It’s abundantly clear that the construction industry has many inherent risks and hazards which must be managed to provide workers with a safe working environment. Last year there were 21 fatalities in the construction industry, a number which dropped considerably from the previous year (33 fatalities in 2017). This makes the construction industry in Australia the third most dangerous of all the sectors, accounting for over 16% of total work-related fatalities.
The types of injuries sustained by workers also vary widely and some injuries are more common than others. To give you some insight, today we’ll be exploring the biggest dangers on construction sites that contractors need to look out for.
Falls from height
The biggest contributor to injuries and fatalities on construction sites is falls from height, particularly from scaffolding structures. Some of the most common injuries are caused by lack of guardrails, insufficient edge protection, unsecured scaffold ladders, and loose materials and tools. It’s vital that contractors implement training in safe work practices when operating at heights.
Followed closely is injuries and fatalities caused by moving objects. There are many activities being carried out on construction sites and without appropriate work area management, being hit by a moving object becomes a serious hazard. Injuries resulting from moving objects are typically caused by lack of warning signs at movement intersections, untidy work areas that prevent safe manoeuvring, lack of warning lights and/or beepers, and poorly lit work areas.
Slips, trips, and falls
A common cause of injuries throughout all sectors is slips, trips, and falls, which is particularly prevalent on construction sites. Spillages, trip hazards, loose tools, and uneven flooring all contribute to slips, trips, and falls so it’s vital that construction sites are tidy by clearing up rubbish and materials, mopping up spillages, and having appropriate signage to alert workers to high risk areas.
A surprisingly common cause of injuries is excessive noise at construction sites. Loud machinery and power tools create loud noise that can cause long-term damage to hearing over time. In conjunction with this, noise creates a distraction which causes other accidents so equipping workers with appropriate hearing protection is vital. Poorly fitted hearing protection not only makes workers reluctant to wear them, but also creates additional hazards such as not hearing warning calls.
Improperly lifting, pushing, or pulling materials and objects creates safety hazards for construction workers. The types of injuries caused by manual handling vary from bruises and broken bones to soft tissue damage (e.g. muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc). Due to the high volume, repetitive nature of this work, proper training should be provided to ensure workers can safely plan a route before moving an objectand understand theproper techniques and weight limits.
Another key source of fatalities on construction sites is respiratory diseases such as asbestos. Asbestos was banned in 1999 so any building constructed before 2000 is likely to contain the deadly substance in building materials such as ceiling tiles, wall plaster, insulation, cement siding, and thermal paper. Appropriate PPE must be worn when working with asbestos along with washing hands and clothes immediately after coming into contact.
Working in closer proximity to electricity poses serious threats to the safety of workers. Exposed wires are relatively common on construction sites along with working close to underground and overhead power lines. Workers can be injured by touching live wires directly or indirectly through a conducting object, and it’s common for electric shocks to cause workers to fall from ladders and scaffolds. Undertaking the appropriate electrical safety training gives workers awareness of the dangers of electricity.
It’s clear why strict safety rules and regulations have been implemented on construction sites. Performing a rigorous risk assessment in conjunction with implementing control measures to minimise these risks is paramount. Regardless of whether you’re a construction worker or site manager, taking responsibility for the safety of you and those around you by clearly communicating safety protocols is vital in improving the safety of this hazardous industry.
Uni-Span have been working in the construction industry for more than 17 years as scaffold and formwork specialists and have a detailed understanding of the proper safety protocols. If you have any further questions regarding risks on the construction site, simply call our friendly team on 1300 882 825.