Construction sites can be extremely dangerous environments and reports from the HSE show that the construction sector has the second highest rate of accidents, incidents, health conditions and deaths reported.

So what are the main hazards to be aware of when working in construction.

Working at height

Working at height  means working in any place where, if precautions are not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.

This includes work where you are;

  • Working above ground level for example on ladders, scaffold, or working platforms.
  • Work where you could fall from an edge, through an opening or through fragile surfaces. The most common example of this is working on roofs.
  • Work where you could fall from ground level into an opening in the floor or a hole in the ground. For example excavations.

Work at height does not include a slip or a trip on the level, as a fall from height has to involve a fall from one level to a lower level, nor does it include walking up and down a permanent staircase in a building.

Slips, trips and falls

Slips, trips and falls are common on construction sites that are not effectively managed so that workers can move around the site safely.

Sites should be kept clean and tidy to reduce the risk of someone injuring themselves.

Things to look out for are, uneven surfaces, obstacles, trailing cables, wet or slippery surfaces and changes in levels.

Substances hazardous to health

We’ve known for a long time now that asbestos is hazardous to health, which is why it was banned in 1999. But there are many other substances that can cause ill health in the construction industry.

But there are many other substances that can cause ill health. These can include;

  • chemicals
  • products containing chemicals
  • fumes
  • dusts
  • vapours
  • mists
  • gases and asphyxiating gases

Exposure to mild steel welding fumes have very recently been classified as carcinogenic and the Health and Safety Executive has stepped up visits to construction sites checking on how they are controlling dust created.

So make sure you assess the risks associated with substances and materials before you start your work.

Manual handling

Manual handling is inevitable in construction due to the nature of the job, but with musculoskeletal disorders making up 62% of all reported construction ill health during 2019.

Ensuring that your workers are training in the best manual handling techniques helps take one step closer to reducing this number, but also providing alternative mechanical aids to help with movement of materials etc will help to reduce the number of reports.

There are many things that can help towards the risks associated with manual handling however the first step is to assess the risks particular to a project.

Fire

Fire is a hazard in any working environment and can have devastating effects. Ensuring you assess all the risks is imperative, think about how a fire could be started and how you will safely evacuate everyone from your site should a fire start.

Are any hot works being carried out, are there combustible materials on site and how will you raise the alarm. These are just a couple of questions you should be asking yourself.

Structural Stability

Ensuring your structure is stable is imperative, you should assess the risks and put in control measures to prevent unintentional collapse during alterations, demolition and dismantling. This also includes assessing the risks of collapse of an excavation.

You may look at introducing temporary supports, just remember that these need to be designed by a competent person and monitored throughout use.

Construction traffic

The law says that you must organise a construction site so that vehicles and pedestrians using site routes can move around safely.

The easiest way to prevent injuries is to segregate vehicles and pedestrians by providing specific entrances for vehicles, creating walkways and crossings for pedestrians and providing barriers between walkways and roadways. There are further control measures that will help so you should ensure you assess all the risks prior to starting work.

You should also ensure that drivers and pedestrians have clear sight of their paths through the site.

Reversing of vehicles is a major cause of fatal accidents and should always be avoided where possible. One way systems should be implemented or turning circles installed where possible. Where reversing of vehicles is the only option trained banksmen should be used to aid the reversing.

Electricity

Electrical equipment used on site should be safe and properly maintained. Battery powered tools are always preferable where possible.

Only in exceptional circumstances should work be carried out on live systems, and then only by a competent authorised person and when carrying out works internally you must ensure that they are planned, managed and monitored to ensure that workers are not exposed to risks from electricity.

Make sure that prior to carrying out any external works you are aware of any buried services or overhead cables that workers could potentially come into contact with. If these are present you will need to ensure that controls are put in place.

Demolition

Demolition, dismantling and structural alterations must be carefully planned and carried out in a way that does not pose a risk of injury to people.

Works should always be planned by competent people who have the relevant skills, knowledge and experience to carry out the work.

If you need help with your health and safety give Hewitt&Carr Services a call today.

Tel: 01538 711777    email: enquiries@hcaservices.co.uk