Top 10 hazards on the modern construction site
We outline the top 10 most common hazards on the modern construction site, including details on how to manage them and avoid them where at all possible.
10 | Airborne Fibres and Materials
Much the same as asbestos, other fibre and material particles such as dust can cause issues among the health and safety of workers on the construction site. This is because most of these are invisible and therefore are tricky to avoid at times. Some of these airborne fibres and materials can be toxic and can lead to various diseases including, but not limited to, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and more.
In order to reduce any risks of getting these diseases from on-site dust and particles, the correct PPE should be used.
9 | Electricity
As construction sites are primarily made up of unfinished or damaged buildings, exposed electricity wires, which could potentially be live, can cause a considerable amount of concern and can create considerable risk.
High Speed Training reported that around one thousand accidents in relation to electricity at the workplace are reported every year. The majority of accidents that were reported are as a result of contact with overhead or underground power cables, in addition to electrical equipment/machinery present on construction sites.
8 | Asbestos
Asbestos is one of the biggest killers in the construction industry. This is mainly due to the fact that it is an invisible hazard in which case can be difficult to avoid. Asbestos refers to a set of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals that can cause fatal and serious diseases such as lung cancer if they are inhaled. Asbestos can be found in walls and roof tiles, but that's not all.
Asbestos kills around 5,000 workers per year, including approximately 20 tradespeople a week as a result of past exposure. Around half a million structures in the United Kingdom alone are thought to contain asbestos. If it is known to be present on the construction site when worker must be informed where it is. In addition, they should be given training in what to do if they come across any materials that could potentially contain it.
7 | Collapsing Trenches
Collapsing trenches on construction sites are more common than you may think and these situations can be very dangerous which, in some cases, can cause fatalities. At any time, a building that is being demolished or under construction has the potential to suddenly collapse as a result of inadequate construction processes, or various cases of miscalculation.
Precautions must be taken before any trench work starts. If the construction site does require a trench then site managers should take into account the strength of the trench and should carry out regular inspections of them both before and during the times that workers are on-site.
6 | Material and Manual Handling
Various tools, materials and waste are transported across construction sites day by day. From ladders to bags of waste, a lot of this can be done manually but some things are transported with motor-propelled equipment. Either way, handling anything on a construction site, no matter how big or small, has the ability to cause risks that could result in injury.
Adequate training should be provided for employees that undergo duties which involve manual handling. Moreover, if an employee is required to use lifting equipment, tests and training is vital to ensure adequate health and safety measures are met.
5 | Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)
The prolonged use of hand-held power cools which cause considerable vibrations can cause damage to blood vessels, nerves and joints which can be permanent. HAVS is preventable through the use of appropriate protective equipment. Furthermore, equipment should be well maintained and workers should not spend long periods of time using these types of equipment in order to minimise the risk of HAVS.
4 | Noise
Noise is a very common occurrence in almost every construction site thanks to heavy use of loud machinery. Even small tools such as hammers can create a considerable amount of noise which can result in hearing loss. Noise can also be a very dangerous distraction which could cause other issues to arise.
Dangers which arise with excessive on-site noise can be minimized through the use of ear-defenders and noise risk assessments that are carried out by the employer.
3 | Slips, Trips and Falls
These are a very common occurrence on construction sites and can cause anything from a minor bruise to death. They can happen in any environment, but in the construction industry, they are a daily occurrence thanks to the large array of materials and tools lying around, in addition to the varying terrain which is present across many construction sites. Sites need to be managed effectively in order to lower the risk of slips trips and falls happening, anything which is deemed a risk should be reported as soon as it is discovered.
Injuries in relation to slips, trips and falls can be prevented by having good conditions underfoot, along with sites being well lit so any dangers can be spotted and avoided. Furthermore, designating specific areas on-site for storage and waste collection can also prevent injury. Finally, adequate warning signs should be erected in areas where any surface is wet or slippery such as wet-floor signs.
2 | Moving objects
Construction sites around the world are well known as being ever-changing environments which in turn creates an environment where hazards are very much present. There are countless moving objects on a construction site, from cranes to smaller machinery such as cement mixers, some of these objects and machinery move around on uneven foundations which can make conditions even more dangerous,
To prevent injuries and fatalities caused by heavy machinery, workers should make as much effort as possible to avoid working close to moving objects whilst being vigilant of their surroundings.
1 | Working at height
During the period of 2015-2016, over 25% of fatalities of construction workers were in relation to falling from height, making this the number one cause of fatal injuries to workers. There are measures to prevent this which include mandatory courses and training for workers which expose themselves to this risk. These training courses can include, but are not limited to, working safely on scaffolding, ladders and roofs.
In the UK, it is against the law to not provide this training. There are also a number of approaches and precautions that should be taken into account when working high up. These include avoiding working at height wherever it may be possible, using equipment with an extra level of safety to reduce the risk of falling and minimising consequences of a fall, in case it does happen, through items such as a safety net.