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The league table of construction accidents

Photo shows workers on a construction siteAny documentation from the HSE always makes for interesting reading, particularly when it relates to the construction industry. This is a field which makes up just 5% of the British workforce, yet still contributes to 27% of fatal injuries to the whole country. In short, it’s dangerous – although there have at least been improvements over the last few years that have made the figures more respectable.

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to shift away from fatalities. Instead, it’s going to concentrate on the “major injuries” which are sustained on the typical construction site. The fact that almost 2,000 people suffered an injury of this kind in the statistics which cover 2012/13 shows that it’s still a key problem – and here’s a rundown of just where these injuries occur.

Joint 1st: Falls

With 28% of injuries on the construction site occurring from falls, it’s clear that this is still a significant problem in the industry. There has been no statistical improvement over the last few years and while the HSE don’t specify exactly what incidents fall under this category, we’d hazard a wild guess at ladders being the common cause. Considering the fact that the average injury rate across other industries is almost half of this figure, it goes without saying that there is a problem here that needs to be addressed.

What can be done to improve the situation?

This is one area where it’s difficult to identify areas of improvement. The HSE have been highly active over the last few years and have released umpteen working at height and ladder documents to employers. Admittedly, enforcement is difficult to apply and in reality, it’s hard to imagine any employee rigorously testing a ladder every time they use it.

Joint 1st: Slips, trips and falls on the level

This shares top spot with 28% of injuries also occurring because of slips, trips and falls on the level. This is an area where a mild improvement has been made over the years and when you compare it to other industries, the facts are impressive. For example, this is a category which takes an average of 40% of injuries across other fields – meaning that the construction industry seems to be working very efficiently.

What can be done to improve the situation?

Even though the stats are improving year-on-year, the onus will always be on employers to continue to safeguard against the risks in this area. Whether it’s enforcing strict site rules in relation to the storage of materials, or simply demanding that all workers wear safety boots with adequate grip – it’s all about getting the basics right.

3rd Position: Moving/Falling Objects

At a slightly more respectable percentage is moving and falling objects. It’s documented that 15% of injuries occur because of this – which only happens to be 4% more than the average across injuries as a whole. Nevertheless, there has been no improvement since 2007, which is somewhat surprising.

What can be done to improve the situation?

Again, the onus rests completely on the employer and most will follow through with the hard hat requirements.  As it stands, the Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989 state that head protection should be worn when there is a risk of injury, although it could be suggested that this legislation is adapted so the ruling is applicable to all construction phases. Additionally, with a growing number of site workers now classed as self-employed, it means that they are required to supply their own head protection if none is provided by the site team. It could be argued that the site should hold the responsibility to provide such equipment, in a bid to avoid any confusion and leave anyone at risk.

This statistic also relates to moving vehicles, with hi-vis clothing required on any sites which have such construction traffic. While the rules tend to make employers provide these fluorescent jackets and vests, most workers now carry them anyway as they are sold so cheaply by high-street stores like Sports Direct.

4th Position: Handling

At the bottom of the table, for all the right reasons, are handling-related injuries. Just 8% of injuries were because of this and this is actually a reduction of 5% from the previous five years. It’s also 3% less than the average for all industries which form the statistics, which is again impressive.

What can be done to improve the situation?

As you can see, things are already progressing nicely. If we turn back the clock a decade, this was one of the worst offenders in construction and prompted thousands of injuries ever year. Through enforcement of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations, and all of the other guidance notes that are now available to employees, this has been improved drastically. As such, this is one area where the industry is moving at a decent pace and it has been brought down to an acceptable level.

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