Common Health and Safety Risks in Construction
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Health and safety risks in Construction
Worker safety in Construction
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Most common Health and Safety Risks Faced by Construction and Demolition Workers

The construction industry is one of the largest sectors in the UK (employing around 2.4 million people) and is notoriously dangerous thanks to the combination of health and safety risks involving vehicles, equipment and manual tasks which few other industries share.

Understanding and mitigating these risks is essential to safeguard the wellbeing of workers and ensure a secure environment for all involved.

Here we discuss the top 10 most common health and safety risks in construction and what preventions can be put in place to alleviate the risk to workers health:

  1. Working at height

One of the most prevalent risks in both construction and demolition work is falls from heights. Whether it’s working on scaffolding, ladders, or elevated surfaces, workers are exposed to the danger of serious injuries or even fatalities.

Prevention:

If working at height cannot be avoided, the HSE guidelines recommend that a risk assessment be carried out and preventive measures put in place. All work from height must be planned, controlled, supervised and performed within the given procedures. Furthermore, the workforce must be fully informed of the procedures and trained in the use of equipment.  Preventive measures to keep the risks to a minimum involves the introduction of safety nets, guard rails and keeping equipment secured amongst others.

 

  1. Slips, trips and falls

While falls, trips and slips happen in many industries, it is a common hazard in construction due to the nature of the environment and the equipment used. Wet, slippery and uneven surfaces, loose cables and materials or equipment being left around are the most common sources of risk.

Prevention:

Precise work area management should be put in place to ensure that equipment and tools are kept in a secure area after use. Pathways should be kept free of debris and hazards at all time. Most of all, the crew should wear proper PPE and attend regular safety meeting to keep up to date on the latest procedures.

 

  1. Moving objects

Construction sites are places of constant movement of vehicles, machinery and equipment. As the building site develops the risks associated with it increased accordingly.

Prevention:

Work area management must be clearly defined to ensure that equipment is used as instructed and meets the relevant safety guidelines. The workforce should wear protective clothing such as high vis jackets to be seen by moving vehicles, as well as steel-toe shoes and helmets to protect them against moving/falling objects. Finally, they should be trained to keep vigilant and aware of their surroundings and to avoid hazards.

 

  1. Electrocution and Electrical Hazards

Electrical hazards are ever-present on construction and demolition sites. Workers may encounter live wires, faulty electrical equipment, or inadequate grounding. Electrocution can have severe consequences, ranging from burns to fatal injuries.

Prevention:

Site managers should conduct site surveys to ensure that nothing is stored under overhead power cables, and that restriction signs and barriers are in place. Equipment must be regularly monitored for cable/wire wear and tear. Staff should wear proper PPE and turn off power sources before repairing any equipment.

 

  1. Hazardous Materials Exposure

Both sectors involve handling hazardous materials like asbestos, lead, and chemicals. Demolition workers may be exposed to these substances when dismantling older structures, while construction workers can face risks during new construction and renovation projects. Prolonged exposure to these materials can lead to respiratory issues, poisoning, and long-term health problems.

Prevention:

Exposure risks and processes used should be reviewed regularly to identify tasks requiring greater control. Where risks are identified, workers should wear adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and properly clean down before removing PPE, taking breaks or going home.

Any building or area suspected of containing asbestos should be assessed and dealt with using professional help. Asbestos material should be disposed of safely, workers should wear proper PPE and be informed of procedures to follow if they find materials that may contain asbestos.

 

  1. Airbourne dust

Unsurprisingly construction sites produce huge volumes of invisible and fine material dust which can be toxic. Exposure to dust from hazardous material can result in serious and lasting health implications for construction workers, including life-threatening illnesses such as asthma, lung cancer and silicosis and pulmonary diseases such as emphysema and bronchitis.

Prevention:

Dust exposure should be controlled with the use of exhaust systems. Workers should wear adequate PPE and properly clean down before removing PPE, taking breaks or going home. Where high levels of dust known to represent a threat to the health of staff exist, dedusting equipment should be considered. Businesses need to comply with HSE guidelines on dust and have control plans and procedures in place to protect staff.

 

  1. Noise

Construction and demolition sites are often noisy environments with heavy machinery and equipment in operation. Prolonged exposure to high noise levels can lead to hearing loss and other auditory issues.

Prevention:

Employers should implement a comprehensive noise risk assessment and provide their workers with the appropriate PPE in the form of soundproof headphones to reduce the intensity of sound waves. Crews must wear the PPE when working in a high noise level environment.

 

  1. Vibrations

Repetitive vibration caused by power tools can severely damage workers nerves and blood vessels. Hand and Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a common injury in the construction industry.

Prevention:

A risk assessment should determine if an alternative to handheld tools such as automated or mechanical equipment is suitable. If power-tools are required, they must be well maintained and used for a short period only. Workers should be trained on how to use the equipment and must also wear the right PPE; in this instance, gloves.

 

  1. Manual handling

Regularly lifting, carrying and handling material loads and equipment, incorrectly can lead to severe injuries, including Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). MSDs are common amongst construction workers and often affect back or limb joints as well as muscles and tissues. The injury can cause mild to intense pain with a risk of permanent disability.

Prevention:

The first step in reducing manual handling risk is to train staff to carry out their work safely. It means avoiding hazardous manual handling and using machines or equipment to move or lift loads. For tasks that cannot be handled by machinery, employers should assess the load weight and nature, the posture required to carry out the tasks, the health of workers as well as the working environment. A safe procedure can then be put in place for the benefit of the workforce and the construction company.

 

  1. Confined Spaces

Demolition workers, in particular, may encounter confined spaces like tunnels, crawl spaces, and basements. These spaces pose risks of asphyxiation, entrapment, and exposure to hazardous gases.

Prevention:

Sites should be regularly inspected before and during shifts to ensure they are fully secured. Site managers should hold frequent safety meetings to keep workers informed of procedures. Crews should be issued with proper PPE, and equipment should be maintained. The presence of first aid on-site also helps speed the response in case of an accident.

 

As the construction and demolition sectors continue to grow, prioritising the health and safety of workers remains a cornerstone of responsible industry practices. Recognising and addressing the top health and safety risks in construction is not just a legal obligation but a moral duty.

At NPH Group, we help both employers and employees within the construction and demolition industries in facilitating their health and wellness. From assessing the health and safety of the workplaces that these men and women work in, to the individual health of all workers, our goal is to keep both as safe as possible.

By implementing rigorous training programs, comprehensive safety protocols, and continuous monitoring, companies can create an environment where workers can thrive without compromising their wellbeing.

 

Combining our clinical and business expertise, we can work with you to understand and evaluate your business needs and its health challenges to develop a truly tailored occupational health strategy that works. If you would like to discuss any of our services in more detail please get in touch with us today, alternatively why not try our new  Business Health Evaluation Tool to determine your occupational health needs. It saves you money and time; and we will help you to assess your requirements.

If you would rather come and meet us in person to discuss your company needs we have Drop-in sessions available to book and we would love to meet you.