Construction sector injuries in 2019
In the UK, 79,000 workers suffer from work-related ill health every year. The above chart details the proportion of those sustained in the construction industry. With these sobering statistics in mind, let’s take a look at the most common types of construction site accidents and what you can do to prevent them.
What are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)?
Musculoskeletal Disorders are a group of medical complaints that relate to muscles, tendons, and nerves. Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, thoracic outlet syndrome, and tension neck syndrome are the most closely related disorders.
MSDs can be broken down into specific regions of the body, namely the back, lower and upper limbs. MSDs can develop over time based on occupational tasks which form a large part of an employee’s daily working activities. These can include fixed or constrained body positions, repetition of movements, a concentrated force on small areas of the body such as the hands or wrist, and a pace of work that doesn’t allow for adequate recovery.
Most common construction accidents
Slips, trips, and falls are the most common accident in any workplace – and the construction sector is no different. Common site tripping hazards include loose cables and misplaced tools, and in extreme cases, workers can fall into holes in the ground if they are not appropriately signed or cordoned off.
Reduce tripping hazards by correctly signing hazardous areas and implementing a safe site procedure, such as a designated tool storage area.
Falls from height
The most common type of fall is when workers fall from scaffolding or unsecured ladders. Such falls can cause serious injuries like fractures and broken bones; in extreme cases, they can be fatal – 30 fatalities were recorded in the construction sector in 2018/19.
To prevent falls from height, ensure that all ladders that are used are correctly set up on a level surface to prevent over-leaning. Where scaffolding is erected, ensure walkways are accompanied by appropriate signage and are clutter-free.
Bricks, tools, and waste items are often transferred between scaffolding tiers, causing workers to be struck by them. Injuries sustained from falling objects range from minor cuts and bruises to severe head and brain trauma.
Boost site safety by providing your workers with hard hats, and remember that bump caps are not a suitable replacement for them.
Excessive noise on-site can impede communication and, in some cases, cause health problems such as Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or in severe cases, deafness. As an employer, it is your responsibility to reduce both noise levels and the time workers are exposed to it. In instances where noise reduction is not possible, ensure you distribute the correct hearing PPE to your employees.
Vibrating tool hazards
Vibration from power tools can cause injuries, including severe nerve and tendon damage to the hands, arms, and wrists. These injuries can be excruciating, and in some cases, can lead to amputation or paralysis. While technological advancements have reduced the vibration that power tools emit, we recommend reinforcing your protection with anti-vibration gloves.
All the tools and equipment used on-site should be regularly tested to ensure that it is in full working order. If tools become faulty, it is your responsibility as an employer to make sure it is repaired. If staff sustain an injury using defective equipment, you will be liable to pay compensation. Find out more about the provision of work equipment here.
Reduce collision risks by conducting a thorough site risk assessment to ensure the site layout is efficient and by issuing workers with Hi-Vis workwear. Efficient communication and cooperation on-site are also crucial – emphasise their importance by holding regular training and teambuilding events.
How to prevent construction site accidents
Prevention is always better than cure, and it is your responsibility to mitigate and reduce potential risks and hazards. We have provided some tips on how to do this above, but in the next section, we go into more detail.
Provide safety training
All employees should undergo regular training programmes so that all team members are educated on all workplace safety standards and hazards. As mentioned earlier, this will also improve communication and cooperation on site.
Staff should never operate equipment or machinery unless they are qualified to do so, and employers should implement considered policies for every task performed on-site. Written copies of best practice procedures should be kept on-site and include the name and location on the site’s first aider.
Organise crew safety meetings
Safety meetings should be held regularly, preferably daily in high-risk areas. Maximise the effectiveness of your meetings by keeping them focused and concise while ensuring that all relevant hazards and risks are covered.
Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The use of PPE is essential and keeps construction workers safe, and correct PPE should be worn at all times on site. Below are the main types of PPE that construction workers should wear to stay safe on site.
Hi-visibility workwear ensures your workers are visible on-site, and therefore reduces the risk of accidents like collisions.
CA approved hard hats protect against falling debris – a common occurrence on construction sites. Hard hats must be worn on sites where things are being passed from different scaffolding tiers.
Safety boots with protective toe caps are essential when working on a construction site. Our range of safety footwear covers all potential site risks, from cuts, slips, and falling objects to hazardous chemical splashes.
Protective gloves are a necessity when handling and lifting objects on a construction site. As well as maximising safety, our gloves ensure compliance with international and European safety laws (EN420).
Like hard hats, safety goggles protect against airborne debris, offering crucial protection from manual tasks and jobs performed by others. Aside from safety goggles, our eye protection range includes safety glasses, over specs, and eyewear accessories.
Ear defenders protect the hearing of workers who are exposed to excessive noise. Like safety goggles, ear defenders safeguard staff from hazards created by the work of others (e.g. another team member who is using a loud power tool).
Keep the work area clean and tidy
Good housekeeping is key to safety and efficiency and keeping the site clean and debris-free will reduce the likelihood of trips, slips, and falls. Keep site procedures running smoothly by storing tools away in a designated area. You could also supplement site efficiency by hiring a labourer to keep the site tidy and provide an immediate response to debris accumulation.
Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction sector; therefore, it is vital to install robust fall protection systems, such as toe boards, screens, guardrails, canopy structures, or nets.
Anyone working at heights should be equipped with adequate fall arrest equipment, while a professional should inspect scaffolding before work commences, and check it regularly after that.
Construction site risk assessment
Inspect the site and identify hazards before commencing work – this will also strengthen your risk assessment. Next, list the preventive measures to avoid these hazards and mitigate the risks involved, before incorporating the findings into your staff training and safety meetings.
Construction safety law
Ensure your employees stay safe, and your business remains compliant by applying the advice provided above. Not heeding this advice will put your workers, and potentially your business, at risk.
Any violations of best practices should be reported immediately. You can learn more about construction site accident prevention and reporting laws on the HSE site.