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Construction Remains one of the most High-Risk sectors of the Economy

5 Dec 2023

Construction is one of the most high-risk sectors

Construction sites are a lot safer nowadays than they used to be in the past, especially if we compare them to the 20th-century work environment when the Second Industrial Revolution led to extremely dangerous working conditions and caused the number of construction accidents and casualties to surge worldwide.

Modern-era improvements and innovations such as rigorous safety regulations, more efficient and reliable equipment, and advanced tech solutions (e.g., drones, apps, virtual reality, smart sensors, self-driving equipment, etc.) have lowered the risk of construction accidents and injuries significantly, ensuring a much safer work environment for everyone.

And yet, it’s common knowledge that construction work is inherently dangerous and people activating in the field are exposed to a variety of safety hazards that can cause serious health problems and even death.

Construction leads in fatal workplace accident figures

Statistics paint a sobering picture. According to the Health and Safety Executive’s provisional figures for work-related accidents in Great Britain in 2022/23, construction registered the biggest fatality rate of all industries and accounted for a third of the total number of deaths.

At the EU level, figures show that almost 22.5 % of all fatal work accidents took place within the construction sector. Across the pond, things don’t seem to be much different as approximately 18% of all worker deaths in the U.S. occurred in construction. It’s pretty obvious that there’s a disproportioned high risk of fatal work injuries in the construction industry.

It’s also important to note that construction sites pose a danger not only to the people working on the site but also to those who happen to walk by. There have been numerous cases reported over the years of people who sustained serious injuries while passing by a construction site, and many of the victims filed personal injury claims against the responsible party.

Why is working in construction so risky?

The figures presented above reflect the severity of the situation, but they only tell part of the story. What they don’t reveal are the causes of why risks remain so high in construction despite the numerous improvements and advances in workplace safety. So, we need to dig a bit deeper to understand where the risks come from and why accidents in construction occur with such worrying frequency and cause so many fatalities.

For starters, we need to take into account the environment where construction workers operate. Considering that construction sites come in all shapes and sizes and encompass many varying elements, it’s rather challenging to identify and assess the risks and hazards that workers might encounter during their activity. Even on the same site, risks can vary from one area to another given the dynamic nature of the setting and that can leave many safety loopholes unaddressed.

What’s more, construction sites transform as work progresses, and there are many moving parts that need to work in synchronicity to ensure the job is done right and on time. with different teams present at the same time and in the same space, carrying all sorts of tasks with varying risk degrees, the construction environment can easily become a fertile ground for accidents and injuries.

Many of the tasks that construction professionals need to perform involve working at height which in itself is a major safety hazard. This means they are exposed to the risk of falling from great heights, be it roofs, ladders or scaffolding, due to faulty equipment, inadequate training, fatigue or carelessness.

When people think of the dangers lurking around construction sites, they usually picture workers being hit by heavy equipment or other types of gruesome accidents. However, some hazards are not as easily noticeable but they can have equally terrible consequences. Dust falls in this particular category. The risks of working with asbestos are well-known but this natural mineral and carcinogen continues to make victims among construction workers. Other types of construction dust that pose a threat to workers’ health and safety are silica dust, wood dust and gypsum dust.

We also need to point out that even if the deployment of automated technologies in the construction industry has improved both efficiency and safety, a lot of tasks are still carried out manually. Oftentimes, workers need to handle heavy equipment or use vibrating tools to perform their jobs. This increases the risk of being caught in machinery that has moving or rotating parts or being injured through impact.

Some of these manual tasks also tend to be quite repetitive and require workers to do the same moves over and over again for long periods of time. In the long run, this can lead to the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) – injuries affecting joints, muscles and soft tissue in the body caused by sudden or constant exposure to repetitive motions.

Lastly, we shouldn’t neglect the effects of working in an environment with extremely loud noises, which is often the case for buiding site workers. This can result in hearing loss, tinnitus or permanent or temporary acoustic shock syndrome.

Common injuries sustained by construction workers

Since the risks of working in contraction are varied, the injuries that workers can sustain on site are just as diverse. The most common injuries include:

  • Bone fractures
  • Lacerations
  • Sprains and strains
  • Concussions and head injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Back injuries
  • Burns
  • Eye injuries and vision damage
  • Loss of limbs
  • Illnesses due to chemical exposure
  • Electrocution
  • Repetitive strain injury

Apart from being truly traumatic events for all parties involved, a large number of construction accidents also result in long-term health consequences for the victim or even death.

The construction sector may not be as hazardous as it once was, but the risks it involves still place it among the most dangerous industries at the moment. Therefore, it’s extremely important for both workers and construction companies to make safety a priority and work towards limiting risks in the industry.

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