Why is working in construction so dangerous?

Written by LetsBuild

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Working in construction can be really hard. Unfortunately, it’s no secret that in UK for instance the construction industry experiences more deaths at work per year than any other industry.  Figures from the HSE indicate that 43 workers were fatally injured in the construction industry in the course of 2015-2016. But what are the reasons behind this? Well, there can be many different explanations why working in construction is so dangerous. The most common, though, could be summed up to the following six factors:

1. Working at height

It’s widely accepted that construction is a risky industry due to working at height.  Not only do construction workers have to be aware of falling off of roofs, ladders or scaffolding and being let down by faulty equipment, they are also more at risk of electrocution by lightning when working at height.

2. Working with dust

The dangers of asbestos have been well documented, but it’s still an important consideration when working in construction.  Breathing in asbestos dust can be deadly; it’s as simple as that.

There are actually three different types of dust which can be potentially fatal:

a. Silica dust

Silica dust can scar the insides of your lungs, cause breathing difficulties and in some cases, it may increase your risk of developing lung cancer.  Be aware of this type of dust when working with materials such as tiles, bricks, concrete and granite.

b. Wood dust

Wood dust is well known for causing asthma and nose cancer if breathed in regularly.  As a result, there are strict exposure limits when working with both hard and soft woods.

c. Gypsum dust

Whilst not as toxic as other types of dust, gypsum dust can still cause asthma, sinus problems or persistent throat and respiratory problems.  Gypsum dust is usually found in materials such as plasterboard, marble and limestone.

3. Accidents

Construction workers are involved in a lot more manual activity than workers in other industries.  They also tend to use larger and more dangerous equipment whilst working.  This means that it’s easier for them to become injured by being caught between objects, machinery or equipment or injured through impact when hit by something falling or being transported.

4. Working with vibrating tools

Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) often occurs when workers use vibrating machinery or equipment such as power tools for long periods of time or regularly.  The effects of HAVS can be permanent.  The most common condition relating to HAVS is Vibration-induced white finger, which is where you experience tingling, a change in colour or numbness in your fingers.

5. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)

MSDs relate to any condition affecting the movement of your musculoskeletal system, which includes injuries and disorders relating to your joints, muscles and tissue in both your limbs and your back.  MSDs are common in construction workers who are repetitively carrying out an activity or manual handling which takes force or which negatively impacts posture.

6. Working with noise

Industrial deafness, occupational deafness and noise induced hearing loss are all ways of saying you’ve lost some or all of your ability to hear due to working with noise.  Hearing loss can also include tinnitus and acoustic shock syndrome.  Similar to losing your hearing, the effects of tinnitus and acoustic shock can be both temporary and permanent.  These conditions usually occur when a construction worker is working with noisy equipment or are exposed to extremely loud noises, without the proper ear protection.

Read also: How can we make construction site a safer place to work?

All of these construction workplace dangers (except for the lightning!) can be avoided if construction workers and managers are properly skilled and trained in health and safety.  We don’t mean sitting in an office and going through health and safety notes – everyone learns differently, so we recommend a health and safety course that provides real-life practical examples, which can help to keep health and safety at the front of your mind.

About RISK: RISK was established in 1998 and provides health and safety training and consultancy solutions to businesses of all sizes, across the UK.  With a proven track record for delivery of IOSH, NEBOSH and CITB courses in a highly engaging way, RISK is one of the UK’s leading health and safety training providers in the UK today.