Causes of Fatal Work-Related Injuries Within UK Construction

30 April 2014

After a few years of hardship, the UK construction sector has finally rebounded becoming the “driving force” behind the U.K.’s economic growth, according to one expert speaking to the Guardian. With employment levels within the sector beginning to stabilize, the necessity for appropriate health and safety protocols to ensure the safety of contract workers is extremely important. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there were 35 fatal work-related injuries or accidents within the UK construction sector over the period of 2014/15. However, according to the Guardian, the UK construction sector is still the most dangerous sectors in Britain, with 760 construction workers being killed on UK construction sites since 2001. With those numbers in mind, it’s important to look at the causes of fatal work-related injuries and investigate if you can change your safety protocols to protect contractor safety.

The Stats in Fatal Work-Related Injuries in Construction

Contractor safety and the safety of the UK construction sector as a whole is protected by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which requires employers to ensure the health and safety of everyone working on your site. UK Construction remains a high-risk occupation, accounting for 27% of all fatal work-related injuries to workers, despite the fact that only 5% of the UK population are employed within the sector. According to the HSE, there was a total of 35 fatal construction injuries over the period of 2014/15, bringing the total number of fatal work-related injuries in the industry to 217 over the past 5 years. With those numbers in mind, let’s take a look at the range of fatal work-related injuries and how you can stop them.

Fatal Work-Related Injuries and How to Stop Them

  1. Falls from Height

Falls from a height were the most common cause of a fatality, accounting for nearly three in ten of fatal work-related injuries to workers, according to the HSE, leaving the construction industry with the highest rate of fatal falls from height amongst all professions. For contract workers, it’s easy to use a ladder for all types of work, but you should always consider a working platform first, for example, using a safe scaffold tower or even a mobile elevated working platform.

2. When deciding what equipment to use – think about:

  • Can the work be done safely from the ground?
  • What does the job involve (loads, re-positioning, drilling, and holding items etc.)?
  • How long will the job last?
  • Where will you be working from?

3. Always use scaffolds for jobs such as:

  • Removing or installing guttering
  • Installing replacement windows
  • Painting
  • Demolition work

Remember to always protect the public when working at height. Ensure the public are safe from falling objects, and that the scaffolding and ladders are secure. Always select the right scaffolding for the job. Make sure you erect, use, move and dismantle the tower safely. The scaffolding needs to be stable and inspected regularly. Fall restraints and safety netting should only be considered as a last resort if other safety equipment cannot be used. If you do decide to use ladders always ensure you position the ladder correctly, that it is in good condition, and follow the guidelines for the safe use of ladders.

Work-Related Injuries

4. Being Hit by a Moving Vehicle

According to the HSE, 21 workers died as a result of being struck by a moving vehicle over the period of 2010-2015. It’s the law that you ensure your workplace is safe for both contract workers and vehicles using it. Furthermore, workplace traffic routes must be suitable for contract workers or other subcontractors who will be using them. It’s also important to understand what can be done to reduce safety risks to contract workers and other people on the site. The HSE has outlined the following areas in which safety needs to be addressed, in relation to moving vehicles on site.

  • Traffic routes
  • Driving surfaces
  • Vehicles and loads
  • Vehicle handling

5. You should also be aware of the following:

  • Traffic management
  • Separating pedestrians and vehicles
  • Signs, signals and road markings
  • Protecting structures
  • Lighting
  • Parking

6. A Collapse/Overturn

According to the HSE, 28 workers died as a result of being trapped by an object collapsing. This is a complex and difficult area, as it includes a wide range of situations. Scaffolding could collapse if not stable, cranes could fall over if not placed correctly, and excavations can cause sudden and unexpected subsidence. All sites should be risk assessed for potential collapses and signage placed accordingly. Where there is potential for a vehicle or equipment to overturn, access should be restricted to only necessary personnel, such as contract workers, who have been trained and briefed according to the risk assessments. All mobile and plant vehicles should be segregated from pedestrians, drivers should be appropriately trained in how to use vehicles safely (over 60% of dumper deaths involve the driver when the vehicle overturns), and all vehicles should be regularly inspected, serviced and maintained.

7. Some Issues to consider regarding overturns:

  • Gradients: Make sure vehicles and equipment are used on gradients that are within their safe working limits.
  • Competence: Use trained and competent operators and have a system for billing safe driving practice.
  • Safety devices: Bill that vehicles have roll-over protection and ensure that drivers use seat-belts.
  • Loading: Loads should be evenly distributed and, if necessary, use purpose built platforms (e.g. drums)

8. Electricity

Electrocution resulted in the deaths of 17 workers over the period of 2011-2015, according to the HSE, and still poses an obvious threat to contract workers throughout the UK. Here are some simple tips if you are working near electricity.

  • Always do a risk assessment that covers electrical hazards.
  • Make sure you can identify electrical wires – overhead power lines, electrical wiring, or cables buried under the ground.
  • Get an up-to-date map of the electricity services in the area and always bill for electrical wires, cables or equipment near where you are working.
  • Look for signs that warn of hazards from electricity – remember to look up, down, and around you.

Remember – always work away from electrical wiring wherever possible, or get the electricity turned off. If you are unsure what to do, consult an expert.

9. Struck by a Falling/Moving Object

Being struck by a falling/moving object caused 21 deaths over the period of 2010-2015, according to the HSE. These injuries are closely linked to working at height. It is from ladders, scaffolding, and cranes that objects can fall. They often happen when equipment is being lifted/used or during demolition. Controlling the risk from falling/moving objects requires good site management. Make sure to attend regular safety meetings and communicate with other trades –so everyone on the site knows what the others are doing. Clear signage should be provided whenever there is a risk of falling/moving objects. Most importantly always wear safety gear, especially hard hats.

How GoContractor Can Help

GoContractor is an online platform giving you the ability to handle and operate all of your orientation training before workers arrive on site. You can customize your orientation process so that contract workers register themselves online, upload documents and photographs and take their orientation training. All of the content is your own and can be site specific so you have the peace of mind that everyone on-site is knowledgeable about the hazards around them. And how do you know the person who has taken the course is the person who shows up on-site? We take a series of photos during the process to prove it to you.

Work-Related Injuries

Sonya Sikra

Sonya is the Brand Strategy Manager at GoContractor. She specializes in communicating how implementing tech in construction can drive productivity and profit.

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