Improving Health And Safety On Construction Sites

how to improve health and safety construction sites

Construction sites tend to be very hazardous environments and one of the challenges of managing them safely is that the nature of these risks can change not only from one site to another but throughout the course of a build, meaning that the same site can have different risks at different points in time. 

The good news is that consistently applying robust processes can go a long way to creating a healthy and safe environment on construction sites. Here are three tips to guide you. 

Pay Close Attention To The Risk Of Heights 

Out of all the risks inherent in construction, this one is probably the most common, for the simple reason that it’s almost impossible to avoid. In fact, the issue of working at heights is highly likely to grow, at least over the immediate future, especially in densely-populated countries such as the UK, where building upwards has become a necessity. 

There are two ways to address the issue of working at heights during the main construction process. 

One way is to use effective, temporary supports, such as scaffolding, cranes and mobile platforms (as opposed to unsafe ones such as ladders). 

The other is to build permanent supports into the fabric of the building, thus not only creating a safe platform for the initial construction workers but also leaving one for future workers who may have to maintain and/or update the building at a later date. 

The UK has traditionally shown a preference for the use of temporary structures only, except in certain, limited, situations, such as balconies, which are relatively uncommon in the UK. This, however, may change in future, partly due to industry awareness, and partly due to regulatory activity, such as the forthcoming BS EN 17235 standard. 

Regardless of whether a particular site uses temporary or permanent solutions, the basic principles behind their use remain the same. Where working at height is a necessity, site managers should do all possible to prevent falls in the first place and to mitigate their impact if they do occur, which, for practical purposes, means arresting the fall.

Remember To Provide Adequate Protection To All Workers In The Vicinity Of A Hazard 

After issues with working at heights, possibly the next most notorious hazard of construction sites is electricity. 

Qualified electricians should know what they are doing and how to keep themselves safe while doing it, although they may still require their employer to provide them with safe equipment and protective gear. 

Other workers, however, will not necessarily have their knowledge or skills and employers need to recognize that keeping them safe from electrical hazards may involve more than just preventing them from working with electricity. 

It may, for example, involve creating protocols for behavior in the vicinity of electrical work, such as establishing safe walkways near cabling (including overhead cabling). 

Treat Intangible Hazards As Seriously As Tangible Ones 

When it comes to construction sites, the main intangible hazard is usually noise, which, again, is generally unavoidable. As with electricity, protection needs to be extended, as necessary, to all workers in the vicinity of high-decibel noise, not just to those actually using the power tools which typically cause it. 

Author Peter Watson is the Director at Watson & Watson Health and Safety Consultants. Watson & Watson are experienced health and safety consultants, providing health, safety and risk management solutions throughout the UK.

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