Construction sites and construction equipment can be very dangerous for workers and visitors. If proper precautions are not taken, then very serious accidents can occur.
Accidents on construction sites tend to fall into one of four major categories; falls, being struck by an object, electrocution, and crushing injuries. In America, these accident types are referred to as the “Fatal Four“, because they account for over 60% of all accidents. These figures are replicated on construction sites across the globe, including construction sites here in the United Kingdom.
Most serious fall accidents on construction sites occur when someone falls from a great height or when they fall into something deep. However, serious falls can occur from much smaller heights in some unfortunate circumstances. For example, if a person falling from a small height hits their head during the fall, then they might sustain a serious head injury. Risks from this type of accident can be mitigated by wearing a hard hat whilst on site.
The most common types of fall-related injuries are; breaks, sprains, and head injuries. Serious falls can lead to paralysis or death.
Fall risks on a construction site can also be reduced by clearly labelling major fall risks, such as trenches which have been dug at ground level. Scaffolding and high platforms should have adequate safety rails to reduce the risk of accidental fails. Construction workers may also need to wear harnesses to clip onto the scaffolding when they are working above a certain height or in certain weather conditions. Workers must not be asked to work on high surfaces in unsuitable weather conditions.
Struck by Falling Objects
Even the smallest objects can do damage when they are dropped from a great height. When things fall at a construction site they can cause serious injuries and even death. People are most at risk from objects falling onto their head, because a head injury can have serious consequences. Common injuries include; head injuries, brain injuries, concussion, trauma, breaks and internal bleeding.
The most common items falling items include; tools, scaffolding and construction materials. Items do not have to be in free-fall for them to pose a risk to workers or visitors. For example, a worker may be struck by the bucket of an excavator whilst it is being lowered by a colleague.
Everyone who enters a building site should wear a hard hat at all times to reduce the risk posed by falling objects. A hard hat can help to cushion some of the impact if an object were to fall onto your head. Heavy machinery operators should always take the time to check their working area before using their equipment. Equipment, such as scaffolding portions, should be raised and lowered at a controlled pace if it is being lifted with mechanical assistance.
Electrocution is a risk on many construction sites, especially if an adequate site survey has not been completed. Without an adequate site survey, workers run the risk of digging through buried electric cables or striking overhead cables. Metal scaffolding should never be used in the vicinity of overhead pylons. Any known electrical hazards should be labelled as such, so that all site workers are aware of them. Failing to properly ground components can also put workers at risk from electrocution. Grounding helps to allow electricity to pass safely into the ground.
Construction workers must also take care when they are using any electrical equipment. Faulty electrical items can put workers at risk if they have not been properly maintained by someone with electrical training. Non-electrical construction workers should not be asked to do any electrical maintenance work. Those who are using electrical equipment whilst at the construction site are advised to wear thick construction gloves to help to reduce the risk of electrocution.
Crush Injuries (or “caught-in-between” injuries)
These injuries occur when a construction worker is caught-in-between two or more different hazards. Examples of caught-in-between injuries include; being caught in a trench collapse, being crushed by shifting building materials, or being caught in moving machinery.
To reduce the risk from this sort of hazards, adequate steps must be taken so shore up trenches which people are working in and to contain all building materials which are stored onsite. Large machinery should be kept away from the edge of trenches to reduce the risk of collapse. All heavy equipment should have adequate guards and barriers around it. Only those who are trained should be permitted to use each pieces of heavy machinery.
Any machinery which is driven on the construction site should maintain a safe speed whilst in motion. All workers should wear high-visibility clothing, so that they can easily be spotted whilst they are working onsite. Some busier sites may need to establish “no pedestrian” zones, so that people are less likely to get hit by moving vehicles.