Most Common Risks and Hazards on a Construction Site
October 15, 2018 | Personal Injury
“In 2016/17, construction was found to be the main industry for fatal injuries to workers. Construction hazards are heavily dependent on the type of construction work that is being carried out. For example, working on scaffolding presents entirely different hazards to working with asbestos” (High Speed Training). The top ten risks and hazards from working on construction sites include:
- Working at height;
- Moving objects;
- Slips, trips, and falls;
- Hand arm vibration syndrome;
- Material and manual handling;
- Collapsing trenches;
- Electricity; and
- Airborne fibers and materials.
Working at Height
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that just a fear year ago more than 25% of worker fatalities on construction sites were cause by a fall from height. This put working at height as the most common cause of fatal injuries to workers. There are many federal and state-based laws governing safety protocols and proper training guidelines to ensure employees are well prepared and protected while doing their job. The employee must have received the correct training and us proper safety equipment and protocols in order to work.
A construction site is a complex and ever-changing environment to work in, which makes it even more risky and hazardous and something is always new and different in terms of where things are located and what environmental hazards there may be. There are many moving objects commonly encountered on construction sites. Both driving these vehicles and being in the neighboring areas can pose a safety risk if something goes wrong. This is why safety training is vital to ensuring everyone is safe around moving objects and machinery.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
“Slips and trips are the most common non-fatal workplace-related injury reported each year, constituting approximately 40% of all reported injuries. Within the construction industry, HSE reports that there are several thousand workers injured on site each year, with approximately 1,000 of those ending up with a dislocated joint or fractured bone. The key factor with slips and trips is that, most of the time, hazards are easily avoided with proper work area management” (NBS).
Construction work often times is extremely noisy and, as a result, noise is a common construction hazard and it can have a huge impact on the worker who are exposed to it day in and day out all day long. Loud, repetitive, and excessive noise causes long term hearing problems, such as deafness. It can also pose a major distraction and can impact a person’s ability to focus, think clearly, and work safely. It is the employer’s responsibility to check for and make note of noise hazards and to provide appropriate PPE to employees if needed.
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a painful and debilitating disease of the blood vessels, nerves, and joints. “Hand-arm vibration syndrome is caused by occupational exposure to vibrating hand tools. Conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, bone cysts, tendinopathies, and osteoarthritic changes of the hand, wrist, and elbows have been attributed to exposure to hand-arm vibration” (BCMJ). It can impact workers for the rest of their lives and damage and side effects can be permanent in severe cases.
Material and Manual Handling
Materials and equipment are always moving around, being lifted and pushed, and pulled and moved around the construction site, whether this be manually or by equipment. Either way, handling these heavy loads and various materials carries with it a certain degree of risk. Where manual handling is needed adequate training is a must to ensure they do not hurt themselves by lifting too much or improperly. If an employee is required to use lifting equipment, they must go through proper training to be able to use the equipment safely.
“Of the 137 workers killed at work during 2016–2017 (by NBS), 10 were killed because something collapsed. People working in and around excavations are particularly are at risk, as several things that can happen. These include: Falling into an excavation, area around an excavation becoming unstable resulting in collapse when extra loads are applied, undermining the integrity of nearby structures causing them to collapse, and injury from falling materials when the integrity of the excavation itself collapses” (NBS).
Asbestos refers to a set of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals many that re used in insulation and various construction materials. Airborne asbestos fibers are still a major risk to people’s health and when asbestos gets disturbed in some way it can be released into the air where it can be breathed in. Any activity that disturbs the material containing the fibers- like demolition and construction projects- may release asbestos into the air. Asbestos is also believed to be the leading cause for the development of the lung disease mesothelioma.
Electricity can be a powerful force that makes construction tools run so the work can get done much faster, but it can also be a dangerous and deadly power when misused. Most of the job site accidents that involve electricity arise from contact with overhead or underground power cables and electrical equipment/machinery. Electric shocks are a common cause for falls from ladders, scaffolds, and other work platforms. It is essential that only trained electricians work on wires and cables and all worked need to know where lines are buried.
Airborne Fibers and Materials
“Unsurprisingly, a lot of dust is produced on construction sites. The dust on construction sites is often an invisible, fine, and toxic mixture of hazardous materials and fibers. This can damage the lungs and lead to diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and silicosis. It is the duty of all employers to ensure protective equipment is used. Simply providing it is not enough” (High Speed Training). This is why masks and respirators are commonly used on large scale construction projects.
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