to be aware of. Having a clear route for vehicles to use can help reduce risks, as can having a well-marked area for lifting.
4. Manual handling
Another common cause of injury in construction is manual handling. Lifting heavy materials incorrectly can cause both short and long-term injuries which you’ll want to avoid not just for your health but also so you can avoid having to take time off work. Avoiding risks for manual handling related injuries can be easily avoided by using the correct lifting technique and asking for help when a load is particularly heavy.
Something that can be easily forgotten about but can have serious long-term implications is being exposed to loud noises, most commonly through the use of machinery. Being exposed to loud noise without the correct protection can lead to reduced hearing or complete deafness. SMAS Worksafe are partnered with Workscreen UK which offers our members an online hearing test so you can get checked.
Another risk that comes with using machinery is vibrations and the long-term impact that can have. Prolonged use of power tools and ground working equipment can lead to Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome, or ‘Blue-finger’ as it is commonly referred too but it can be prevented with effective risk assessments and use of the correct PPE.
7. Respiratory diseases
Another common health & safety risk when working on site is the dust produced during tasks such as drilling and sawing, as well as using chemical products that are required to complete a certain task. Wearing the correct PPE will greatly reduce the risk of inhaling dust and chemicals which could cause long-term illnesses such as pulmonary issues, silicosis and asthma.
Following on from respiratory diseases is asbestos. Over half a million homes in the UK still have asbestos despite the substance being banned in housing in 1999. Removing asbestos can be extremely harmful and damaging if not done correctly and it is therefore imperative that anyone dealing with it has suitable training. SMAS Worksafe are partners with UKATA who offer a range of asbestos training courses depending on what level of training you require.
Electrocutions were responsible for 5% of all construction-related deaths in 2019 with many of those due to the worker not holding the correct level of training required to carry out the work. It is therefore extremely important that only those with the required level of training carry out electrical work.
10. Collapsing environment / Trapped
Collapsing environments such as trenches can leave workers seriously injured and in some rare cases may cause fatality, although they are few and far between with about 14% of all fatal construction injuries falling under this category. Making sure that risk assessments are complete will help to minimise the chances of a collapsing environment.
How to minimise risks on site:
- Make sure there is always at least one person on site who has up to date first aid training.
- Make sure that any risk has been risk-assessed and it has been checked over by more than one person.
- Regularly check that all persons working on any site have the relevant health & safety training as well as the correct qualifications.
- Make sure your site has the correct signage required
- Keep tools and equipment well maintained.
- Have frequent health & safety meetings to keep on top of the ever-changing environment.