Construction site safety

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Construction work is a dangerous land-based job. Some construction site jobs include: building houses, roads, workplaces and repair and maintain infrastructures. This work includes many hazardous task and conditions such as working with height, excavation, noise, dust, power tools and equipment. The most common fatalities are caused by the fatal four: falls, struck by object, electrocutions and caught-in/between.[1][2] Construction work has been increasing in developing and undeveloped countries over the past few years. With an increase in this type of work occupational fatalities have increased. Occupational fatalities are individuals that pass way while on the job or performing work related tasks.[3] Within the field of construction it is important to have safe construction sites.

Construction fatality rates[edit]

In 2014, the United States had 4,679 fatal occupational injuries; incidence rate of 3.3 per 100,000 full-time employed workers.[4] In the same year, fatal work injuries in construction and extraction occupations increased 5%.[4] One in five workers died in 2014 were due to construction related deaths.[4] Construction has about 6% of U.S. workers, but 17% of the fatalities - the largest number of fatalities reported for any industry sector.[5] In 2002, there were 22,453 industrial accidents in Hong Kong, of which 6,239 accidents were construction related cases.[6] In the United Kingdom, the construction industry is responsible for 31% of fatalities at work and 10% of major workplace injuries.[7] I In South Africa there are 150 fatalities and approximately 400 injuries each year related to construction sites.[8] In Brazil, the incidence rate for all occupational fatalities is 3.6 per 100,000.[9] (Little to no information regarding construction fatalities could be found in Asia, South American, Africa, and Antarctic). The chart below contains more countries and the rate of construction site fatalities.

Chart of Fatality Rates in Different Countries[edit]

Country/Region Fatalities (per Annum per 100,000 Workers) Year Notes
Australia 1.85 2013 [10]
Canada 8.7 2008 [11]
Europe 23.0 2012 [12]
France 2.64 2012 [13]
Finland 5.9 2008 [11]
Germany 5.0 2008 [11]
Ireland 9.80 2013 [14]
Italy 10.0 2008 [15]
Norway 3.3 2008 [11]
Sweden 5.8 2008 [11]
Switzerland 4.2 2008 [11]
United States of America 9.8 2014 [16]
Israel 12.12 2015 [17]

Nature of hazards[edit]

Hazards to construction workers[edit]

Various workplace safety signs commonly used at construction sites and industrial work environments.

The leading safety hazards on construction sites include: falls, caught between objects, electrocutions, and struck by objects.[18] All four of those hazards have caused injuries and deaths throughout the world of construction sites. Failures in hazard identification are often due to limited or improper training and supervision of the construction site workers.[19] Examples of areas were there are limited training includes: tasks in design for safety, safety inspection, and monitoring safety.[19] Failure in any of these areas can result in an increased risk in exposing workers to harm in the construction environment.

Falls are the leading cause of injury in the construction industry, is particularly for elder and untrained construction workers.[18][20] In the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Handbook (29 CFR) used by the United States, fall protection is needed in areas including but are not limited to: ramps, runways, and other walkways; excavations; hoist areas; holes; form-work; leading edge work; unprotected sides and edges; overhand bricklaying and related work; roofing; precast erection; wall openings; residential construction; and other walking/working surfaces.[21] Other countries have regulations and guidelines for fall protections to prevent injuries and deaths. Therefore, it is important that construction sites are safe as possible for the workers.

Motor vehicle crashes are another major safety hazard on construction sites. It is important to be cautious while operation motor vehicles or equipment on the site. Motor vehicles should have a service brake system, emergency brake system, and a parking brake system. All vehicles must be equipped with an audible warning system if the operator chooses to use it. Vehicles must have windows and doors, power windshield wipers, and have a clear view of site from the rear window. All employees should be properly trained before using motor vehicles and the equipment.

Employees on construction sites also need to be aware of dangers on the ground. The hazards of cables running across roadways were often seen, until cable ramp equipment was invented to protect hoses and other equipment which had to be laid out.[22] Other hazards found on construction site includes: asbestos, solvents, noise, and manual handling activities.[23]

Temporary fencing on a building site in Sydney, Australia.

Education and safety[edit]

Construction workers need to be properly trained and educated on the task or job before working, which will assist in preventing injuries and deaths. There are many methods on training construction workers. One method is coaching construction site foremen to include safety in their daily verbal exchanges with workers to reduce work-related accidents.[19] It is important that the workers use the same speaking language to assure for the best communication. Another method is that all workers know how to properly work and use electronics, conveyors, skid-steer, trucks, aerial lifts, and other equipment on the construction site.[24] Also, equipment on the job site must be properly maintain and inspected regularly before and after each shift.[25] The equipment inspection system will help the operator to make sure that the machine is mechanically sound and in safe operating conditions. An employee should be assigned to inspect equipment to insure proper safety is being met. Equipment should have lights and reflectors if intended for night use. The glass in the cab of the equipment must be safety glass in some countries.[26][27] The equipment must be used for their intended task at all times on the job site to insure safety of the workers.

Each construction site should have a construction site manager. A construction site manager's is an occupational health and safety specialist who designs and implements safety regulations to minimize injuries and accidents on construction sites.[28] He or she also is in charge of conducting daily safety audits and inspections to ensure compliance with government regulations.[28] Most construction site managers have an entry level experience or higher degree.

Before any excavation takes place, the contractor is responsible to notify all applicable companies that excavation work is being performed. During excavation, the contractor is responsible for providing a safe work environment for employees and pedestrians. Access and Egress is also an important part of excavation safety.[29] Ramps used by equipment must be designed by a person, qualified in structural design.[29] No person is allowed to cross underneath or stand underneath any loading or digging equipment. Employees are to remain at a safe distance from all equipment while it is operational. Employees that have training and education in the above areas will benefit their co-workers and themselves on the construction site.

Road construction safety[edit]

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created over 12,600 road construction projects, over 10,000 of which are currently in progress.[30] Workers in highway work zones are exposed to a variety of hazards and face risk of injury and death from construction equipment as well as passing motor vehicles. Workers on foot are exposed to passing traffic, often at high speeds, while workers who operate construction vehicles are at risk of injury due to overturn, collision, or being caught in running equipment. Regardless of the task assigned, construction workers work in conditions in poor lighting, poor visibility, inclement weather, congested work areas, high volume traffic and speeds.[31] In 2011, there were a total of 119 fatal occupation fatalities in road construction sites.[32] In 2010 there were 37,476 injuries in work zones, about 20,000 of those injuries are construction workers.[32] Causes of road work site injuries include being struck by objects, trucks or mobile equipment (35%), falls or slips (20%), overexertion (15%), transportation incidents (12%), and exposure to harmful substances or environments (5%). Causes of fatalities include getting hit by trucks (58%), mobile machinery (22%), and automobiles (13%).[33]

Media Safety Campaigns Road construction safety remains a priority among workers. Several states have implemented campaigns addressing construction zone dangers and encouraging motorists to use caution when driving through work zones.[34][35] National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week is held yearly. The national event began in 1999 and has gained popularity and media attention each year since. The purpose of the event is to draw national attention to motorist and worker safety issues in work zones.

Preventing accidents and improving safety[edit]

A video describing how a construction framer implemented a safety program to prevent falls on construction sites

Site preparation will aid in preventing injury and death on construction sites. Site preparation includes removing all the debris existing on the site, leveling the ground, filling holes, cutting off tree roots, and marking gas, water, and electric pipelines.[36] This process improves the safety on the construction site. Another prevention methods on the construction site is to provide scaffold that is rigid and sufficient to carry its own weight plus four times the maximum intended load without settling or displacement.[37]

Ways to prevent injuries and improve safety include:

  1. Management safety
  2. Integrate safety as a part of the job
  3. Create accountability at all levels
  4. Take safety into account during the project planning process
  5. Make sure the contractors are pre-qualified for safety
  6. Make sure the workers are properly trained in appropriate areas
  7. Have a fall protection system
  8. Prevent and address substance abuse to employees
  9. Make safety a part of everyday conversation
  10. Review accidents and near misses, as well as regular inspections[38]

The employees or employers are responsible for providing fall protection systems and to ensure the use of systems. Fall protection can be provided by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, positioning device systems, and warning line systems.[39] Making sure that ladders are long enough to safely reach the work area to prevent injury. Stairway, treads, and walkways must be free of dangerous objects, debris and materials. A registered professional engineer should design a protective system for trenches 20 feet deep or greater for safety reasons. To prevent injury with a crane, they should be inspected for any damage. Plus the operator should know the maximum weight of the load that the crane is to lift. All operators should be trained and certified to ensure that they operate forklifts safely.

Operational Excellence Model to improve safety for construction organizations

There are 13 safety drivers associated with this model to improve safety for construction organizations:

  1. Recognition & Reward
  2. Employee Engagement
  3. Subcontractor Management
  4. Training & Competence
  5. Risk Awareness, Management & Tolerance
  6. Learning Organization
  7. Human Performance
  8. Transformational Leadership
  9. Shared Values, Beliefs, and Assumptions
  10. Strategic Safety Communication
  11. Just & Fair Practices and Procedures
  12. Worksite Organization
  13. Owner's Role[40]

Each safety driver mentioned above has some sub elements attributed to it.

Personal protective equipment[edit]

Hard hats and steel-toe boots are perhaps the most common personal protective equipment worn by construction workers around the world. A risk assessment may deem that other protective equipment is appropriate, such as gloves, goggles, or high-visibility clothing.[41]

Hazards to non-workers[edit]

Many construction sites cannot completely exclude non-workers. Road construction sites must often allow traffic to pass through. This places non-workers at some degree of risk.

This sign and advisory plate penetrated the wind-shield and roof of a car in a side-impact test crash. A safer sign would have stiffer uprights, no advisory plate and the flashing light would be moved to the point of the sign to spread the impact force.

Road construction sites are blocked-off and traffic is redirected. The sites and vehicles are protected by signs and barricades. However, sometimes even these signs and barricades can be a hazard to vehicle traffic. For example, improperly designed barricades can cause cars that strike them to roll over or even be thrown into the air. Even a simple safety sign can penetrate the wind-shield or roof of a car if hit from certain angles. The majority of death in construction are caused by hazards relating to construction activity. However, many deaths are also caused by non construction activities, such as electrical hazards. A notable example of this occurred when Andy Roberts, a father of four, was killed while changing a light bulb at a construction site when he came into contact with a loose bare wire that was carrying two thousand volts of electricity and died. (August 1988 New York (U.S.A)). Events like this motivated the passing of further safety laws relating to non construction activities such as electrical work laws.

Applicable laws[edit]

Under European Union Law, there are European Union Directives in place to protect workers, notably Directive 89/391 (the Framework Directive) and Directive 92/57 (the Temporary and Mobile Sites Directive). This legislation is transposed into the Member States and places requirements on employers (and others) to assess and protect workers health and safety.

In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets and enforces standards concerning workplace safety and health. In the United States, efforts have been made in the first decade of the 21st century to improve safety for both road workers and drivers in construction zone. In 2004, Title 23 Part 630 Subpart J of the Code of Federal Regulations was updated by congress to include new regulations that direct state agencies to systematically create and adopt comprehensive plans to address safety in road construction zones that receive federal funding.[42]

In the United Kingdom, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for standards enforcement, while in Northern Ireland, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is responsible. In Ireland, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is responsible for standards and enforcement.

In Europe, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work coordinates actions at the EU and national levels and the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion is responsible for regulation at the EU level.[43]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "OSHA Data & Statistics / Commonly Used Statistics". Retrieved 21 February 2017. 
  2. ^ "CDC - Construction Safety and Health - NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic". Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  3. ^ Das, Siddhartha (6 June 2015). "Occupational fatalities in the construction sector: A medico-legal viewpoint". Medicolegal Journal. 83: 93–97. doi:10.1177/0025817214554869. 
  4. ^ a b c "Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2014". Retrieved 2016-03-07. 
  5. ^ "NIOSH Construction". United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Retrieved 2007-10-15. 
  6. ^ Wong, Francis; Chan, Albert; Yam, Michael; Wong, Edmond (2003). "A Study of the Construction Safety in Hong Kong - Accidents". Occupational safety and health statistics bulletin. 
  7. ^ "HSE - Construction Industry Statistics". Health and Safety Executive. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  8. ^ robbie. "Deaths and accidents in the construction industry can be reduced". Retrieved 2016-03-15. 
  9. ^ Mendeloff, John (2015). "Occupational Safety and Health in Brazil". RAND Labor & Population. 
  10. ^ "Construction statistics - Safe Work Australia". Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f "eLCOSH : The Construction Chart Book 4th Edition". Retrieved 2016-03-03. 
  12. ^ "Accidents at work statistics - Statistics Explained". Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  13. ^ "Workplace fatalities and injuries statistics in the EU". Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  14. ^ "eLCOSH : Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health". Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  15. ^ "eLCOSH : Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health". Retrieved 2016-11-21. 
  16. ^ "Worker Memorial". Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  17. ^ "Israel worksite accident report - 2011-2015 status" (PDF). Ministry of Economy and Industry. Spokesperson, Occupational Health and Safety Administration. 2016-05-08. 
  18. ^ a b "Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2014". Retrieved 2016-03-07. 
  19. ^ a b c Kines, Pete; Andersen, Lars P. S.; Spangenberg, Soren; Mikkelsen, Kim L.; Dyreborg, Johnny; Zohar, Dov (2010-10-01). "Improving construction site safety through leader-based verbal safety communication". Journal of Safety Research. 41 (5): 399–406. doi:10.1016/j.jsr.2010.06.005. 
  20. ^ Dong, Xiuwen Sue; Wang, Xuanwen; Daw, Christina (2012-06-01). "Fatal falls among older construction workers". Human Factors. 54 (3): 303–315. doi:10.1177/0018720811410057. ISSN 0018-7208. PMID 22768635. 
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  22. ^ "Electrical" (PDF). OSHA.Gov. OSHA. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
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  26. ^ "Equipment. - 1926.600". Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  27. ^ O'Brien, James J. (2013-04-17). Construction Inspection Handbook: Quality Assurance/Quality Control. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9781475711912. 
  28. ^ a b "". Retrieved 2016-04-06. 
  29. ^ a b "Trenching and Excavation Guide for Daily Inspection of Trenches and Excavations - Competent Person". Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
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  31. ^ "CDC - NIOSH Publications and Products - Building Safer Highway Work Zones: Measures to Prevent Worker Injuries From Vehicles and Equipment (2001-128)". Retrieved 2016-11-21. 
  32. ^ a b "Occupational Injuries in Work Zones |". 2015-09-07. Archived from the original on 2015-09-07. Retrieved 2016-11-21. 
  33. ^ FHWA. "Work Zone Facts and Statistics". Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  34. ^ http://www.ncdot.govt/resources/news/news_detail.asp?ID=850
  35. ^ "Delaware Department of Transportation - Media Gallery". 2014-07-11. Archived from the original on 2014-07-11. Retrieved 2016-11-21. 
  36. ^ "Site Preparation Work - How To Prepare a Site For Construction". Civil Engineers Forum. Retrieved 2016-04-06. 
  37. ^ "Worker Safety Series - Construction". Retrieved 2016-04-07. 
  38. ^ Roux, Lance. "11 Steps to Improving Safety Culture in the Construction Industry". Retrieved 2016-03-26. 
  39. ^ "Electric Power eTool: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - Fall Protection Equipment". Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  40. ^ Huang, Liu. "DEVELOPMENT OF AN OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE MODEL TO IMPROVE SAFETY FOR CONSTRUCTION ORGANIZATIONS". The Canadian Society for Civil Engineering’s 5th International/11th Construction Specialty Conference. 
  41. ^ Dalby, Joseph (1998-02-01). EU Law for the Construction Industry. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-632-04067-X. 
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  43. ^ "Actions to improve safety and health in construction". European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. 2004.