Construction Site Safety: What Are the Common Health & Safety Risks and Hazards
Workplace injuries have been a cause for concern for several years now. And the construction industry has reported the most injuries to workers. There are dozens of risks and hazards experienced in the industry, depending on the type of construction. Fortunately, most of the risks and hazards can be eliminated hence preventing a lot of injuries. Perhaps learning about these risks and what to do about them can be the first and crucial step to a successful campaign against the alarming statistics of construction site injuries. Please read on.
1. Work at Height
Falling from work at height results to about 28% fatalities and 7% non-fatalities of every year, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), making work at height the most common health & safety risk for construction workers. The risk includes both falling and objects that could drop when working at height, hence injuring those below. Employers should ensure only competent workers are allowed to work on surfaces like roofs and equipment like ladders, lifts, and scaffolding.
For any work at height project, the employer should use the hierarchy controls:
● To avoid work at height altogether,
● To eliminate the risk, and
● To minimise the consequences.
When working on a flat roof, for instance, ensure to install relevant flat roof fall protection barrier for your safety when traversing the roof.
2. Slips, Trips, and Falls
Construction sites experience slips, trips, and falls very often due to the presence of unused materials on-site, obstacles, non-completed buildings, wet/slippery surfaces, and uneven terrain. These risks contribute to thousands of construction worker injuries every year. However, HSE reports that most of these injuries could be avoided if access routes and working areas like footpaths and stairwells were managed effectively. Workers should also be quick to report any potential risks to the safety officer or their employer, who should take the relevant measures to eliminate the risk.
3. Moving Objects
Whenever there’s an ongoing construction project, hazards keep increasing as the construction environment keeps changing. Workers encounter different moving objects every other time - diggers, supply vehicles, and overhead lifting equipment. Ensure to avoid working close to moving objects as much as possible, and always be vigilant of your surroundings. Some moving objects lack beepers and lights. Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like a high visibility jacket, for instance, should also be worn by all workers at all times.
4. Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)
This is a common illness that affects joints, nerves, and blood vessels. It often results from prolonged use of hand-held power tools such as the ground working equipment or vibratory power tools. Bad news? The damage is permanent once done, including painful attacks in the fingers during cold temperatures and the inability to do fine work. Good news? HAVS can be prevented; proper maintenance of equipment and use of appropriate protection. It’s also important to consider acquiring equipment from approved manufacturers and suppliers whose products meet the minimum health and safety requirements as per the different EU standards.
Noise is one of the most common construction hazards. Excessive, repetitive, and too loud noise has been linked to long-term hearing problems. It can also distract workers from carrying out their normal duties and could cause serious accidents. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to conduct a comprehensive noise risk assessment and take proper action, such as the provision of PPEs or invest in sound-proofing where necessary.
6. Manual and Material Handling
Construction sites see different materials and equipment being moved and lifted around every single day, either by equipment or manually. Both methods involve a degree of risk. It’s the duty of the employer or safety officer to ensure workers get adequate training before operating equipment or handling the materials manually.
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