Whilst health and safety should remain a priority across the board in all sectors, construction remains one of the most high-risk industries. Construction health risks accounts for a high percentage of fatal and major injuries and therefore the risks need to be managed properly and although construction has made significant strides to improve its record on H&S in the last two decades, the rate of fatal injury in construction is around 4 times as high as the average rate across all industries.
In an ever changing environment, construction sites often require employees to work at a height, handle heavy loads, operate large machinery and work with rough materials, to name a few. By having proper health and safety measures in place and by making sure the workforce is aware of these measures, risks associated with these working conditions can be reduced significantly.
Increased health issues
Construction has the largest burden of occupational cancer amongst the industrial sectors. It accounts for over 40% of occupational cancer deaths and cancer registrations. It is estimated that past exposures in the construction sector annually cause over 5,000 occupational cancer cases and approximately 3,700 deaths. The most significant cause of these cancers is asbestos (70%) followed by silica (17%) working as a painter and diesel engine exhaust (6-7% each).
Workers can often be exposed to asbestos which can cause serious respiratory diseases. Workers are also exposed to hazardous chemicals and materials such as caustic soda, concrete and plaster additives, solvents, paints, timber treatment chemicals, pesticides etc, and flammable substances such as propane which can cause burns, emit harmful fumes and present an active threat of explosion or fire. Specific processes conducted every day on construction sites can also emit harmful gases and liquids.
There are three leading causes of physical injuries due to workplace hazards in the construction industry. They are manual handling injuries, falls, slips and trips, and being hit by moving objects. Unfortunately, the risk of falls, slips and trips come with the territory of working on a building site and it’s not uncommon to find floor openings, incomplete roofs, and surfaces that don’t have strong support structures. The reliance on ladders and scaffolding also increases the risk of falling.
Construction workers operating in high and medium risk environments are required to have sufficient construction health and safety training. They should be fully competent and aware of the risks associated with their actions, especially when working at height, with machinery or in confined spaces. It is also advised that they have an appropriate awareness of first aid and can administer basic life-saving techniques if necessary.
Wearing the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) could mean the difference between a minor injury and a long-term injury or even a fatality. Ensuring the correct training in all PPE is vital.
It’s not possible to completely eradicate the risks on building sites, but with effective H&S precautions in place, construction firms can drastically reduce the risk of injury and illness. A thorough risk assessment will help shape procedures in the workplace, and it is a valuable tool for identifying where you can reduce risk.
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