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Health Risks in Construction 2022 & How to Minimise Them.

Throughout the entire construction industry, we are constantly surrounded by health risks that can affect us and our workforce. Even though there is a continuous battle to protect our teams, we still need to acknowledge that construction is still one of the most dangerous industries to work in.

Latest data shows us that during 2021, that there is a 10% increase in fatalities in the construction industry since 2016/17. Of these fatalities, 50% of them are caused by falling from height, according to HSE. On average, there are over 61,000 non-fatal accidents throughout construction every year. Resulting in an accident rate that is 4 times more likely than any other industry in the UK.

While the UK has some of the most comprehensive and thorough health and safety policies in Europe, the number of fatalities continues to increase. Throughout this resource, we are going to help identify each of the health risks in construction 2022, and how you can minimise them for your team.

Health Risks in Construction?

There are many types of health risks that occur throughout the construction industry. Despite evolving efforts, there continues to be a year-on-year increase in the number of working days lost to either ill health or injury. It is estimated that in 2018/2019 its cost the workplace £659,000,000 and 2,100,000 days of work. According to HSE, the overall picture is that all construction workers have a higher risk of developing the following health issues from the following

  • Cancer
  • Substance hazards
  • Physical health risks

Cancer

HSE claims that construction has the largest burden of occupational cancer in any industry. Accounting for 40% of occupational deaths and registrations every year. The most sufficient cause of cancer throughout the construction industry is Asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral that is still to this day used in the construction industry. Despite this, it’s responsible for around 100,00 deaths per year worldwide. Inhalation of the fibrous crystals made airborne by abrasion, lead to diseases such as asbestosis and lung cancer.

Substance hazards

Dusts, chemicals and harmful mixtures are common throughout the construction industry. Some processes emit dusts, fumes, vapours or gases into the air, which can be direct causes of breathing problems and lung diseases. Several construction-related occupations have high rates of dermatitis, from skin exposure to hazardous substances. One of the most popular ingredients in construction is cement, which, like asbestos, is highly abrasive to the lungs. Substances like paint and cement can have a serious impact on people’s health, therefore it is important to always protect them.

Physical Health Risks

Construction occupations hold the highest estimated prevalence of back injuries and upper limb disorders. These health issues are commonly reported in the 7 working days’ absences category throughout the industry. In addition, construction also holds the highest levels of exposure to noise and vibrations. Resulting in long-term irreparable damage to the employee leaving them no longer able to work. Symptoms of which may not occur until leaving the occupation.

The Most Common Construction Accidents

Despite efforts of HSE enforcing £5.3million in fines in 2020/21 there has been no improvement in the number of accidents still occurring. The HSE has two main weapons in its armoury when faced with construction companies allowing dangerous practices on site.

An HSE inspector can serve an improvement notice if they see a contravention of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 – and they believe the contravention will be repeated. They will then discuss with the responsible individual how they can create a safer working environment. A prohibition notice is served when an inspector becomes aware of an unsafe activity that either has led or could lead to a serious personal injury. The activity cannot be resumed until action has been taken to make it safe.

Now let’s take a look at the most popular accidents that occur in the construction workplace.

Falling from height

Falling from height remains the highest cause of fatalities in the construction industry to date. Therefore, it is essential that, if possible, to avoid from working at height at all costs. However, as you’ll already know, this is not always possible. It is at that point you must follow the guidelines of Work at Height Regulations 2005**. To ensure safety while working at height, ensure that you plan the work safely and correctly, provide proper training for the staff involved, use the correct equipment and ensuring that it is tested regularly. It is an employer’s duty to remind their staff of the risks of working from height.

Slips, trips and falls

Over a third of all non-fatal accidents within the construction industry are from slips and trips. No matter the terrain of the area that you are working in, there will always be a chance that this hazard could cause injury. Slips trips and falls are all mitigated by adhering to the following.

  • Providing adequate lighting to complete tasks.
  • Ensure that the work area is tidy, free of spillages, rubbish, items that can cause unexpected trips.
  • Mark out any large hazards prior to work commencing.
  • Try to keep all areas as dry as possible.

As an employer, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, you mut find ways to mitigate the chances of an accident happening. In the case of slips and trips, you must provide your staff with adequate footwear where needed. Commonly, in the construction industry, work boots are provided by the employer to provide additional grip, and ankle support and steal toe caps from dropping heavy items.

Struck by object hazards

The final type of most common construction accidents are ones involving being struck by an object hazard. This covers a vast range of different scenarios. Whether that is being hit by a building material or by a vehicle, these accidents make up for 14% of all, no fatal incidents. Why these accidents occur is normally for two reasons.

Firstly, not all staff are visible on site, or they are not wearing the correct PPE while undertaking the specific task. It is vital that every person on a construction site can see and be seen at the same time. To mitigate the chance of staff being struck by an object hazard, they must wear visibility clothing, have access to enough lighting, and use the most advanced equipment. Advanced equipment is fitted with safety detectors and cameras designed to prevent accidents like this from happening. Especially in large plant equipment.

Other Hazards on A Construction Site

In addition to the most common construction accidents, there are other hazards that by now you need to be aware of.

Noise

Noise is a major hazard within the construction industry. Repetitive exposure to noise causes long-term hearing problems. Simple earplugs do not necessarily offer enough protection against hearing damage. Therefore, employers are required to carry out and document a comprehensive noise risk assessment prior to work commencing. The correct PPE should then be supplied to employees.

Hand Arm Vibration

Commonly known as white finger, HAVS is a painful and debilitating disease that can render an employee unable to work. It is caused by the continued exposure to dangerous vibrations from vibratory power tools and rotary equipment. This hazard is regularly cited in compensation claims across the UK by ex-construction workers. Failure to provide equipment testing and exposure monitoring proof has resulted in large financial penalties for many companies across many industries.

Vibration testing should be conducted by a team of professionals, in the environment, the equipment will be used in. If you require testing, then get in touch with WHC Vibration Solutions on 01684377977.

Collapsing Trenches

Every year during excavation, trenches collapse, bury and seriously injure people working in them – precautions need to be planned before the work starts. The risk of an unintended collapse is generally more associated with demolition work. However, it is essential that in your risk assessment you map out how trenches are to be constructed depending on soil testing. For more information about the correct construction on trenches depending on the soil types then see our resource on Excavation here.

Electricity

Every year, on average, three people are killed on a construction site due to electricity. This is normally when work is taking place on existing lines during a refurbishment of commercial and domestic buildings. In addition, construction employees working close to overhead power lines are as at risk. There is a growing number of deaths and injuries caused by electrocution throughout the industry. Therefore, as employers, you must ensure that the correct safety protocols are taken. Surveying excavation areas, organising power shutdowns, removing overhead cables are just some examples to protect your team. Always ensure that a qualified professional is present to manage the safety of electricity.

Conclusion

To reduce the risk of accidents and injuries, it is always best to choose a supplier that takes health and safety seriously. More modern equipment is fitted with the latest safety features. WHC Hire Services provides market-leading equipment designed to keep its operators safe during operation. With an ever-expanding fleet of high-performance equipment in perfect working condition, see further how our service could help your business mitigate health risks and conditions in your workplace. See more here, or call our team to discuss your business’s requirements today on 01684377977.