Construction: The 10 Most Common Health and Safety Risks

construction tractor excavator site

Accident fatality rates in the construction industry are double that of the sector average, with rates of minor accidents almost incalculably more.

In such an ever-changing working environment this is hardly surprising. But many employers are still unaware of their duty of care to employees, visitors, and even those not directly related to their activities.

We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 most common risks associated with working on a typical construction site, and highlighted the steps you can take today to effectively manage those risks. Read on to find out more.

Working at Height

work at height construction

The construction and/or demolition of buildings frequently requires tradesmen to work at height. In 2014, falls from height were the most common cause of construction site fatalities, accounting for nearly three in ten fatal injuries to workers.

The risks associated with working at height are often increased by added access and mobility restrictions. Training, including safety awareness training, is essential for employees required to work at height.

Clearly, working at height should be treated with added caution, so be sure to follow these guides from the HSE:

Moving Objects

moving objects in the construction industry

Hazards are inherent to the construction industry, and only increase as a construction project progresses.

Construction sites can get quite hectic what with the sheer volume of constantly moving vehicles and tradespeople – overhead lifting equipment shifting heavy loads, supply vehicles, dumper trucks… all manoeuvring around on an uneven terrain.

Slips, Trips, & Falls

construction: risky business

When you consider the diverse range of activities going on at a construction site at any one time it seems hardly surprising slips, trips, and falls happen on an almost daily basis.

Construction sites are a mish-mash of holes in the ground, buildings at various stages of completion, scaffolding, stored materials and equipment: you really do need eyes in the back of your head at times.


ear defenders are an essential part of construction PPE

Noise is a major hazard within the construction industry. Repetitive, excessive noise causes long-term hearing problems and can be a dangerous distraction, causing countless accidents.

Beware, using simple ear plugs does not necessarily offer total protection against hearing damage – employers are required to carry out and document a comprehensive noise risk assessment – and issue appropriate PPE.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome

protective gloves used in the construction industry

Hand arm vibration syndrome, or ‘vibration white finger’ as it is commonly referred to, is a painful and debilitating industrial disease of the blood vessels, nerves and joints, triggered by prolonged use of vibratory power tools and ground working equipment.

This industrial disease is frequently cited in compensation claim cases opened by ex-construction workers who worked for years with little or no protection, using inappropriate and poorly maintained equipment.

Material & Manual Handling

forklift at a construction site

Materials and equipment is being constantly lifted and moved around on a construction site, whether manually or by the use of lifting equipment. Different trades will involve greater demands, but all may involve some degree of risk.

Where an employee’s duties involve manual handling, then adequate training must be carried out. Where lifting equipment is used, the competency of the employee must be tested before they are allowed to use the equipment. Records of training must be maintained for verification.


construction bad example

Not exactly a hazard, more a risk – an accident in waiting.

Every year excavations and trenches collapse, bury and seriously injure people working in them – precautions need to be planned before the work starts.

The risk of an unintended collapse is generally more associated with demolition works or when a partially completed building or scaffolding collapses, but still accounts for a percentage of fatalities each year.


asbestos - bane of the construction site

There are an estimated 500,000 public buildings in the UK that contain harmful asbestos materials: often hidden away, forgotten, and by and large, harmless – in its undisturbed state. Workers need to know where it is and what to do if they come across suspicious materials that might contain asbestos.

Airborne Fibres & Materials – Respiratory Diseases

face mask for construction

Construction sites are a throng of activity and kick up a lot of dust… an often invisible, fine, toxic mixture of hazardous materials and fibres that can damage the lungs, leading to diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary, asthma and silicosis.

Simply issuing PPE is not enough; employers have a duty to ensure protective equipment is actually used. Failure to do so could lead an employee to disciplinary action and put the company in hot water with the health and safety executive.


electrical installation - a key part of construction

On average, three construction industry workers are electrocuted each year during refurbishment work on commercial and domestic buildings. People working near overhead power lines and cables are also at risk. There are also a growing number of electrocutions involving workers who are not qualified electricians but who are carrying out electrical work, such as plumbers, joiners and decorators.

Construction: what’s the best way to manage risk?

Managing risk is a challenge at the best of times, but is even more difficult without a system in place which helps you make assessments quickly and efficiently. Papertrail’s cloud-based safety management system will ensure the safety of your site and reduce the time and money spent on your site inspections. Book your free demo by visiting

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