Top 5 construction safety hazards and how to control the risks

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Perhaps this blog post should be called worst 5 construction safety hazards, after all, I don’t have a top construction safety hazard any more than I would have a favourite illness, but none-the-less, here are our top 5 construction safety hazards.

construction safety hazards

By top 5 we mean, if you work in construction, these are the safety hazards most likely to harm you*.

1. Work at Height

Falls are the biggest cause of harm accounting for a staggering 51% of fatal injuries, and 29% of major injuries reported, within the construction sector in the 2011/12 reporting period.

So what’s behind this statistic?

Well, the high attribution of falls to fatal and serious accidents within the construction industry is largely due to the fact that your exposure is increased, work at height in some form can be found on nearly every construction site.

Major work at height, on roofs and buildings under construction, can be extremely hazardous if not carefully planned. Roofs and floors under construction, fragile roof materials such as roof lights or damaged roof sheets, add the risk of falls through the roof structure, along with the obvious risk of falls from the roof edge.

Think carefully about your access equipment. A step ladder is fine for changing a light bulb, but not for plastering a ceiling. Even minor falls from low heights can be fatal.

Scaffolds need to be correctly installed by a trained a competent team and formally inspected every 7 days.

Don’t forget, as with any external work, the weather can pay a huge part in increasing the risk, and work at height should not be carried out in windy, icy or very wet conditions.

Read more about controlling the risks of falls in our recent blog post ‘dont fall for the biggest construction killer’.

Need Help? Download the pre-completed work at height risk assessment template.

2. Falling / Moving Objects

Construction sites are busy places and often involve a variety of trades working closely together to both demolish and develop. Considering this fact, it is no surprise that falling and moving objects are a major hazard on site, as the project team work throughout the site to get the project completed.

16% of reported fatalities are attributed to being struck by falling and moving objects, it is also worth noting that an additional 4% of construction fatalities are attribute to being hit by a moving vehicle (20% overall if we combine these figures).

Carefully planning lifting operations, exclusion zones below overhead work, ensuring communication between the various trades on site and always wearing appropriate PPE on site will help to protect you from falling and moving objects.

There is some good news, you are less likely to be killed being struck by a moving vehicle in construction, than in other industries as this hazard accounts for 16% of fatal injuries across all industries, compared to constructions reported 4%. Good traffic management on site is crucial in keeping this figure low.

Need Help? Download the pre-completed lifting operations method statement template.

3. Electricity

Electricity can kill, accounting for 10% of construction sector fatalities compared to 4% across all industries.

Before starting work, identify the location electrical services, and make sure electrical work is only undertaken by a qualified and competent electrician.

When you are working near to electrical wiring or equipment, the electrical supply should be turned off. Again, a competent person will need to carry out any work to electrical systems to ensure that the circuit is no longer live and it is safe for work to proceed.

Electrical tools used on site should only be 110v to reduce the risk, with regular inspections and any faulty equipment or leads taken out of use for replacement or repair.

Don’t forget about underground and overhead services. Before excavating make sure any electrical or other services are identified and marked on site, isolated or disconnected as required if there is a risk of contact. Overhead power cables should also be identified and precautions such as barriers, height restrictions of plant, isolation or re-routing taken as required.

Need Help? Download the pre-completed electrical risk assessment template.

4. Collapse

More of a risk than a hazard, a collapse is the cause of 10% of construction fatalities which is consistent with figures across all industries.

The risk of a collapse is at its greatest during demolition works or when a building or structure is partially completed, such as incomplete access equipment i.e. scaffolding.

Any building demolition work, no matter how small, should be carefully planned by a competent person, in a logical sequence, with any necessary temporary supports put in place to ensure that and unplanned collapse of the structure does not occur.

Scaffold collapses are rare, but when they do happen they are almost always fatal. Make sure that scaffolding is erected by a competent team, inspected every 7 days or after any event that may affect its stability, such as extreme weather.

Need Help? Download the pre-completed demolition method statement template.

5. Handling Loads

Regardless of what part of the construction process you are involved with, if you are building something or knocking it down, you need to move materials and equipment to get the job done.

While moving loads isn’t likely to kill you, it does feature in the top 5 causes of major (11%) and over 3 day (31%) injuries in 2011/12. In fact handling was the largest cause of over 3 day injuries.

So what can you do to reduce the risk?

First and foremost, eliminate manual handling where possible and use mechanical means instead, particularly with heavy and bulky loads.

Reduce the strain by using team lifts when mechanical means are not practical.

And finally, know your limits and practice safe lifting. If something is beyond your capabilities to lift safely, get help. After all, pride comes before a fall... or should that be under the first item on our list!

Need Help? Download the pre-completed manual handling risk assessment template.

*Construction statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0

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An interesting post. Construction safety is always an important and current subject. The statistics you have shown are really interesting, it's surprising the percentages of injuries there are in the construction business. As you have said it is important to think about the equipment that you use when working as it really can be the difference between life and death, and you really can't put a price on safety.
You can't and every working environment should be a safe place of work, that includes construction sites. These are of course, just the top 5 construction safety hazards, and there are many more to be aware of. Don't forget to download our free tool box talks to raise awareness on site. Thanks for your comment.
I agree with you 100%! This is why its very important to teach not only HOW to go about these safety checks but really emphasize to everyone WHY they are being done in the first place. Safety is everyone's responsibility.
Excellent stuff! It's really important to be aware of how to control the risks that may arise on a construction site. We wrote recently an article about the risks that may someone encounter on the construction site as well. You can read it on geniebelt's blog

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