Construction sites are complex environments with many moving components. Workers often need to navigate heights, use large pieces of machinery, and handle various dangerous materials. This makes construction sites a notorious hotspot for potential injuries. You may be confronted by one of these nasty construction workplace hazards, especially when you are not being careful enough.
As the employer, it is your responsibility to identify all the different types of hazards on construction sites. Conducting a full risk assessment is the first step towards making your workplace environment safe. A professional safety inspection helps you to pinpoint where the construction site hazards may potentially occur. Afterwards, you can take the appropriate safety measures to mitigate the dangers.
Here are the seven common types of health and safety hazards in the construction industry:
Type #1: Physical Hazards
The physical hazards on a construction site often originate from manual handling activities, such as carrying or lifting heavy objects. These activities create excessive stress on the body, causing damage to the tendons and muscles. Without proper construction safety protocols, manual handling may lead to long-term problems like musculoskeletal disorders, which can be permanently disabling.
Keep in mind that not all physical hazards on a construction site are visible or touchable objects. The dangers may also come from heat, electricity, vibration, and sound. Many people overlook the impact of vibrations from handheld power tools, which may cause harm to your hands or fingers. Similarly, construction workers often report an uncomfortable ringing in the ears, which are due to the continuous exposure to loud noises.
Type #2: Height Hazards
Height hazards in construction sites include incidences of people falling and getting injured. The dangers that come with working at heights are responsible for many workplace fatalities. With height hazards, you must consider the height of the fall and anything likely to cause further damage upon impact. For example, a 3-metre fall on a sand surface may not result in heavy injuries. However, a 1-metre fall onto a rocky surface could even cause fatality.
Although height hazards are more prominent in multi-storey constructions, they may also occur in a variety of workplace settings. Fall protection equipment like harnesses, guardrails, and safety belts can be used to minimize injuries or fatalities. Working at heights training is also essential to educate workers about the best guidelines and safety protocols.
Type #3: Mechanical Hazards
Machines significantly increase the efficiency in construction sites and workplace environments. However, they come with their own set of risks. The hot surfaces, sharp edges, and moving parts are all potential hazards for construction workers. Some of the common causes in machine accidents involve loose parts, faulty locks, or not keeping a safe enough distance from the equipment.
Most mechanical hazards happen at the point of operation. They can occur when you are using the equipment to do cutting, shaping, crushing, or high-pressure construction work. These hazards may lead to physical amputations or other severe injuries. With construction safety training, you can learn about the proper safeguards to prevent machine-related injuries from happening.
Type #4: Chemical Hazards
Many deaths and illnesses in construction workers are caused by exposure to chemical hazards. This is perhaps due to their frequent proximity to hazardous chemicals on any given day. In their line of work, they may be faced with fuel, lubricants, sewage water, and mechanical oils daily. Other commonly used chemicals like lead, mercury, and flame retardants present a potential health risk.
Polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC, is a common chemical hazard in construction. PVC is mostly used for taping compounds, ductwork, and flooring. During application, PVC may start to break down into ethylene dichloride, dioxin, and vinyl chloride. These chemicals can increase the risk of contracting cancer. Similarly, mercury is absorbed through the skin, eyes, and nose. Once it is inside the body, the chemical compound can be extremely hard to remove.
Type #5: Electrical Hazards
Electrical shock is one of the most common construction site hazards. The harsh conditions surrounding loose cables and electronic equipment make them extremely hazardous. In such situations, make sure you have personal protective equipment (PPE) as a last line of defence. Some PPE that protects against electrical hazards include a flesh protection kit, insulating boots, safety glasses, face shields, and gloves.
As a rule, make high-quality electrical testing a priority in construction work. You can also improve conditions with equipment like receptacle testers, clamp metres, and voltage detectors, which will minimize the volatility of electrical hazards.
Type #6: Health Hazards
Some of the occupational health hazards for construction workers include dermatitis, deafness, musculoskeletal disorders, and silica-related diseases. You must also watch out for asbestos-related diseases, which are responsible for a majority of deaths in the construction industry. When asbestos fibres are airborne, they can be dangerous. Breathing in these fibres is known to cause cancer and damage to the lungs.
The most challenging issue with asbestos is that it can be difficult to detect. Before carrying out construction work, you are legally obliged to identify whether asbestos is present. If it is, assess the risk and then implement the necessary measures to manage the asbestos levels.
Type #7: Slip and Fall Hazards
Slip and fall hazards include wet floors, trailing cables, uneven floor surfaces, unsafe ladders, and inappropriate footwear. A construction site is a potent breeding ground for these types of workplace hazards. To minimize slips and falls, always watch out for changes in floor levels. Keep work areas tidy and walk slowly whenever you are carrying loads. Also, use a flashlight when necessary and report lighting problems immediately.