Last edited 10 May 2021

Injuries on construction sites


[edit] Introduction

Buildings can present a great number of risks, both in construction and operation. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate 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.

Types of injuries that can be sustained on construction sites include:

  • Broken bones or fractures.
  • Amputations of fingers, toes or limbs.
  • Burns from fire, explosions or electrocutions.
  • Cuts, lacerations or abrasions from tools, machinery and materials.
  • Eye injuries and loss of vision from flying objects or use of hazardous substances.
  • Shoulder, knee or ankle injuries from over-use.
  • Loss of hearing.
  • Paralysis and other spinal cord injuries.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Toxic exposure to chemicals.
  • Head or traumatic brain injuries.
  • Weil’s disease from exposure to rats.
  • Respiratory diseases such as asbestosis, black lung, silicosis.
  • Vibration injuries.

[edit] Causes of injuries

The causes of injuries sustained on construction sites are numerous and varied. Some are easily preventable while others present hidden risks. Some of the most common causes of injuries are set out below:

[edit] Falls

Construction workers are at risk from falls from scaffolding, cranes, roofs, ladders, and other forms of working at height. For more information, see Work at height regulations.

[edit] Falling objects

There is a significant risk of being struck by objects falling from above, such as tools or materials that are not properly secured. Protective hard hats are essential on construction sites, but they do not always prevent brain and spinal injuries.

[edit] Equipment-related accidents

The heavy plant, equipment and tools used on construction sites can fail or can be dangerous in use. For example, a forklift could fail to work properly, a crane could fall over unexpectedly, or a nail gun could misfire. Excessive noise from power tools can lead to hearing loss or injuries such as tinnitus. Vibration from power tools can cause nerve and tendon damage to hands, arms and wrists (i.e. hand-arm vibration syndrome).

[edit] Vehicles

Workers are at risk of being hit by vehicles manoeuvring around construction sites. They are also sometimes crushed between large vehicles and solid objects.

[edit] Fires and explosions

Construction works may involve exposed wiring, exposed flames, hot works, leaking pipes, and flammable chemicals that could cause fires and explosions.

[edit] Trench or building collapse

Excavations and buildings that are being demolished or constructed can suddenly and unexpectedly collapse.

[edit] Repetitive motion injuries, heat stroke, and over-exertion

The hard physical labour required for construction work cause injuries such as:

  • Repetitive motion injuries.
  • Muscle and joint damage due to overuse.
  • Heat stress that can cause brain, heart, or kidney damage or even death.
  • Hypothermia or frostbite resulting in the loss of fingers, toes, and parts of the face in cold climates.

[edit] Exposure to dangerous materials

Unsafe working practices can result in exposure to dangerous materials such as asbestos, lead, dust and toxic chemicals.

[edit] RIDDOR

There is 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.

[edit] CDM Regulations

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM regulations) 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 only apply to notifiable construction projects. For more information, see CDM Regulations.

[edit] Other legislation

A wide range of other legislation places duties on those commissioning, designing, constructing and operating buildings to control risks to health and safety. For more information, see Health and safety for building design and construction.

[edit] Method statements and other management techniques

Method statements are widely used as a means of controlling specific health and safety risks that have been identified, perhaps following the preparation of a risk assessment. A method statement helps manage the work and ensures that the necessary precautions have been communicated to those involved.

For more information, see Method statements.

Other management techniques might include:

For more information, see Safety management.

[edit] Personal protective equipment

A wide range of personal protective equipment (PPE) can be used to protect people against health and safety risks.

For more information, see Personal protective equipment.

[edit] Enforcement

Health and safety in construction is usually enforced by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors, although smaller works may be the responsibility of inspectors from the local authority.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

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