The construction industry is among the most dangerous to work in. In the UK, it’s responsible for the most workplace deaths in absolute terms.
Photo by Laura Davidson on Unsplash
This is problematic for a whole range of reasons beyond the obvious ones. Fortunately, it’s something that we can do something about: by implementing the right health and safety policies, we can limit the danger.
Health and safety laws
Thanks to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, workers across the UK are better protected from potential negligence and malpractice in the workplace. This legislation encourages employers to give their employees as much information, training and supervision needed to allow them to work as safely as possible. Furthermore, employers are required by law to perform a risk assessment of the dangers and hazards in the workplace. Below is an overview of the HASAWA.
The Health and Safety act 1974 requires workplaces to provide:
- Sufficient training to members of staff so that health and safety procedures are understood and adhered to.
- Adequate welfare provisions for staff at work
- A working environment that is safe, well maintained and where operations are conducted in a safe manner.
- Adequate provision of health and safety instruction, information and supervision.
The Reporting of Injuries – RIDDOR act 1995
In these regulations employers have a duty to report serious work-related incidents, injuries or diseases to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), or to the nearest local authority environmental health department. Under these regulations, the employer must record, within a accident book, the place as well as the date and time of the incident. It must furthermore also explain the details of the incident and the occupation of the person(s).
Here is a list of the types of incidents that must be reported: https://www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/reportable-incidents.htm
Why health and safety matters
In construction, there were an estimated 74,000 cases of work-related ill health per year between 2018 and 2021. This puts it slightly behind other industries which involve similar work activities – but in construction, the damage tends to be more severe when it does occur.
This imposes a considerable cost in terms of productivity. Workers suffering from musculoskeletal disorders (around 54% of reported injuries) may find themselves unable to return to work. Worse, they might rush back to work before they’re entirely recovered, and suffer a setback.
In the UK, employers have a duty to provide a work environment that’s safe for employees. As such, if a site operator fails to provide the appropriate level of safety and an employee becomes injured as a result, they might find themselves vulnerable to legal action.
Consequently, it’s not only morally desirable to keep everyone safe: it’s also financially sensible.
What types of injury are common in construction?
Slips, trips and falls
A construction site can be a busy and chaotic place, as well as untidy one. Discarded tools, holes in the ground, trailing cables: they can all put workers at risk of falling.
Chronic exposure to loud noise can damage your hearing. This means any environment where power tools are being operated. Conduct a risk assessment, and hand out ear defenders accordingly.
Workers who use vibrating power tools on a regular basis are vulnerable to burst blood vessels and nerve damage, which can be completely disastrous over time.
Working at Height
If you’re working at height, it’s essential that you take precautions to stop yourself from falling, and to prevent materials and equipment from being dropped.
How to Prevent Personal Injury and safely work with others
There are two main ways to address these problems. The first relates to culture and procedure: the things that your workers do. If everyone is encouraged to keep the site tidy, and goes out of their way to spot potential dangers, then slip-related accidents will be less likely. This also goes back to ensuring the right information is widely displayed to inform and remind workers of hazards in the workplace.
The second is to ensure that everyone is equipped appropriately. Slip-resistant boots can help to deal with muddy and slippery surfaces, too. Eye protection will prevent sharps from flying up into worker’s faces during drilling and sawing. Tool lanyards are a powerful way of making tools safer. They’ll gradually bring any dropped tools to a stop, without compromising on ease of operation. Meaning that anyone (as an example) who is working from height, and drops or slips a tool by mistake doesn’t have to worry about potentially injuring someone working/walking below.