Last edited 04 May 2021

Construction health risks

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Despite big improvements, construction still poses significant health risks to those who work in it. As an industry it accounts for a significant percentage of fatal and major injuries, from falling from height, equipment-related accidents and so on. It also poses many general risks to health.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that around 4% of construction workers suffer from a work-related illness every year, and 3% sustain a work-related injury. This results in around 2.2 million working days being lost each year. However, the industry has tended to focus attention on the immediate risks of harm rather than the factors that can have a cumulative impact over time.

Statistics show that those who work in construction have a high risk of developing cancer, accounting for more than 40% of occupational cancer deaths and cancer registrations. On an annual basis, past exposures from construction work are estimated to cause 3,700 deaths from occupational cancer. The most significant causes of these cancers are:

There are a wide range of other potential risks:

The reasons why construction workers face a high risk of occupational ill health are varied, including:

The legislation affecting health and safety in design and construction falls under the Health and Safety at Work etc.

For more information, see 'health and safety for building design and construction'.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM regulations) in particular are intended to ensure that health and safety issues are properly considered during a project’s development.

They include general requirements that apply to all projects and additional duties that apply to notifiable construction projects (where the construction work is likely to last longer than 30 working days and has more than 20 workers working simultaneously at any point in the project, or exceeds 500 person days).

For more information see: CDM.

There is also a legal requirement through the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) for a responsible person (employers, the self-employed and individuals in control of work premises) to notify and keep records of specified workplace incidents.

For more information see: RIDDOR.

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