<iframe src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-WCK3FXN" height="0" width="0" style="display:none;visibility:hidden" title="gtm-frame"></iframe>Keeping safe while working onsite | Trade Direct Insurance
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Accidents at work: Keeping safe while working onsite

12 September 2022

According to the latest official Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures, the number of construction workers who died on site last year was 16.7 percent lower than the five-year average. This positive trend is encouraging, but construction deaths still account for a quarter of workplace fatalities, so how do workers protect themselves? Trade Direct provides some guidance for tradesmen looking to work safely in this high-risk industry.  

Which work is the riskiest?  

Falls from heights continue to be the biggest cause of construction industry deaths, accounting for over half (53%) of all fatal injuries. Quarterly data from earlier this year showed that 10 of 24 construction workers who died between April and December 2021 fell from height. Being struck by a moving vehicle is the second largest cause of death in construction. Half (50%) of all construction injuries resulted from simple slips, trips, or falls. A third (33%) were injured while handling, lifting, or carrying (18%).   

Sarah Albon, HSE chief executive, said:

"Every loss of life is a tragedy, and we are committed to making workplaces safer and holding employers to account for their actions, as part of our mission to protect people and places." 

Enhanced risk management procedures are undoubtedly positively impacting the construction industry, as the HSE figures show. However, construction deaths still account for a quarter of the 123 fatalities across all workplaces – the third highest figure across all industries. While larger firms are more likely to have risk management procedures in place, smaller builders must take this responsibility on themselves – so how can they be sure they're working to the legal and regulatory standard?   

Complying with Construction, Design, and Management Regulations (CDM)  

Under the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015), a construction phase plan is required for every construction project. This document doesn't need to be complicated; it only needs to show the health and safety approach to protecting everyone working on the project. Domestic require the following:  

  • preparing a plan 
  • organising the work  
  • working together with others to ensure health and safety.  

These regulations apply to small builders, plumbers, and other tradesmen, doing small-scale routine work such as installing kitchens or bathrooms, structural alterations, e.g., chimney breast removal, roofing work, or an extension or loft conversion.  

If the job lasts longer than 500 person days or 30 working days (with more than 20 people working simultaneously), the HSE should be informed. More complex projects may require a more detailed plan.  

An example plan could include information from the client about the property, e.g., where the services and isolation points are, access restrictions to the property, and if there's any asbestos present.  

Make a note of the critical dates: 

  • start and finish dates  
  • connection and disconnection of services  
  • build stages, such as groundwork or fit-out.  

The HSE provides a free planning template for small builders, which can be found here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/areyou/builder.htm   

Tips for keeping small builders and visitors safe onsite

1. Tool safety check 

It's essential to plan and check the list of correct tools for the job in advance and ensure they're damage free and fit for purpose before starting a new job. Replace old work tools to minimise the risk of injuries and strains such as carpal tunnel syndrome and will help protect hands and joints from vibration-related injuries. These steps will also save valuable time and interruptions to work and minimise the risk of accidents.

2. Take the necessary PPE 

All workers (and visitors) should wear the required PPE to reduce exposure to various workplace hazards. Common PPEs include goggles, helmets, gloves, ear defenders or plugs, appropriate boots, high visibility vests, and protective suits.

3. Minimise working from heights

As the HSE data shows, falling from a height is the largest cause of construction workplace deaths. Identify ways to avoid this, such as using a cherry picker to move tools or materials and professionally installed scaffolding. Ladders should only be used in low-risk areas when other options are inappropriate.

4. Store tools safely 

Ensure that tools are safely put away and all electrical equipment, such as lights and power tools, are unplugged from the mains. Not only will this prevent tools from getting damaged it will also reduce the risk of injury to workers.

5. Use the right equipment for the task 

Often, accidents occur due to the misuse of a tool or equipment. Avoid using makeshift tools. Instead, use the correct tool to do the job quicker and safer. 

6. Avoid manual handling where possible 

Lifting and carrying heavy things is a big cause of injury on building sites, so try to use trolleys or trucks to move objects. If possible, plan to get materials delivered as close to the site as possible.

If there is no choice but to lift items manually, follow HSE advice regarding bending only at the knees rather than at the back and invest in a back brace to provide additional support.

7. Keep site tidy 

Ensure that building waste, dust, and sharp objects such as loose nails are not cleared from the site as soon as possible. Clear the construction area, especially if you work in a domestic setting, to prevent injury to the residents, such as slips and trips.

Trade Direct is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The company is a leading UK independent broker providing a wide range of policies to tradesmen and construction workers.

This note is not intended to give legal or financial advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon for such or regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. In preparing this note we have relied on information sourced from third parties and we make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein. You should not act upon information in this bulletin nor determine not to act, without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. We and our officers, employees or agents shall not be responsible for any loss whatsoever arising from the recipient’s reliance upon any information we provide herein and exclude liability for the content to fullest extent permitted by law.

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