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Construction Site Health & Safety Explained

There are many unique challenges that come with working in the construction industry. Among them, one of the most prominent is safety. There are many people working in construction in the UK, and around 78,000 construction workers suffered ill-health related to their work over a 3-year period.

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), the sector had 45 fatal injuries in 2022-23, over half of which were due to a fall from height.

Among the non-fatal injuries, common incidents included:

  • Trips or falls.
  • Lifting and carrying.
  • Being struck by an object.
  • Falls from height.

With that being said, only 3.7% of construction site workers suffer from work-related ill-health, whereas 4% of all workers do. This is a testament to the extensive health and safety measures in place for construction workers, and that is what we will talk about in this article.


How Do We Define a Construction Site?

Construction work can generally be broken down into three categories. Construction sites can be areas where:

  • New buildings are being constructed.
  • Existing buildings are being repaired.
  • Alterations and additions are being applied to an existing structure.

The sector also covers diverse elements like civil engineering and utility projects. And certain specialised activities, like demolition, plumbing, electrics and glazing also fall into the category.

With all this in mind, we can define a construction site as a place where any of these activities are taking place. It may be occurring on a large scale, like the construction of a shopping centre or a new road, or a smaller project like a house extension.

The dangers are similar no matter the project size, so health and safety rules apply everywhere.


Why is Safety an Important Consideration on Construction Sites?

Construction sites have a lot of potentially hazardous machinery on them. There are also unstable structures, high platforms, tools and materials that can fall, and more. Essentially, there are many hazardous situations that may arise on a construction site, so being aware of safety and protecting people are crucial considerations.

When things go wrong on construction sites, people can be seriously injured or even killed. The risks can be mitigated significantly by ensuring appropriate training, plans and protocols are in place.

Around 10% of construction workers are likely to incur an injury of some sort every year. Common hazards include:

  • Slips and trips.
  • Falls from height.
  • Overexposure to noise.
  • Electrical hazards.
  • Fires.
  • Chemical exposure.
  • Heavy equipment.
  • Lifting and handling.

Who is Responsible for Safety at Construction Sites?

The Building Safety Act 2022 identifies the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as the overall Building Safety Regulator.

On construction sites, the Principal Contractor is responsible for planning, managing, monitoring and coordinating health and safety throughout the construction process. This person ensures that standards are designed, understood by all, and followed at all times. A Principal contractor must be assigned for any project where more than one contractor is involved.

In smaller projects, the safety aspect is down to the builder involved. These workers are most often affected by injuries and ill health on construction sites, since there is not usually a professional coordinating the health and safety.

Construction Safety Inspectors

Safety inspectors exist to ensure employers manage risk sensibly. They carry out workplace inspections and investigate health and safety incidents. Their responsibilities extend to the identification of potential hazards and the creation of plans to eliminate them wherever possible. Safety inspectors must keep records of:

  • Site inspections.
  • Risk assessments.
  • Investigations.
  • Compliance breaches.

Construction Safety Officers

A safety officer will often have a similar role to a safety inspector. However, these individuals remain on-site during construction projects, while inspectors generally just examine the site to see if procedures are being followed.

The safety officer takes responsibility for developing and implementing policies and procedures. They may even carry out employee training and conduct compliance audits. The officer may play a role in investigating incidents and making recommendations based on their findings.

Construction Employers

Employers have an important responsibility for construction site safety. It is their duty to deliver a safe working environment. This means ensuring all workers have the relevant CSCS cards and specialist on-site training to carry out their duties. Many carry out CITB or NEBOSH health and safety training in order to more effectively provide the right working environment.

Employers should also provide the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ensure workers are using it.

Construction Employees

Workers should take responsibility for managing health and safety risks on construction sites. They should only conduct work they have the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience to do. This may involve undertaking specific training programmes to work in their field of construction, which may involve taking a certain NVQ or other training course.

Employees should be aware of risks to their own safety and follow established rules and procedures to be safe. If they notice risks whilst working, they should report them to the appropriate person.


What Can Be Done to Minimise Risk on a Construction Site?

For the safety of both workers and the general public, risk management is essential on construction sites. Fortunately, there are many things we can do to minimise risk; here are some of them:

  • Risk Assessments: Risk assessments are fundamental to construction site safety, evaluating potential hazards.
  • Inspections: Regular inspections should be conducted to identify and address hazards.
  • Training: All workers and visitors should be briefed and, if necessary, trained in site-specific safety considerations. All workers should have valid CSCS cards, and health and safety qualifications are also helpful for many roles.
  • Service Equipment Regularly: Older and worn equipment can easily malfunction and cause injury. Make sure they are serviced regularly and invest in newer ergonomic tools that reduce strain on employees bodies. 
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): PPE should be issued and used, including hard hats, safety goggles, steel toe-capped boots and high-vis clothing.
  • Signage: All hazards should be clearly marked with compliant signage and barriers to organise the site.
  • Fall Prevention Measures: Guardrails, security nets and harnesses are all effective means of protecting people working at height.
  • Electrical Safety: Sites should have appropriate procedures established for electrical work, including proper inspection and insulation of electrical equipment.
  • Fire Safety: There should be clear, straightforward fire safety procedures in place and fire drills should be conducted.
  • Record-Keeping: Thorough records should be kept of all training, inspections and incidents, including near-misses. This should document areas for improvement.

What Can You Do to Improve Construction Site Safety?

A comprehensive approach is required to improve site safety, and it should involve workers and management in collaboration. It starts with strong leadership focusing on a safety-first culture. With safety always at the forefront, employers will gain respect from workers, who will be involved in discussions and decisions.

Employers should promote the development of key members of teams in getting health and safety training, considering options like:

There should also be thorough monitoring of CSCS cards to ensure every individual on site is up-to-date with the relevant safety procedures and best practices for their role.

To obtain any CSCS card there is a minimum requirement to complete a CITB Health, Safety and Environment (HS&E) course. To acquire most cards, additional qualifications and training of varying levels are required.

You can learn more about CSCS cards in our informative article CSCS Cards - Everything You Need to Know.

Workers should feel encouraged to report concerns over safety hazards without fear of repercussions. Ideally, the entire workforce will collaborate with the appropriate bodies to ensure safety is paramount throughout the site.

Construction site safety is an ongoing effort that requires teamwork and consistency. Training is central to success, and safety plans and procedures should continuously evolve and adapt.

By following these guidelines, workers, visitors and the general public will be as safe as possible.


Are There Legal Requirements for Construction Site Safety?

Health and safety on construction sites in the UK is governed by various legal requirements. Chief among them is The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which requires employers to provide a safe working environment.

Other key legislation includes:

There are various other legal guidelines in place, resulting in a comprehensive architecture for health and safety on construction sites.

Among the specific legal requirements, there are several key things.

Construction Site Risk Assessments

In accordance with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, people in control of a construction site must carry out a risk assessment. This should identify all hazards, assess potential risks, and implement appropriate controls. This should be recorded and shared with all involved, and reviewed and updated regularly.

Construction Site Barriers

Construction sites must be secured to prevent unauthorised access. This protects the public from potential hazards, so certain barriers should be put in place. These can include:

  • Pedestrian barriers.
  • Fencing.
  • Boarding.

There are specific requirements for barriers listed in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, as well as the HSE guidance.


Final Thoughts About Construction Site Safety

Safety on construction sites is everyone’s responsibility. Whether you are a planner, designer, worker or inspector, you should play your part in collaborating to ensure health and safety throughout the site. This minimises the risks to health and allows everyone to proceed with their daily work safely.


Why choose PIP Services for your construction training and certification?

We’re an accredited CITB, NEBOSH, IOSH, IWFM & CITB training centre as well as a ProQual approved NVQ centre.

We specialise in delivering Construction related NVQs from Level 1 to Level 7, covering trades such as carpentry, bricklaying and joinery right through to construction supervision, construction management and health and safety. We also offer a wide range of CITB courses.

Since launching in 2005 we have rapidly progressed with thousands of clients coming through our training centre in the heart of Dagenham each year, as well as providing online options where available. We have helped countless people advance their career in construction and hope to do the same for you.

We are rated 4.9/5 on Trustpilot and you can read our reviews here. If you would liketo speak to us about your construction training needs, please get in touch using the button below.



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