By Stuart Snape, managing partner at Graham Coffey & Co. Solicitors
Construction sites are inherently dangerous environments, and accidents can happen even when workers take the necessary precautions. In fact, the sector sees an annual average of 59,000 non-fatal injuries to workers, and an average of 36 fatalities per annum. However, many accidents can be prevented by identifying their common causes and taking steps to avoid them.
In this article, we will explore some of the most common causes of construction site accidents and offer tips on preventing them.
What are the common causes of construction site accidents?
Construction workers are often exposed to hazards such as heavy machinery, dangerous equipment, and hazardous substances. Construction accidents can result in injuries, death, lost productivity, increased insurance costs, and legal repercussions. It is essential to identify the common causes of construction accidents and implement safety measures to prevent them.
Due to the wide variety of activities and tools required for construction work, accidents stem from a number of causes. Below are the most common, as outlined by occupational safety expert Stuart Snape from Graham Coffey & Co. Solicitors.
Slips, trips and falls
Falls are the leading cause of construction site fatalities. Workers can fall from heights, such as scaffolding, roofs, or ladders. They can also fall into holes, trenches, or open excavations. To prevent falls, employers must provide fall protection equipment, such as guardrails, safety nets, and personal fall arrest systems. Workers must also be trained to use these devices correctly.
Struck by objects
Struck-by accidents occur when workers are hit by falling objects or when they are struck by vehicles or machinery. These accidents can cause serious injuries, such as fractures, concussions, and internal injuries. Employers must ensure that workers wear hard hats and other personal protective equipment. They must also provide barriers or fencing and signposting to protect workers from moving vehicles and equipment.
Electrical hazards are a significant risk in construction sites. Workers can be electrocuted by power lines, machinery, or faulty wiring. Employers must ensure that all electrical equipment is grounded and that workers are trained to recognise and avoid electrical hazards. Workers must also be trained to use electrical equipment safely.
Unsafe work practices
Unsafe work practices, such as disregarding safety rules, taking shortcuts, or failing to use personal protective equipment, are significant causes of construction accidents. Employers must establish safety policies and procedures and train workers to follow them. They must also enforce safety rules and hold workers accountable for their actions.
How to avoid construction site accidents
Employers are responsible for maintaining safety on a construction site. They must provide a safe work environment – by establishing safety policies and procedures, enforcing safety rules, and conducting regular safety audits to identify potential hazards and evaluate the effectiveness of safety measures. Additionally, workers have a responsibility to follow safety policies and procedures and use personal protective equipment correctly to help maintain a safe work environment.
Below, we explore specific safety measures employers must take to reduce the risk of a construction site accident.
Conduct a risk assessment
A risk assessment is a systematic process for identifying and evaluating hazards associated with specific tasks or jobs. Employers can use this analysis to identify potential hazards and develop safety measures to eliminate or control them.
Provide adequate training
Employers must provide workers with adequate training on safety policies, procedures, and equipment. Workers must also receive training on specific hazards associated with their job tasks.
Supply personal protective equipment
Employers must provide workers with appropriate personal protective equipment, such as hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, and respiratory protection. Workers must be trained to use this equipment correctly.
Regularly inspect equipment and tools
Employers must regularly inspect equipment and tools to ensure they are in good working condition. Damaged or worn-out equipment must be repaired or replaced immediately.
Implement safety policies and procedures
Employers must establish safety policies and procedures and ensure that workers follow them. This includes developing emergency plans, conducting regular safety meetings, and reporting unsafe conditions or incidents. Employers must also enforce safety rules and hold workers accountable for their actions.
Provide adequate lighting and signage
Employers must ensure that construction sites are well-lit and that warning signs and barricades are in place to alert workers to potential hazards. This can help prevent falls, struck-by accidents, and other types of accidents.
Monitor workers for fatigue and stress
Construction workers are often under significant pressure to meet tight deadlines and work long hours. Employers must monitor workers for signs of fatigue and stress, which can increase the risk of accidents. Employers should encourage workers to take breaks and rotate tasks to reduce the risk of fatigue.
Maintain an organised worksite
A clean and organised worksite can help prevent accidents. Employers must ensure that debris and equipment are properly stored and that walkways and work areas are kept clear of clutter. This can significantly help to prevent tripping hazards.
Conduct regular safety audits
Employers should conduct regular safety audits to identify potential hazards and evaluate the effectiveness of safety measures. This can help prevent accidents and ensure that safety policies and procedures are being followed.
Construction site accidents can cause serious injuries or even death. However, many accidents can be prevented by identifying common causes and taking steps to avoid them. Employers must provide appropriate training and personal protective equipment, establish safety policies and procedures, and enforce safety rules. Should an employee suffer an injury that was not their fault or due to their employer’s negligence, they will likely be eligible to make a construction accident claim for compensation.