Last edited 24 Aug 2019

Site safety

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A construction site is an area on which construction works are being carried out. Sites are often dangerous with many different types of hazards which need to be identified, assessed and planned for.

The types of injuries that can be sustained on sites include:

For more information, see Injuries on construction sites.

Some of the common causes of these and other injuries include:

  • Falls from height.
  • Falling objects.
  • Equipment-related accidents.
  • Vehicle-related accidents.
  • Fire and explosions.
  • Trench or building collapse.
  • Repetitive motion injuries and vibrations.
  • Heat, poor ventilation and over-exertion.
  • Exposure to dangerous materials.

Construction health and safety is usually enforced by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors, although lower risk works, such as small-scale fit out works, may be the responsibility of inspectors from the local authority.

The legislation affecting health and safety in the construction industry falls under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act through regulations such as the Control of Asbestos Regulations, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) and in particular the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, first introduced in 1994. For more information see: Health and safety legislation.

The 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.

Amongst other things, the CDM regulations require that construction workers are provided with information about emergency procedures and hazards and are provided with ongoing briefing, supervision and monitoring, perhaps involving toolbox talks.

Toolbox talks are presentations on specific site safety issues given to members of the construction workforce. They may be presented as short talks, Powerpoint presentations, videos, and so on, delivered on site by a senior, experienced and knowledgeable team member. They are intended to provide instructions, information, and continuous training to help prevent accidents, ill-health and environmental damage.

With a large proportion of construction work taking place outdoors, it’s important to make sure that the workforce are prepared and that health and safety is considered when working in the hot weather of summer, as risks include sunburn, heat stress, dehydration, and so on. For more information, see Construction work in hot weather.

There can also be situations where there are low levels of light on a construction site, either because of night-time working, limited exposure to natural light, and so on. To avoid the obvious risks that can arise due to low light, it is important that a site is fitted with suitable artificial lighting. For more information, see How to work safely on a construction site in the dark.

Wind, freezing rain and ice can also make sites dangerous and cause an increase in accidents and injuries such as cold stress, slips from ice accumulating on ladders and scaffolding, etc., poor visibility, and so on. For more information, see How to work safely on a construction site in winter.

A wide range of personal protective equipment (PPE) can be used to protect people against risks, such as helmets, gloves, knee pads, protective glasses, and so on. For more information, see Personal protective equipment.

Site rules should be clear and easily understandable and should be brought to the attention of everyone on site that is expected to follow them. They might be communicated during site inductions, and details of site rules should be included in the construction phase plan.

Site induction is the process of ensuring workers on construction sites are fully informed about the organisation and operation of the site and of their responsibilities. It focuses in particular on safety aspects of the site.

Method statements are widely used as a means of controlling specific site 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.

Accurate records of any RIDDOR incidents must be maintained. This can assist in ensuring that health and safety is managed appropriately. In addition to RIDDOR incidents, any incident resulting in a worker being away from work or incapacitated for more than three consecutive days must be recorded. An accident book is used on construction projects to record details of any accidents that occur.

The principal contractor must take necessary steps to prevent access by unauthorised persons to the construction site and contractors must not begin work on a construction site unless reasonable steps have been taken to prevent access by unauthorised persons to that site. Fore more information see: Hoarding.

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