While ensuring the health and safety of staff is important in every industry, in the construction industry it is an absolute essential, with this industry being one of the most hazardous. When working in construction, safety in and around the workplace can be a matter of life and death so making sure you have the appropriate accreditations, knowledge, and safety measures in place is paramount.
Health and safety is important in any workplace but even more so on construction sites and should be implemented from the very beginning, through competent risk assessments, online health and safety training, and site inspections.
Having health and safety guidelines is important to ensure that employees and individuals around the construction site are familiar with the rules and keep themselves, and others safe at all times. There are countless health and safety risks and hazards on construction sites which make risk assessments and proper safety precautions a necessity in minimizing the risk for workers on the site.
If your manager or supervisor fails to implement suitable health and safety measures, accidents and hazards can occur and cause accidents as a result.
Construction companies should ensure that health and safety is a key factor in their attitude to work, because without it, lives can be endangered. The best way to ensure the safety of everyone involved in a project is provide appropriate safety training and make sure that all contractors have completed accurate health and safety assessments that are associated with any work that they are carrying out to prevent any potential accidents within the workplace.
Construction sites frequently experience change, from a day-to-day basis with large, heavy machinery in operation. According to statistics from HSE, 123 workers were killed in 2021/22 (RIDDOR), with 30 of these deaths being within the construction industry, making this industry the most fatal in the UK.
There are too many health and safety hazards associated with construction sites to count. However, there are some hazards that are more common than others and should always be considered as part of a risk assessment that is being carried out for a project.
Common health and safety hazards in the construction industry include:
Working at Height
Working at height is often required when working on construction sites, and without proper training and risk assessment, accidents do occur. So much so that 47% of work-related injuries in the construction industry are attributed to falls from a height. To prevent this from happening, HSE advise that:
With construction sites being an ever-changing environment, moving objects can be very hazardous within the workplace. Some vehicles can be carrying heavy loads to sharp objects, which should be treated with care when driving. When combined with uneven surfaces that are common within construction sites, it can be difficult for these vehicles to maneuver safely, and therefore requires strict site and workplace inspections.
The health and safety risks that moving objects attract can be mitigated from different processes and procedures that should be implemented within the workplace.
Lifting plans and supervisions of lifting operations can prevent workers from being struck during tasks, along with wearing PPE, which can limit the damage of being potentially struck by a moving object whilst at work.
Ensure that the correct lifting devices and vehicles are in operation to prevent injuries, as the incorrect choice of device or vehicle could be fatal.
While asbestos is seen as a thing of the past there are, in fact, around 500,000 public buildings within the UK that still contain asbestos materials. However, in many of these cases it is harmless, if left undisturbed, it still poses a risk to workers who need to know where it is and how to properly handle the material.
Asbestos is the most common killer within construction industry, with asbestos related diseases currently killing around 4500 people each year in Great Britain. In order to prevent potential health and safety risks caused by asbestos, it would be sensible before the job begins to determine whether asbestos is present.
Using PPE will also help to deter the risk of asbestos and help to keep workers safe from the common killer. Once work is complete, it would be sensible to safely dispose of any asbestos waste to prevent any potential harm.
There is an increasing number of electrocutions that involve workers completing electrical work but are not qualified to do so. It may seem obvious that electricity is a hazard, but it should still be assessed as part of a risk assessment.
Electricity related incidents contributed to 6% of fatal injuries in 2021/22p, within the construction industry. With many jobs involving working with electrics within the construction site, it is important to never use damaged equipment as this can be very dangerous and a major health and safety hazard.
More commonly associated with demolition workers, collapse of trenches and other unstable bodies can cause serious injury to those working in them. Precautions need to be taken in order to ensure the safety of those working around these risks, otherwise the results could be fatal.
This workplace health and safety risk has proven to be dangerous if not monitored correctly, with 51% of all fatalities being caused from falls and collapses. Before working on potentially unstable infrastructures, carry out workplace inspections, and risk assessment to ensure all health and safety precautions are met and nobody is put at risk.
Working in Confined Spaces
When working in a confined space, this brings a whole host of new hazards to workers, such as dangerous gasses, low oxygen levels, and loss of consciousness. It is essential that an appropriate risk assessment is completed prior to any work of this nature taking place.
To prevent accidents from occurring whilst working in confined spaces, ensure that there are suitable ventilation systems in place to mitigate any potential noxious fumes that could be present.
If somebody is entering a confined space within the workplace where oxygen may be limited and affects breathing, a breathing apparatus must be present to assist the workers.
Face Fit Testing can be an appropriate measure for this.
Health and Safety risks will always be present within the workplace, and it is not possible to remove every risk and hazard associated with construction work, but you can, however, minimize the risk of injury. Thorough risk assessment, worker training, and safety precautions all act together to identify and reduce risks that are posed when completing work in the construction industry.
Ensuring that work is regularly monitored can help to improve health and safety on building sites. Through enforcing this, it will prevent workers from developing potentially dangerous or hazardous habits that cause an accident on site.
No matter the size of a construction project, it is a requirement to complete a risk assessment and have a health and safety plan in place. Ensuring that workers have access to this plan and understand it is the first step to minimizing risk on job. On top of this, ensuring that the information within the plan and its implementation into the project is consistent will also help as everyone should understand and be able to easily identify the risks associated with specific tasks.
Being able to spot and properly report a hazard is just the start of reducing workplace hazards in the construction industry. The next, and arguably most effective, step is to train your workers on how to properly deal with a potential hazards when they arise. Including your workers in the health and safety strategies and plans will not only make them feel more valued but also provides an opportunity to upskill them also.
Providing access to health and safety accreditations is a great way to ensure that your workforce is able to properly identify risks as well as handle them in a safe and effective manner.
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