Top 5 Construction Safety Hazards (And How You Can Control The Risks) header image

5th June, 2018

Top 5 Construction Safety Hazards (And How You Can Control The Risks)

Perhaps this blog post should be called worst 5 construction safety hazards, after all, I don’t have a top construction safety hazard any more than I would have a favourite illness, but none-the-less, here are our top 5 construction safety hazards.

By top 5 we mean, if you work in construction, these are the safety hazards most likely to harm you*.

1. Work at Height

Falls are the biggest cause of harm accounting for a staggering 49% of fatal injuries within the construction sector in the last five years (to 2016/17). Falls from height also account for a massive 32% of specified major injuries, and 10% of over 7-day injuries reported within the 2016/17 reporting period.

So what’s behind this statistic?

Well, the high number of falls within the construction industry is largely due to the fact that your exposure is increased. Work at height in some form can be found on nearly every construction site.

When falls from height do occur, the resulting injuries are typically serious, and can often be fatal.

Major work at height, on roofs and buildings under construction, can be extremely hazardous if not carefully planned. Roofs and floors under construction, fragile roof materials such as roof lights or damaged roof sheets, add the risk of falls through the roof structure, along with the obvious risk of falls from the roof edge.

Think carefully about your access equipment. A step ladder is fine for changing a light bulb, but not for plastering a ceiling. Even minor falls from low heights can be fatal.

Scaffolds need to be correctly installed by a trained and skilled team and formally inspected every 7 days.

work at height scaffolding
Pick the right access equipment for the job

Don’t forget, with any outside work, the weather can play a huge part in increasing the risk, and work at height should not be carried out in windy, icy or very wet conditions.

Need Help? Download the work at height risk assessment template.

2. Falling / Moving Objects

Construction sites are busy places and often involve a variety of trades working closely together to both demolish and build. Considering this fact, it is no surprise that falling and moving objects are a major hazard on site, as the project team work throughout the site to get the project completed.

Not many workplaces have to be as alert when it comes to watching out for moving materials, equipment and vehicles.

Contact with falling, moving objects, machinery and vehicles accounted for 30% of fatal, and 20% of non-fatal injuries in the construction industry 16/17 accident statistics.

Carefully planning lifting operations, exclusion zones below overhead work, ensuring communication between the various trades on site and always wearing appropriate PPE on site will help to protect you from falling and moving objects.

There is some good news. You are less likely to be killed being struck by a moving vehicle in construction, than in other industries as this hazard accounts for 22% of fatal injuries across all industries, compared to constructions reported 16% for 16/17. Although, this is an increase on previous years and good traffic management on site is crucial to keep this figure low.

Need Help? use the construction traffic management plan template.

3. Electricity

Electricity can kill, accounting for between 2 and 5 deaths each year in the construction industry, and dozens of serious injuries (55 in 16/17).

All trades are at risk from electricity

It's not just electricians at risk, accidental contact with hidden services is a hazard for all trades on site.

Before starting work, identify the location of electrical services, and make sure electrical work is only undertaken by a qualified and competent electrician.

When you are working near to electrical wiring or equipment, the electrical supply should be turned off. Again, a competent person will need to carry out any work to electrical systems to ensure that the circuit is no longer live and it is safe for work to proceed.

Always assume electricity is live unless proved otherwise.

Electrical tools used on site should only be 110v to reduce the risk, with regular inspections and any faulty equipment or leads taken out of use for replacement or repair.

Don’t forget about underground and overhead services. Before excavating make sure any electrical or other services are identified and marked on site, isolated or disconnected as required if there is a risk of contact. Overhead power cables should also be identified and precautions such as barriers, height restrictions of plant, isolation or re-routing taken as required.

Need Help? Download the pre-completed electrical risk assessment template.

4. Collapse

More of a risk than a hazard, a collapse is the cause of 10% of construction fatalities which is consistent with figures across all industries.

The risk of a collapse is at its greatest during demolition works or when a building or structure is partially completed, such as incomplete access equipment i.e. scaffolding.

Structures can become unstable during modification, alteration and demolition. Any building demolition work, no matter how small, should be carefully planned by a competent person, in a logical sequence, with any necessary temporary supports put in place to ensure that an unplanned collapse of the structure does not happen.

It's not just permanent structures that can collapse. Scaffold collapses are rare, but when they do happen they are almost always fatal. Make sure that scaffolding is erected by a competent team, inspected every 7 days or after any event that may affect its stability, such as extreme weather.

Need Help? Download the pre-completed demolition method statement template.

5. Handling Loads

Regardless of what part of the construction process you are involved with, if you are building something or knocking it down, you need to move materials and equipment to get the job done.

While moving loads isn’t likely to kill you, it does feature in the top 5 causes of specified (7%) and over 7 day (29%) injuries in 2016/17. In fact, handling is the largest cause of over 7-day injuries in construction.

So, what can you do to reduce the risk?

First, eliminate manual handling where possible and use mechanical means instead, particularly with heavy and bulky loads.

Reduce the strain by using team lifts when mechanical means are not practical.

And finally, know your limits and practice safe lifting. If something is beyond your capabilities to lift safely, get help. After all, pride comes before a fall... or should that be an injury in this instance!

Need Help? Download the ready to use manual handling risk assessment template.

This blog post was first written in 2013, and has since been updated with the latest accident statistics*.

*Construction statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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