The construction industry is considered to be one of the most unsafe, and not without a reason. According to OSHA, the construction industry was responsible for one in five worker deaths in 2019. This accounted for 20% of worker fatalities in the private industry, which is disproportionately high considering that the industry accounts for only 6% of the labor force in the US.
To improve workplace safety, many regulations have been introduced to cover the multiple risks a construction project faces.
Griffin Dewatering, a U.S.-based construction services company, continuously reduced safety incident rates year-on-year and eventually reached zero injuries with the help of ComplianceQuest EHS. Read all about it here.
Top Risk Factors in any Construction Project – External and Internal
Any construction industry project faces both external and internal risks that can affect the health of the project. External factors are those that occur outside of the business and need to be understood and mitigated for the successful completion of the projects on time and within budget.
The top 10 external risks include:
- Delayed Payments, causing problems with cash flows leading to delays in delivery
- Client Change Orders, ranging from design, layout, color, materials, and so on
- New Scope, when a client asks for additions, which can impact budget and resources
- Delays in Approvals that can also impact budgets and resource availability
- Rejection of Completed Work by the client who may feel it does not meet their expectations
- Delay in Supply and Selection of Materials by the Client, compounded by a change in specification or new need. This can impact project timelines
- Delay from Consultant or Inspection, which can be mitigated by prior scheduling and having a backup
- Client Unavailability due to health issues, being on vacation, or capacity constraints
- Weather Conditions at the time of construction and having an alternate plan in case of rains
- Potential Natural Disasters in the region where the construction project is happening. This could affect project schedules and determine the design and materials used
These risks are usually within the business and are often hidden. It is up to the senior leaders at the construction company to proactively identify these risks and mitigate them.
- Budget Cash Flows and make sure construction activity starts as soon as funds are available
- Ensure a Proper Procurement Process to get the best prices and have sufficient materials for the project
- Proper Planning and Proper Project Management to set milestones and track progress
- Potential Unavailability or Sick Resources necessitates having backup resources
- Potential Delays in Supply of Materials, especially since Covid-19
- Challenges with Municipality, in the form of getting permits
- Effective Management of Labor and Contracts
- Technology Issues
- Receive a Notice of Construction from the Municipality
At ComplianceQuest, we published a video highlighting the top external and internal risks in the construction industry. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eXDrLp8KpY
While it may seem like the above-mentioned risks have an impact only on cost and delivery, in reality, each of these risks has a direct impact on safety management.
Let’s take a look at how these have a bearing on the health and safety of workers.
Safety Hazards in the Construction Industry
Safety hazards in this industry could be because of onsite safety hazards (something that is at the construction site) or because of process-related factors (like frequent changes to drawings). Let us take a look at both categories of safety hazards.
Onsite Hazards and Controls
At the site, there are several different types of hazards, including:
#1 Working at Height: Every construction or renovation project requires working at a height. Unstable platforms, scaffolds, lack of or improper functioning of safety harnesses can make this unsafe.
#2 Moving Objects: A construction site of any size sees a lot of heavy and potentially hazardous materials being carried to and fro. In large projects, there are also lifting equipment, supply vehicles, diggers, excavators, that are on a constant move. Most of these vehicles have a temporary pathway because of which terrain is not stable.
#3 Slips, Trips, and Falls: Uneven surfaces, uneven terrains, unstable platforms on which the work is being carried out, and poorly lit conditions make the construction site unsafe. The presence of temporary structures can be obstacles and hurdles, leading to slips, trips, or falls. There can also be wet surfaces, temporary electric connections, cables, or wires running across the site, adding to the risk.
#4 Vibrations: Equipment and machinery that cause vibration to the body can result in Hand-Arms Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). This is a serious health hazard. The prolonged use of power tools and other equipment with vibration can damage health permanently and irreversibly. It reduces the worker’s mobility and reduces their ability to work, shortening the career by a few years.
#5 Noise: Loud, repetitive, and excessive noise is a common construction hazard that can cause long-term hearing problems. Sometimes it can injure the eardrums and lead to deafness. But apart from hearing impairment, it can also be very distracting, leading to other accidents such as falling or getting hurt by a moving object.
#6 Lifting Heavy Objects: The frequent lifting of heavy objects can lead to musculoskeletal disorders. This can reduce the worker’s ability to carry out work due to the resulting decrease in mobility. The second risk of manual handling of heavy load is the possibility of the object falling on the worker or somebody else in the vicinity.
#7 Infrastructure Collapses: Though infrastructure collapses have become less common today, it is not unheard of. The risk is especially high in a demolished building or an under-construction site and happens without prior warning. They can cause injuries and even fatalities.
#8 Electricity: The electricity connections are temporary in a construction site, with loose connections or exposed wires without insulation. This can cause electric shocks which could be minor or fatal.
#9 Dust: A construction site rakes up a lot of dust at every stage of the construction. This can cause respiratory problems. There is the risk of grit getting into the eye and causing other accidents
In addition to the hazards caused by the actual construction activity, the processes around construction also can pose certain risks and need to be addressed. These include:
#1 Change Management: Change in scope and multiple iterations even after the work has started will have an impact on the workflow as well as the health and safety of the workers. Often, the safety aspect may get neglected due to time and cost constraints.
#2 Incomplete Drawings: A construction project has two kinds of drawings that guide the project–the structural design and MEP that covers the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design. Most of the drawings are drawn from an architect’s point without involving the contractors. This poses the risk of the drawings being incomplete, leading to poor coordination between the design team and the actual on-ground team. As a result, any inconsistency in the way the diagrams have been drawn may go unnoticed till an event happens due to a gap in understanding the requirement.
#3 Labor Shortages/Turnovers: The construction industry depends heavily on external contractors hired on a project basis. The workers often tend to leave after a certain period of time or they’re too fatigued to carry out the work. Labor unions may also start strikes for the flimsiest of reasons. These can impact the execution of the project and ultimately affect the health and safety as there is no time to train in safety, inform them about the control measures, and instill the culture of the organization.
#4 Variable Costs: Given the nature of the work, a lot of variables involved in a construction project include raw material costs and labor costs. As this is dependent on the economy, inflation, and other such factors, some organizations may ignore ethical practices. They may ignore the health and safety practices in favor of the bottom line.
#5 Bribery: A lot of large-scale projects begin with official tenders. However, they may be finally granted to a known contractor or for money or on the recommendation of an influencer. In such cases, health and safety and ethical practices may be sidelined to give way to cost issues.
At ComplianceQuest, we have deep experience and expertise in serving enterprises in the construction industry. We’ve helped numerous companies around the world improve their health, safety, and environment management metrics with ComplianceQuest’s EHS Solution.
To know more about how the ComplianceQuest solution can help construction companies, click here.
Regulations to Ensure Workplace Safety in Construction Industry
To ensure the health and safety of the workers in construction sites, there are several regulations, some of which are specific to construction. Compliance will not only prevent the company from getting warning letters or having to pay penalties but also improve worker trust and build a reputation.
Here we list 25 key regulations that are aimed at improving health and safety on construction projects.
- The Health and Safety at Work Etc Act – this act provides the framework for specific health and safety regulations to be formed.
- The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations – applicable across industries, it requires work to be planned and risks to be assessed, organized, and controlled.
- The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations – CDM applies to all construction projects, big or small.
- The Health & Safety (First Aid) Regulations – though every workplace must have first aid cover, the need is higher on a construction site.
- The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations – the last line of defence against a hazard, the PPE is essential, especially for some hazardous tasks.
- The Manual Handling Operations Regulations – this governs the lifting and carrying activities on the construction site.
- The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) – making it a legal requirement to report injuries.
- The Electricity at Work Regulations – this regulates the installation, maintenance, and updation of electrical systems during construction work.
- The Gas Safety Regulations – wherever gas is used, this law regulation needs to be complied with.
- The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations – to ensure that vibration exposure due to the use of drills, saws, compactors, pumps, sanders, and machinery, is within legal limits.
- The Control of Noise at Work Regulations – to ensure noise action levels is within legal limits.
- The Health & Safety Signs and Signals Regulations – this ensures that appropriate signs warning of dangers are put up on construction sites, warning you of dangers.
- The Confined Spaces Regulations – to mitigate the risks of working in confined spaces.
- The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations – ensuring only safe, appropriate, well-maintained, equipment that has been inspected and installed correctly are used.
- The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations – to ensure that lifting operations are performed using the correct lifting equipment following proper planning, with appropriate supervision.
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order – to prevent the outbreak of fire or to control it with minimum damage in case of an incident.
- The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations – to protect employees and workers from fire, explosion, and corrosion.
- The Control of Asbestos Regulations – asbestos is a highly polluting material that has been banned but may still be found in buildings. Regulations govern training, surveys, and safe removal.
- The Control of Lead at Work Regulations – lead, another hazardous material common in construction sites, have dedicated legal requirements.
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations – this covers all those hazardous materials that do not have separate regulations.
- The Working at Height Regulations – this aims to protect workers working at a height from injuries caused by a fall.
- The Hazardous Waste Regulations – the waste generated at the site should not be responsible for harm or damage.
- The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations – machinery should meet health and safety requirements and be inspected by an approved body where required.
- Ionising Radiations Regulations – protecting construction workers from exposure to ionizing radiation from both natural sources such as radon in soil and manmade sources such as work at power plants.
- The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act – under this law, companies can be held guilty of corporate manslaughter due to neglect.
These are not all. OSHA has its own set of rules governing various aspects of the construction activity. From general safety and first aid, it details the safety aspects of scaffolds, ladders, vehicle movement, excavations, fall protection, and so on.
Using ComplianceQuest to Automate Health & Safety Workflows and Processes
The safety aspect in the construction industry is a complex affair, hard to handle manually. By digitizing and automating workflows, the construction company can have greater visibility into the different processes, identify risks, and implement key controls. A cloud-based solution such as ComplianceQuest’s Environment, Health, and Safety Management solution can improve compliance as well as the safety of workers.
One of its key features is the Incident Management Software that enables reporting incidents, identifying trends from near misses, observations, incidents data, and proactively implementing CAPA. In addition, it also enables:
- Environmental and Sustainability Management: Make it easy for businesses to manage, track, and analyze environmental and sustainability metrics
- Management Review: Conduct smart management review meetings with a tower of data to improve your quality and safety systems
- Risk: Manage operational risk tracking, evaluation, mitigation, and monitoring
- Supplier: Partner with suppliers, contractors, and vendors to improve quality and safety
- Training: Ensure your regular and contract employees are trained for their roles and responsibilities
To know more about the ComplianceQuest EHS, visit us today: https://www.compliancequest.com/
Or, request for a demo here: https://www.compliancequest.com/online-demo/