It goes without saying that construction site safety is of paramount importance on any construction project. There were 59,000 non-fatal injuries due to construction site accidents in 2021/2022, according to the HSE annual Construction Statistics Report, which is why construction site safety must be adhered to by construction managers and operatives alike. Every bulding project and new site will come with its own specific risks. Identifying hazards on a construction site and implementing proper construction site safety will go a long way to reducing the likelihood of construction site accidents.
The construction industry, somewhat understandably, has a relatively high rate of injuries and accidents. There are a large number of hazards on a construction site, and although health and safety measures can minimise the potential risks, it’s not possible to remove them altogether. Construction site accidents are most commonly attributed to one of the following:
Working at height is often unavoidable on a construction site, be it during the demolition process or building floors and roofs. Working on scaffolding or cranes naturally poses a risk of falling, which is why construction is considered one of the most dangerous industries.
Uneven surfaces, wet ground, and all types of debris are just some of the hazards on a construction site that can lead to slips, trips, and falls. These can range from minor slips to serious falls requiring hospital attention.
Falling objects are responsible for many construction site accidents. From power tools, building materials, and even debris, an object dropped from height can cause serious damage.
The large number of vehicles, machinery, and unsecured structures are one of the most significant hazards on a construction site. It is possible for workers to be crushed or suffer a serious injury if they become trapped under, in, or between machinery or collapsed structures.
As well as the risk of being caught between machinery, construction site operatives can be struck by moving vehicles or equipment. The use of construction site PPE, such as hi-vis jackets, makes workers more visible to minimise the chances of this happening.
Construction work can involve excavation or digging trenches. In some cases, the walls of these trenches can collapse and there is a real threat of suffocation or severe injury. Walls and roofs can also collapse, which is another risk for workers to be aware of.
Construction sites use electrical equipment regularly. These wires can be damaged, exposing the wires and creating hazards for unsuspecting workers. Electric shocks, electrocutions, or even electrical fires are common causes of construction site accidents.
Construction sites, particularly those involving the restoration or demolition of old buildings, can contain many hazardous substances. Asbestos, lead, and silica can cause serious respiratory illnesses or poisoning. A COSHH assessment as part of the construction site health and safety document will evaluate these risks and the actions to take to reduce any potential harm.
Construction materials and fuels can be very flammable, and therefore the risk of a fire or explosion is increased on a building site. There needs to be rigorous fire safety procedures set out, in line with construction site safety measures and regulations.
Construction site accidents that can come from welding are burns, eye injuries and fires. More long term effects can be musculoskeletal injuries and hearing loss. Welders should have the necessary experience and qualifications before undertaking this work, and all equipment should be checked regularly.
In order to make construction sites as safe as possible, and to complete jobs on time and on budget, a stringent safe system of work must be put in place for every construction project. Safe systems of work in the construction industry must be in line with CDM Regulations as set out by The Health And Safety Executive.
Safe systems of work for optimal construction site safety will usually involve:
A construction site risk assessment works alongside a safe system of work to identify risks. A risk assessment is the first step towards recognising if a safe system of work is needed, which, in the case of construction site safety, it invariably is.
A method statement is the part of a safe system of work that sets out how a task should be completed. A safe system of work identifies the risks and then implements the method statements to outline how to perform tasks to minimise these risks. A method statement is designed to reduce construction site accidents by making sure workers know the safest way to perform a specific task.
For every new construction project or building site, there should be a thorough induction for all staff. An induction should cover construction site safety specific to the individual hazards of each site, and is a legal requirement on every construction site.
Proper training should be provided for all construction site staff. This can include operating different types of machinery, safety when working from heights, or how to correctly lift heavy objects. Even highly skilled workers can require additional training when starting a new project. Furthermore, those in charge of construction site safety should have the proper construction health and safety training.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the last line of defence in construction site safety. When all construction site hazards have been identified and everything has been done to minimise them, then construction site PPE can be used to protect workers in case an accident does happen. PPE includes things like hard hats, safety goggles, and gloves, among other items.
Risk assessments, method statements, and safe systems of work all need to be regularly monitored and updated to ensure that all procedures remain as safe as possible, and to allow for any site changes. Regular reviews also allow for updates from any accidents that do happen to make the construction site even safer.
Clear construction site safety signs should be used throughout the construction site to warn workers of hazards and provide relevant information. This can include basic health and safety signs like fire exit signage or construction specific signs, such as excavation area signs.
Keeping a construction site tidy and organised is a simple way to reduce the likelihood of construction site accidents happening. Removing rubbish, tidying away tools, and turning off electrical equipment when not in use can all contribute to construction site safety. Making sure the site is secure and that no one can access the site unsupervised is also important.
Despite every effort, construction site accidents do happen. There will therefore need to be an emergency procedure in place as well as a clear system for reporting accidents. Training should be given for emergency procedures and drills should be carried out at regular intervals. A fire marshal will need to be appointed to maintain fire safety, as well as other competent persons specific to the task or type of emergency, for example a first aid responder.
Construction site health and safety is a complex topic with many layers that can change from job to job and project to project. Construction site accidents can be serious, or even fatal, and so every aspect of health and safety must be thorough and robust to minimise the risks as much as possible.
Rhino Safety has a team of experts who understand the nuances and the pressures involved in construction site safety and can work with you to design, deliver and maintain construction site health and safety systems. Please contact the team at Rhino Safety to find out how to make your construction site as safe as it can be.