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5 ways to reduce site accidents in your construction business

reduce site accidents

Every year in Europe, workers on construction sites suffer from injuries, poor health and fatal accidents as a result of working within this industry - with the sector as a whole being responsible for 20% of all fatal accidents at work across Europe. According to HSE, in the UK alone, an estimated 555,000 workers sustained non-fatal injuries, according to self reports across the period of 2017 to 2018.

The statistics are damning and while it’s impossible to stop site accidents altogether, it is possible to reduce the risk of them happening, which in turn can improve overall productivity on site. You can do this by understanding what the root causes of common health and safety issues are and putting practical and effective measures in place to properly manage risks and keep your employees safe. 

 

1. Use tools with the latest safety technology and keep this equipment well maintained

Keeping tools maintained and using the latest safety technology is one of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of accidents on a construction site. Selecting safe tools (that are appropriate for the job at hand) and maintaining them well not only means there is less chance of injury, but it is more efficient as consistently safe tools directly improves productivity, as workers have less worry over using faulty or dangerous equipment.

A common injury across the sector is Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), which occurs when employees are exposed to high levels of vibration, usually from using powerful hand tools over a prolonged period of time. It may seem logical to assume that the best tool to avoid HAV would have the lowest vibration value, however, this is not the case. 

When tool performance is factored in, workers can often experience less vibration using a tool with a higher vibration value due to much faster completion of the task at hand - meaning that the safest tool isn’t always the most obvious one. This is just one example of how carefully selecting safe tools can not only reduce the risk of accident, but improve productivity. 

However, curating a selection of safe tools isn’t enough - they must be maintained to an excellent standard. This can be done by putting a digitised asset management system in place that keeps track of tools so that certifications are up to date and both the tool and the person using it can be tracked in case an accident occurs.

If a tool does break, it's a good idea to ensure that safe spares are made available and the broken tool fixed quickly with effective fleet management.

By doing this, you will not only raise employee satisfaction through workers that feel safe and valued, but reduce the risk of accidents significantly.

 

2. Keep construction sites clean and tidy

According to HSE figures, slips, trips and falls accounted for 31% of non-fatal injuries on site in 2017/18. While slips and trips are sometimes an inevitability even on the cleanest of sites, they can be somewhat prevented and reduced by putting safety procedures in place to keep all loose cables, cords and debris out of the working area. Although this may seem time-consuming, ultimately it saves a worker from getting injured.

A common but also underestimated problem that comes with working in the construction industry is dust inhalation caused by intrusive jobs like drilling, breaking, slitting, sanding, sawing, or grinding in which the dust inhaled can cause respiratory illnesses or in worst cases be carcinogenic. 

Whilst you can’t force workers to wear masks, you can safely remove most of the harmful dust and debris using a vacuum and on-tool dust extraction systems. This will not only save time spent sweeping and ensure the area is clean and tidy for the following day, it will remove the potential of dust inhalation. As the inhalation of dust can lead to respiratory illness for employees (which often occurs years after the initial exposure), it is essential to ensure that the correct safety measures are in place to protect workers throughout their life, not just their time on site.

 

3. Provide health and safety training/safety briefing to workers

Preventing injuries on-site requires more than just good housekeeping, it requires employees to be constantly aware of the dangers around them, and how to avoid injuring themselves. As an employer, you must go above and beyond obligation (basic regulations and requirements) to provide workers with the health and safety knowledge they need to feel comfortable and valued on-site. 

One thing that workers should be expertly trained in is planned emergency procedures and the general precautions they must be aware of while on site. A good way to do this is with the STOP! Principle, which can be used to provide practical strategies to reduce the impact of health and safety challenges such as dust, vibration and kickback that could lead to injury. This is a simple and effective way to implement proper health and safety training that employees will be able to remember and use if a situation arises.

Problems arise when safety isn’t regularly communicated to workers - don’t make this mistake and educate your workers.

 

4. Working at height and ensuring workers have certifications

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 was created to prevent serious injury and death caused by a fall from height. Of course, where possible, avoid working at height completely. However, on a construction site working at height is often needed and luckily there are ways to make potentially one of the most dangerous tasks safer for the individual.

To work at height, employers must adhere to a number of regulations. One of these, LOLER  (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations) 1998, ensures that employers provide lifting equipment that is fit for purpose, appropriate for the task, suitably marked and, where appropriate, subject to statutory thorough examination. It also states that lifting operations must be properly planned and supervised. 

This can become tricky when a proper system isn’t in place to ensure these regulations are being followed, and that all certifications are up to date. It would be highly beneficial to use management software for this, to ensure that the information about the lifting equipment is easily accessible and therefore easier to update if needed. As accidents at height are often very serious or fatal, this is one of the most important ways to prevent incidents from happening.

 

5. Reduce the use of corded tools

As previously discussed above, slips and trips are extremely common on site - yet are one of the most preventable accidents. This is due to a rise in high-quality cordless tools, which not only reduces the time spent cable pulling, but also directly reduces the risk of slips and trips. 

Using cordless tools is a very easy way to reduce the risk of accidents on site, because if the majority of your tools are cordless, the less chance there is for an employee to trip themselves or someone else. Not only this, they increase productivity and mobility - employees are less likely to injure themselves trying to perform a task that is made more difficult with cords. 

For compliance managers, it is essential to ensure the workspace you provide for your employees is compliant and safe. It is essential to put proper safety measures in place as a precaution, rather than a reaction after an incident. By putting these five steps in place, you will be able to better anticipate potential dangers for employees, and better plan to prevent their injury. 

Having the right tools, plans and systems in place is just the vital first step into risk prevention. To build on this knowledge and learn more about how best to optimise your health and safety strategy, download the 2019 Construction Site Safety Guide. In this guide, you will find in-depth descriptions about must know regulations, how to successfully implement Health and Safety measures on site and ultimately how to ensure your construction business is fully compliant.

 

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