The inherent risks to health and safety in construction often get forgotten as the sight of safety gear and warning signs becomes more and more common, but maintaining safety standards is of utmost importance no matter the size or scope of the project. Each different site will come with its own challenges and dangers and being able to recognise and minimise these risks is an important part of managing any job.
We’ve put together a list of the 12 biggest risks to health & safety in construction to help you make sure you keep your sites safe.
Working At Height
Whether constructing a new building or tearing one down, there are always going to be jobs that require tradesmen to work at height. The risk that’s posed by regular construction work is increased when the lack of mobility and added verticality is taken into account when conducting work at greater heights. What would be small accidents or inconsequential problems can be magnified when these added variables are taken into account.
Often not considered to be a big risk, exhaustion is often the underlying cause of a number of accidents in construction. Both physical and mental exhaustion can quickly build up when doing manual labour in harsh conditions, especially with the levels of heat and sun-exposure that are common on building sites in Bahrain. As exhaustion levels rise the attention levels of workers will dip, potentially increasing the health and safety risks.
A construction site is in constant movement, with materials being transported, workers moving from task to task, and machinery in motion. With so many individuals moving pieces on a building site there is always going to be associated hazards. However, by appropriately identifying high-risk areas and times of day as well as safe routes for pedestrian workers these can be reduced and managed.
There will always be tasks that require workers to lift, carry, lower, hold, push, or pull materials on a building site. With these tasks comes a whole range of risks from the obvious drops and spills, to the more insidious muscle tears, strains and sprains. Proper training on how to handle loads and ensuring that tradesmen have the correct equipment for the job can help alleviate the risk of manual handling errors.
Construction sites are noisy places. There is very little that can be done to prevent noise being made when erecting a building. Consistent, repetitive noise can have an adverse effect on the hearing of workers as well as the risk of distraction adding to the likelihood of other accidents. With no way to eradicate the noise, steps must be taken to lower the impact it has on the health of the workforce and a noise risk assessment should be carried out to achieve this.
Slips & Trips
Slips and trips are an ever-present hazard in any walk of life. The hectic day to day workings of a construction site can make slips and trips not only more dangerous but potentially fatal. By appropriately managing and maintaining work areas and conditions the risk that they present can be easily avoided in the vast majority of cases.
Airborne Fibres & Materials
Construction creates a lot of dust from a number of different sources. With the number of people and objects moving to and fro a lot of that dust is going to get kicked up and moved around. Not only is the inhalation of any dust dangerous in and of itself there is also the added danger of potentially toxic or hazardous materials that are commonly used on construction sites. Inhalation of these fibres can lead to a whole host of respiratory issues in the future. Ensuring that there is adequate personal protection equipment (PPE) and that it is being used correctly is the best way to prevent this health and safety risk.
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)
Continuous and prolonged use of hand-held power tools can lead to this debilitating disease that damages the joints, blood vessels, and nerves. This is an easily managed risk that can be countered with correct training and appropriate (PPE).
Less common in larger construction projects, the health and safety risks that electricity presents are easily avoided provided necessary surveys are done and only qualified professionals are carrying out electrical work. Great care should always be taken when it comes to overhead power lines and their proximity to any construction work as they can impact all areas of the site.
Collapsing trenches or buildings are one of the most deadly forms of construction site accidents. Often overlooked as being a freak occurrence, the likelihood of collapse is increased if the ground is particularly dry or wet, leading to a large number of sites that can be affected. Proper oversight of any planned collapses and proper planning of trench construction should be of utmost priority before work starts and during the building or demolition process.
Whether as a result of negligence or happenstance, fires pose a significant risk to health and safety in construction. Fire prevention and safety are essential in construction as both project progress and, more importantly, lives can be lost should a fire get out of hand. Ensuring construction sites follow proper fire safety precautions is the best way to prevent fires from ever becoming an issue, however, no precaution is 100% effective and accidents do happen. This is why it’s important to have fire extinguishers and other fire fighting equipment positioned around a construction site too.
Bad Working Practice
Most injuries are avoidable but are sustained due to incorrect use of safety equipment and clothing. It is a business’ responsibility to ensure that its employees have access to the correct safety equipment, but these efforts have to be met halfway. For instance, it doesn’t matter how many pairs of safety glasses a factory has if they don’t get worn while performing hazardous tasks. Following good workplace practices also includes handling tools and machinery properly, and it’s important to avoid using either without first getting the proper training.
There will always be risks to health and safety in construction but it is down to everyone involved in the construction to try and reduce the likelihood and danger that these risks present to the workforce. Providing appropriate equipment and putting the correct systems in place can drastically reduce the risk that is posed to workers helping the project to progress smoothly and safely.