Health and Safety Executive statistics show that 565,000 workers sustained non-fatal injuries at work in 2021/2022, with 123 workers killed in work-related accidents. The construction industry is one of the most dangerous places to work because of the amount of manual labour and the kinds of machinery and equipment involved, with anyone who steps foot on a building site potentially at risk of injury.
Regardless of whether it's a residential or commercial building site, health and safety must be a key priority in order to keep employees safe from harm. Managing health and safety in construction can be a big challenge, as it often involves implementing numerous measures for multiple risks, along with ensuring that everyone’s health and safety training is up to date.
Understanding the most common risks is a key part of managing health and safety in a construction environment, as this helps you to know where you should be focusing your efforts. In this article, we talk about the importance of health and safety in construction and take a look at five of the most common health and safety hazards that exist on building sites and share advice on how you can reduce the risk that they pose.
Health and Safety is an important factor to consider within every workplace, no matter which industry you are part of, as it safeguards people from potential harm that could happen on the premises. Without following the health and safety plan for construction sites, employees and potentially passers-by are at risk of serious injury or even death because of the hazards presented by construction tasks and machinery.
Construction sites can be some of the riskiest and most challenging places to work if you’re not careful, with anyone who steps onto a site to carry out work running the potential risk of injury. All kinds of factors can become hazards in construction, and if these aren’t carefully managed then you run the risk of harming nearby members of the public as well.
Construction Health and Safety policy is frequently the target of criticism, with many people - both employees and employers alike - seeing it as potentially overbearing, cumbersome, and overall unnecessary. But these policies outline tried and tested procedures for managing and removing risk from construction environments, so whilst they might seem like unnecessary steps, it’s vital that everything in a health and safety policy is upheld.
Uneven terrain, muddy walkways and obstacles caused by equipment are things you’re almost certain to find on a building site, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that construction workers are at risk of slipping, tripping or falling at work. With various ditches and holes being dug, heavy materials knocking around, and employees working at levels above the ground, it's important that everyone on a construction site is always aware of their environment and avoiding risks as best they can.
Maintaining a tidy construction site, upholding strict cleaning protocols and ensuring that all employees are wearing suitable footwear can all help to reduce slips, trips and falls when you’re managing health and safety in construction. Training courses make people more aware of the potential risks on site as well as how to safely store equipment and materials to minimise the risk of someone falling, so it is vital that site managers invest in this.
To get more information on how to prevent these accidents check out our ‘Slips, Trips and Falls’ online training course and protect your employees.
Falls from height are the single biggest cause of construction site fatalities, accounting for 29% of incidents from 2021 to 2022.
If you work on a construction site it’s likely that you will be required to work off the ground at some point during your career. Whether it’s on scaffolding, in a crane or in a scissor lift, each comes with its own unique risk of falling and a real danger of someone coming crashing back down to earth and injuring themselves or someone else.
Correct training on the best practices for working at height plays an essential role in employees avoiding risky situations and can help to educate workers about how they can minimise the risk to both themselves and others. You should also make sure that employees are only working at height if it’s absolutely necessary, and that they have a harness, safety rails and safety platforms to help minimise any damage if they do end up falling from height.
You can ensure your employees know how to work at height safely and help to improve health and safety on a construction site with our full ‘Introduction to Working at Height’ online training course.
Whether it's bricks and mortar, essential machinery, or any other materials and tools, there’s always an element of danger when these things are being moved around a busy building site where lots of people will be working all at once. The object that is being moved can pose a danger to the person doing the moving and to others in the vicinity as well.
Construction sites can be small spaces at times, so any large diggers, excavators and transporters moving things from A to B will also be at risk of colliding with someone working there. The uneven roadways and potentially muddy conditions increase the chances of materials being dropped and machinery veering off course, which can put anyone on site at risk if not handled with care.
All employees should receive proper construction health and safety training before using any machinery to move items around a building site. You also need to emphasise the importance of employees remaining aware of their surroundings as they are working, so that they don’t get in the way of moving objects and injure themselves.
You can get more information on how to safely move objects with our online ‘Manual Handling’ course.
Electricity is one of the risks that people often forget when working within construction, but it presents a substantial risk to everyone on site.
Electrical installations pose fresh risks of their own, with the introduction of new cabling to a working construction site increasing the chances of electrocution. Electrical installation is a critical part of a building’s construction, and for those who are not trained electricians, this presents numerous problems.
There will be multiple instances of cabling coming in and being connected around the building, increasing the chances of electrocution on a busy site where other work is likely still ongoing.
It's important to always make sure only trained and qualified electricians are working on electrical jobs to lower the risk and keep the construction site safe. Site managers should also provide basic hazard awareness training to all construction workers to further minimise risks.
For those who aren’t familiar with the conditions on a building site, this risk may come as a surprise. But noise is another common health and safety risk in construction, as high-volume drilling and machinery can cause lasting damage to workers' hearing unless protective equipment is worn and the correct training has been given.
Noise is a very big issue for both the builders who are on-site and those who are nearby. If people are not afforded the right protective equipment and trained on the dangers that loud noises can cause, then there are real dangers of workers suffering long-term hearing damage which can lead to deafness.
Appropriate ear protection must be provided to anyone working on a construction site where noise presents a health and safety risk, and employees need to be given relevant constriction health and safety training so that they know when to use this protection and what the warning signs of serious hearing damage are. You will also often need to inform buildings and residents around a construction site that noisy work will be taking place if it’s going to be significant, which needs to be done well in advance.
Whether it's a retail, residential or commercial building, construction sites are some of the riskiest places for people to work due to the nature of what's being built. With people working at height, operating heavy machinery and moving materials across the site throughout any day, there's always a chance of something going wrong.
Companies need to do their best to mitigate these risks through schemes such as risk awareness pushes and increases in training for staff. Anyone working on a construction site or visiting a construction site needs to undertake health and safety training, and it is the site manager’s legal responsibility to ensure that this is delivered and regularly refreshed so that all staff are safe.
The Environment Act 2021 is the most recent piece of legislation that controls how waste is managed and disposed of on a construction site. Under this legislation, it is the legal responsibility of construction site managers to be mindful of the levels of waste that they produce and dispose of any waste safely. Failure to do this will result in legal action.
The responsibility of managing health and safety on a construction site belongs to the site managers. It’s the responsibility of construction site managers to make sure that all construction staff have received health and safety training, according to The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which makes all employers legally responsible for the safety of the people in their work environment.
A construction health and safety policy should begin with a general statement about health and safety on the site, where the site manager takes responsibility for managing health and safety and describes how they are going to do this. The policy will then have details of all the health and safety measures in place on the site, including any procedures that must be followed.
It will also include a risk assessment of the hazards on the site and an emergency plan that workers should follow if a hazardous situation occurs. Most construction health and safety policies also usually highlight what health and safety training is required for all staff on the site and state how regularly this will be updated.
Each year, the Health and Safety Executive estimates that the construction industry reports more injuries at work than almost any other employment sector. Health and safety training is incredibly important in helping to reduce these injuries and ensuring that your construction site is compliant with health and safety legislation so that you don’t end up facing legal action as well as employee injury.
If you’d like to learn more about health and safety in construction, we have a whole section of our online training course library focusing on health and safety in the construction industry.