Health and Safety in Construction: Top 5 Health and Safety Risks

Aerial view of a large inner-city construction site

Aerial view of a large inner-city construction site


In this blog, we explore health and safety in construction, in particular the biggest risks construction professionals face on site.

Out with the old, in with the new…


From large scale commercial developments to small domestic projects, construction related accidents occur every day.  However, the reality is that most of these accidents can be avoided.  Recent fatal accident statistics published by the HSE show that in 2017/18, 35 people were fatally injured whilst working in the construction industry.


In the UK, a lot has changed where health and safety in construction is concerned.  In 2009 a report highlighting a rising number of construction related injuries and deaths prompted a review of the regulations in place, resulting in one of the biggest shake-ups the UK construction industry has ever seen.


In 2015, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations were updated, replacing the earlier, and arguably less effective, Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.


A more robust set of regulations for managing health and safety on construction projects in the UK, the introduction of the CDM 2015 also saw the end of the construction design & management co-ordinator (CDMC), a role designed to provide guidance on health and safety during the construction phase of a building project, and introduced the role of CDM principal designer.


The CDM Principal Designer has an important role in influencing how risks to health and safety are managed throughout a project. It is a legal requirement to appoint a competent Principal Designer when there is more than one contractor involved.

Health & Safety Risks in Construction


Brick layer laying bricks 

There’s no escaping the fact that according to recent statistics published by the HSE, the accident fatality rate of the construction industry remains significantly higher than other sector.  Ultimately, more can and should be done to raise awareness of the regulations, especially where small companies and independent contractors are concerned.


A responsible Principal Designer, HLN Engineering has worked successfully with a large number of commercial and domestic clients, working tirelessly to plan, manage and monitor Health and Safety during the pre-construction phase of a project where there is more than one contractor appointed, ensuring that Health and Safety is at the forefront of design considerations and is a priority of the Principal Contractor when planning the construction phase.


It is our duty to not only educate and safeguard own clients, but also raise awareness of the issues surrounding construction safety.  With that, we highlight some of the most common health and safety risks affecting the construction industry (in no particular order).


  1. Slips, Trips and Falls –

By their very nature, construction sites are hazardous environments.  Muddy terrain, uneven surfaces and trenches are commonplace.  Worse still, the risk of slips, trips or falls increases exponentially if machinery and equipment are left lying around.


The HSE estimates that several thousand construction industry professionals are injured every year as a result of slips, trips and falls on site.  By effectively managing working areas and access routes, the rate of injury could easily be reduced.


Minimising the risk on site can be as simple as introducing well lit, designated walkways with stable conditions underfoot.  Insisting that workers keep their stations tidy and providing cordless tools where possible, can also help reduce the rate of fall related injury.  In recent accident statistics published by the HSE, 31% of all accidents were a result of a slip, trip or fall.


  1. Working at Height –

Working at height is risky business – in fact, it is the most common cause of fatal injury.   In 2017/2018, of the 144 fatalities in the workplace recorded (12 of which were in Wales), falls from height were responsible for 35 of these deaths.


Construction workers will, at some point in their careers, find themselves working at height, therefore work at height must be approached in a logical, structured manner.


The law states that where possible, employers should avoid the need for work at height. Where work at height can’t be avoided, employers must ensure that any work conducted at height is properly planned and supervised – this involves a thorough risk assessment and a plan to ensure that all work is carried out safely and securely.


Where applicable, training for employees should include how to work safely on scaffolding, ladders and roofs and make them aware of the various safety procedures that must be followed whilst working at height.


  1. Moving Objects –

Orange excavator on a building site-vehicles such as this are a risk to health and safety in construction

Orange excavator on a building site-vehicles such as this are a risk to health and safety in construction


Some of the most common hazards on a building site stem from moving objects such as excavators, overhead lifting equipment, dumper trucks and transportation vehicles moving materials from one end of a site to another.


As a construction site expands and work progresses, the likelihood of sustaining an injury as a result of coming into contact with specialist equipment, as well as vehicles manoeuvring uneven terrain, increases.


Being aware of your surroundings at all times and working at a safe distance from such hazards is paramount.


Plant and moving machinery should be fitted with suitable visual and audible alarms to warn others, and separate access points and routes for pedestrians and plant is crucial to ensuring safe movement of plant and vehicles around pedestrians.


A detailed site layout plan, that is updated as the site expands or decreases, and correct access controls for vehicles will also ensure workforce safety whilst goods and materials are transported around site.


  1. Noise –

Noise has the potential to be a major issue on any construction site.


Excessive noise cause long term hearing problems and contribute to workplace stress and even irregular sleeping patterns.  It can also act as a distraction, disturbing employees working on tasks that require concentration and focus, raising the potential for injury in the process.


Employers should reduce noise levels to as low as is reasonably practicable through the use of well-maintained plant and machinery, utilising new technologies and training workers on the effects of noise.


A thorough noise risk assessment, will identify high risk areas and employers should provide hearing protection and other PPE where noise levels cannot be lowered to a level that is appropriate.


  1. Electricity –

Electricity is a major source of construction site injury – every year, an average of 3 construction workers are injured as a result of electrocution.  Some of these injuries involve electrically unqualified personnel, such as plumbers and decorators, asked to carry out electrical work on site.


Furthermore, the risk of electrical injury is compounded where working at height is concerned.


Electrical safety on construction sites should be a primary focus for employers.  Only electrically qualified personnel, such as electricians, should be tasked with work that involves the installation and operation of electrical equipment, with competencies checked prior to work commencing.


If you require the services of a principal designer to help manage and co-ordinate the health and safety of a multi-team project, call today on 02080 996 388 or email

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