The statistics are shocking. Workers on construction sites have a 1 in 10 chance of being injured at work. Each year around 150,000 construction site accidents are reported- that’s 3000 per week! 20% of workplace deaths take place on construction sites, although construction workers only account for 6% of the labor force.
What can you as an employer do to prevent accidents on your sites, and avoid the potentially devastating human and financial costs they may involve?
The most fundamental step you can take is to carry out risk assessments on all aspects of the work on your site. If you don’t have the skills or expertise to do this in-house, hire a health and safety consultant to identify potential hazards and develop protocols to mitigate any risks. Yes, there’s a cost involved but it will be far more expensive to fight construction site compensation claims.
Once you’ve identified all risks and hazards on your site, it will be clear what training is needed to ensure your workers are aware of them, and to keep them safe. Ensure that all training is recorded and that records are signed – in the event that a claim is made against you, they will provide evidence of your efforts to avoid accidents.
3. Warning signs
According to statistics, falls account for the highest proportion of construction site deaths (42%), so taking extra measures to prevent them makes sense. Reinforce the training with clear and unmissable warning signs, especially where there is a high risk of accidents – such as scaffolding or an elevator shaft. In addition, 20% of these fatalities occurred during the worker’s first 2 months on the job – highlighting the need for proper training and increased supervision for the inexperienced.
4. Safety gear
Ensuring your workforce use the correct safety gear, such as helmets, gloves, and personal fall-arrest systems with zero exceptionsis fundamental to minimizing accidents and claims. All equipment should be checked regularly to ensure it remains fit for purpose, and these checks recorded.
5. Regular breaks
Workers are more likely to make mistakes and suffer injuries when mentally or physically tired. Ensure that regular breaks are not only scheduled but taken.
6. Material and equipment storage
An untidy site, with materials and equipment stored haphazardly, is more likely to cause trip injuries, leading to loss of productivity and compensation claims. Ensure that site supervisors maintain a well-organized and uncluttered workspace, with unused items being stored safely away from walkways and work areas.
7. Site management
The best way to ensure that construction safety is the number one priority on a site is to send a strong and ongoing message from the top. Make the managers and supervisors fully accountable. Ensure they understand that a perfect safety record is expected and that any incentives or bonuses are linked to a ‘zero-incident’ site.
Safety should be high on the agenda at every on or off-site meeting, and every employee should understand that it’s their duty to report potential hazards – and especially ‘near-miss incidents. If an accident or near-miss does occur, the site manager should be held accountable, a detailed investigation needs to take place, and follow-up action implemented.