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11 Of The Biggest Health And Safety Risks On Construction Worksites


Each day 35 construction workers are seriously injured while on the job in Australia. They are also more likely to suffer ill health after exposure to both harsh working conditions and hazardous substances. Hazards not only affect those working on construction sites, but also members of the public in some situations.

Whilst there has been significant reductions in the rates of injuries and fatalities in this industry over the last ten years, the construction industry is still considered a high risk workplace. Keeping this in mind, ADESA not only ensures that all team members assigned to site have relevant training and licenses, but also makes sure that personal protective equipment is provided to everyone and all tools are tagged and tested. We conduct regular documented safety meetings with our team to put safety as the single most important thing before we move forward to work. 

This article shares common health and safety risks on construction sites you are likely to encounter. You will find the leading causes of accidents and take steps to control such risks. The solutions provided aren’t difficult to introduce into your own workplace practices.

1. Working At Heights

The construction and demolition of buildings often require workers to work at heights. Persons falling from heights are a common cause of construction site fatalities during roof installing, repairing or replacing. , accounting for three in ten fatal injuries to construction workers. Added access and mobility restrictions also increase the risks associated with working at heights. Safety awareness training is essential for employees to prevent such risks and so is mandatory fall prevention measures and safety equipment.

Note: SAFE WORK ON ROOFS INFORMATION SHEET from Safe work Australia

2. Falling Material And Collapses

14% of people get struck by falling materials during excavations, buildings, or structures collapse. Listed below are some examples:

  • Building collapse during alteration works as the structure is weakened and overloaded.
  • Structures under construction can collapse due to inadequate bracing and premature loading of steel frames.
  • Structures collapse during demolition, roof repairing and replacing because of structural instability.

3. Electrical Accidents 

People can suffer electric shocks and burns when they use unsafe equipment and accidentally come in contact with overhead power lines, powerboards and/or buried cables. 

Most electrical accidents happen because people work on equipment, that is:

  • Assumed to be isolated from power but it is actually still on.
  • Known to be on, but those involved do not have adequate training or equipment to prevent injury, or they have not followed appropriate safety precautions or procedures.

Electricity can kill or injure people and cause other substantial loss from the secondary effect of fire and explosions. Intense ultraviolet radiation from an electric arc also causes damage to the eyes and skin. Often those working with electricity do not realise the risk of serious injury and damage to equipment from arcing. Arcing, overheating, and electrical leakage currents can cause a fire or explosion by igniting flammable materials present in the atmosphere.

4. Moving Objects

Tight building construction schedules often bring the demand for rapid and efficient construction work activity with it which increases risks to the ones associated with construction. Workers constantly work with equipment such as overhead lifting cranes, supply vehicles, and excavation machinery – all of them require concentration and focus to operate safely.

While working, workers should always practice safety methods to ensure they go home to their families at the end of their shift. A few steps to reduce risks from moving objects are as follows,

  • Avoid working any closer than necessary to moving equipment whilst in operation.
  • Be aware of the surroundings, particularly if the object does not have safety warning lights or motion beepers.
  • Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as a high visibility jacket to be seen.

5. Trips and Falls

Slips, trips, and falls are a common form of injury in most construction sites. People fall because of an inadequate and unsafe working space. You can make the entire working space safer by using access routes such as corridors, stairwells, and a platform with toe boards and guard rails.

6. Mobile Plant & Equipment

Construction plants are heavy and often run on muddy ground and in poor visibility areas. Overturning of vehicles and plants can seriously injure or kill drivers and operators. 

7. Fire

Fire can kill, injure and cause serious human and financial loss. The level of danger that fire presents on construction sites is severe because escaping is often too difficult. Every construction worksite must have a solid evacuation plan which is supported by regular fire drills. It is everyone’s responsibility to be aware of fire risk and ensure everyone’s safety during those emergencies.

8. Asbestos

Construction workers are exposed to asbestos during demolition or remodelling of older buildings which contain asbestos insulation or other asbestos-containing products. Exposure to asbestos can cause serious respiratory diseases such as asbestosis and lung cancer. The usual time from first exposure to the first clinical signs of asbestosis is 10 to 20 years. Get advice from the asbestos expert and professional if asbestos is suspected on a worksite before handling or shifting any material.

9. Manual Handling

The main cause of construction site injury is caused by manual handling. These injuries are the result of carrying repetitive lifting for long periods, and even one serious bad lifting event can cause disability for life.

Occupational Safety and Health Regulation requires the appointed safety officer of a workplace to make a preliminary assessment of all manual handling operations before work and avoid the need to undertake hazardous manual handling operations as far as reasonably practicable. 

If avoidance is not possible, the responsible person has to make further assessment and reduce the risk of injury by providing mechanical aids or team lifting.

10. Noise and Vibration

Construction places are noisy. Constant exposure to high levels of noise can cause long term hearing problems. Noise can also distract workers from the task at hand and cause serious accidents. Repeated use of vibrating tools can damage the nerves and blood vessels – most commonly in the hands and fingers. Always carry out a comprehensive noise risk assessment and provide appropriate PPE.

11. Chemicals

Hazardous chemicals are substances that can pose a significant risk to health and safety if not managed correctly. Uncontrolled and accidental spills can cause exposure to harmful materials. Toxic substances such as adhesives, solvents, paints, and chemical solutions all create a long-term risk. Failure to use PPE correctly, or using damaged or inadequate PPE can expose workers to these harmful materials. This leads to a range of respiratory conditions, including asbestosis, asthma, and silicosis. Full risk assessment includes:

  • Implement protocols for correct use.
  • Check and maintain PPE.
  • Proper movement, disposal and handling of harmful materials.

Conclusion

The goal of the construction industry is to reduce workplace accidents, injuries and deaths. The accidents can be reduced only when the construction team are aware and committed to identify safety issues and create a safe working environment.

Besides these steps, workers must be provided with the right equipment and proper supervision. They must be proactive in solving the problem and be transparent when any problem arises.
Adesa Services is serious and committed to occupational health and safety and practices a motto that ‘Everyone gets home safely’. No matter how small or large the project spans, our professional team ensures a safe working environment and well-being of every employee. Contact us at info@adesaservices.com.au for any construction-related work.

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