5 STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE HEALTH AND SAFETY AND REDUCE COSTS IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY
Construction sites pose a high risk of accident, injury and even fatality. Heavy equipment, noise, tools, the materials in use and the site itself present many hazards.
The construction industry has more fatalities as a result of workplace accidents, than any other. In 2017/18, the UK construction industry suffered 38 workers’ deaths due to workplace accidents. Additionally, according to HSE construction statistics, in 2017:
There were 58,000 work-related injuries
30% of these caused an absence of more than three days
24% resulted in an absence of seven days or longer
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON ACCIDENTS ON CONSTRUCTION SITES?
In 2017/18 there were 4,919 non-fatal injuries to employees on construction sites. Understanding the causes of these injuries is the first step to reducing them. The most common causes of accidents on construction sites are:
·FALLS FROM HEIGHT
A third of all construction site accidents involve falls from height. Typically, these occur because of unsecured ladders or scaffolding, or failing to follow basic scaffolding regulations. Common injuries include broken bones, back injuries and death.
·SLIPS, TRIPS AND FALLS ON THE SAME LEVEL
30% of construction site accidents relate to same-level slips, trips and falls. Loose cables, unmarked holes and equipment left lying around are common culprits. Injuries of this nature range from cuts and bruising to fatality.
·INJURIES CAUSED BY HANDLING, LIFTING AND CARRYING
Typically, these types of injury are caused by poor technique or inappropriate training. Injuries may occur suddenly or over a period of time, and are most likely to be back or musculoskeletal disorders. The risk of accidents is increased by factors such as carrying loads that are too heavy, tasks involving awkward posture and man-handling materials on uneven ground.
·STRUCK BY MOVING OR FLYING/FALLING OBJECTS
Materials falling from above, often when being transferred between tiers of scaffolding, are also a major cause of injury. Moving objects, such as those on cranes, can also hit and injure workers. Typical injuries range from cuts and bruises to brain damage and death. A major cause of this type of injury is poor communication.
Accidents caused by construction site vehicles tend to fall into three main categories:
Poor vehicle maintenance
Poor driver training and work practices
On construction sites, an accident involving a vehicle is likely to lead to a serious injury, leading to loss of productivity and costly compensation claims.
Poorly maintained tools and equipment are likely to malfunction and cause injury. If this happens, it will be deemed the owner’s responsibility. If you have supplied equipment and it causes injury because it has been poorly maintained, you could become liable for compensation.
Undoubtedly construction sites are noisy places; yet employers have a duty to safeguard employees. Providing equipment such as ear defenders can help to protect workers from the long-term damage caused by exposure to excessive noise.
STRATEGIES TO PREVENT ACCIDENTS ON CONSTRUCTION SITES
There are five main strategies that will help your site to reduce accidents.
1. PLAN TO REDUCE THE RISKS FROM ON-SITE HAZARDS
Before work commences, undertake site inspections and take appropriate action to make your workplace safer:
Conduct a health and safety audit
Ensure that your employees understand the hazards on-site
Undertake health and safety risk assessments
Create a culture of health and safety in your construction business
By recognising and understanding the hazards that exist, you can plan to prevent the risks turning into accidents and injuries. This plan should be incorporated into training and team meetings.
2. PROVIDE HEALTH AND SAFETY TRAINING TO EMPLOYEES AND CONTRACTORS
Health and safety training should be provided to all employees, irrespective of their experience. Give general and site-specific training to educate workers on specific risks and how to reduce them. Remember that equipment and vehicles should only be operated by trained and qualified employees.
Your training should also include training on the policies and procedures that you have produced for every job and task on-site.
3. RAISE AWARENESS WITH REGULAR TEAM MEETINGS
Frequent team meetings are an opportunity to ensure that all workers are aware of the hazards and risks they face, as well as the measures and precautions they should take to mitigate them.
Make it best practice to discuss the need to be alert, discuss accidents that have occurred and how they could have been prevented. Additionally, ensure that all workers understand their role in prevention of accidents while working on the construction site.
4. SUPPLY PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
PPE is essential on construction sites, and there is a legal obligation to provide it where necessary. PPE is used as a last resort in the workplace, after all other options to eliminate the risk have been exhausted.
On construction sites, it is impossible to eliminate many hazards and risks, and so the use of PPE will help to keep your workers safe. PPE that may be required includes:
Hard hats – to protect the head from falling/flying objects and collisions
Hi-vis clothing – to increase visibility
Gloves – to protect hands from sharp objects, hazardous substances, and when handling equipment and materials
Safety footwear protective toe caps – to protect feet from heavy and sharp objects
Safety goggles – to protect eyes from flying debris
Ear defenders – to help prevent ear injury from excessive noise
Remember, PPE will not eliminate hazards, but is designed to reduce the seriousness of injuries, should an accident occur.
5. KEEP THE CONSTRUCTION SITE TIDY
It is difficult to keep construction sites tidy, but every effort should be made to do so. Ensuring tools are stored away and that materials are not strewn around will help to prevent slips, trips and falls. Hiring a labourer to keep a site tidy could help to reduce accidents, injuries and expensive compensation claims.
Ensure scaffolding is erected correctly, ladders are secured, and guardrails, toe-boards and nets are used as necessary.
The HSE estimates that the cost of workplace injuries and work-related ill health in the construction industry totalled between £856 million and £1.27 billion in 2016/17. Around 400,000 working days are lost each year in the construction sector due to injuries at work.
How many days is your construction business losing because of workplace-related injuries?