The construction industry is one of the most dangerous workplaces in the UK, with some of the highest levels of workplace injury, according to statistics from the HSE.
Thus, employers in construction must have a deep understanding of the most common hazards and risks in construction workplaces. This awareness should allow for effective risk management.
In this article, we’ll cover the most important statistics relating to incidents in the construction sector and the most common risks you need to be aware of. Then, we’ll dive into the proactive steps you can take to minimise ill health and incidents and keep your construction workers as safe as possible.
Workplace incident statistics in the UK construction industry
Here is a list of statistics related to incidents in the UK construction industry.
- Cost of injuries and ill health
Recent statistics from the HSE estimated that workplace injuries and work-related ill health in the construction sector exceed £1.29 billion.
- Ill health
In another HSE report, Construction Statistics in Great Britain 2021, the top two work-related ill health in construction are:
- Musculoskeletal disorders (54%)
- Stress, depression, or anxiety (27%)
Compared to the other sectors with similar work activities, the occurrence of ill health in construction is lower than the average for all industries.
However, it has the second-highest number of work-related ill health cases at 3,360 cases per 100,000 workers. This figure is not far behind the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industry, ranking the highest at 3,680 cases per 100,000 workers.
- Non-fatal injuries
Analysis of HSE’s 2019/20 statistics showed that for every 100,000 male construction workers, there were 395 non-fatal accidents. For every 100,000 female construction workers, there were only 52 non-fatal accidents. Thus, male construction workers are seven times more likely to be injured.
- Fatal injuries
The construction industry has the highest number of fatal injuries in 2020/21, according to a RIDDOR report, with 39 reported cases of fatal injuries.
An HSE report breaks down the top five causes of fatal injuries in construction to be:
- Falls from height (50%)
- Trapped by something, collapsing, overturning (13%)
- Struck by moving, including flying/falling objects (11%)
- Struck by moving vehicle (10%)
- Contact with moving machinery (4%)
- Other conditions
HSE’s Construction Statistics in Great Britain 2021 report lists the following as other types of ill health affecting construction workers:
- Occupational asthma
- 0.5 cases per 100,000 workers
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Roofers show a higher prevalence of COPD compared to other occupations in construction
- Contact dermatitis (1.6 cases per 100,000)
- Floorers and wall tilers: 1.3 cases per 100,000 workers
- Plasterers: 10.2 cases per 100,000 workers
- Carpenters and joiners: 2.4 cases per 100,000 workers
- Occupational cancer
- Based on these occupational cancer statistics, over 43% of deaths due to occupational cancer in Great Britain come from working in construction.
- The same report states that an epidemiological study of mesothelioma suggests that 17% of occupational cancer in construction can be attributed to asbestos exposures within buildings.
- Occupational deafness
- Hand arm vibration (usually vibration white finger or carpal tunnel syndrome)
Are construction workplaces dangerous?
When we consider the most common causes of workplace accidents across all industries, we find that construction workers are exposed to almost all common causes due to the nature of their job.
It's no wonder more accidents are likely to occur in construction than in most other sectors.
Additionally, more severe injuries can occur in construction due to the danger of falling from height when working on high buildings or scaffoldings.
There are also higher risks of lung-related ill health and cancer due to increased exposure to dust, particles, and asbestos.
Is it possible to reduce ill health and incidents in construction?
In short — yes.
Although construction is considered a high-risk sector, there is promising evidence that you can reduce ill health and incidents in the construction workplace.
The latest RIDDOR report shows a clear downward trend of fatalities in construction from 1981 to 2020. The number of cases fell from 2.1 to 0.44 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers during this period —almost an 80% reduction, although construction projects have increased.
Thus, we cannot attribute the downward trend of fatal injuries in construction to a decline in projects in construction. It is more likely then that improved workplace safety has contributed to the declining trend of incidents in the construction sector.
How can you improve workplace safety in construction?
Here are a few best practices that can keep construction workers safer in a high-risk environment:
- Continuously strive to improve the systems and processes at building sites. Disorganisation combined with lots of people moving about can increase the chances of falling or being struck by a moving object.
- Ensure that no materials are lying on construction sites to reduce slips, trips, and falls.
- Train staff to adhere to health and safety procedures and safety gear.
- Adhere to the recommended working at height regulations.
- Implement thorough risk management strategies.
- Train construction workers to conduct dynamic risk assessments.
- Allow construction workers to take more regular breaks to be alert while working in dangerous areas.
- Report hazards, near miss, and incidents to quickly eliminate current dangers before they cause a more serious incident.
The following section details how to improve your hazard, near miss, and incident reporting system.
Make it easier to report hazards, near misses, and incidents
An Accident Advice Helpline UK survey reported that 1 in 6 respondents did not report the hazards they saw.
Since unreported hazards, near misses, or incidents leave workers exposed to the dangers, this increases the risk of workplace injuries.
Interestingly, the number one reason for not reporting a hazard is not having the time — implying that a complex reporting system is a significant deterrent.
Making it easier and faster to report hazards and safety incidents through a platform like Vatix’s incident reporting software can help remove this top objection.
Here’s a quick glimpse into how our incident reporting software can streamline the reporting process:
- You can customise incident types to your specific needs.
- There are no cumbersome physical forms to fill out with a pen. With just a few taps through the mobile app, workers can report safety issues on the spot.
- Workers can take a picture and upload it to provide accurate context.
- Managers or supervisors will receive alerts so they can implement corrective actions quickly.
- Managers or supervisors can see an overview of safety trends, from clusters of incidents on a live map to spotting repeated maintenance issues with equipment.
Start streamlining your incident reporting
In summary, the construction industry is one of the most dangerous sectors to work in.
However, with the right policies and procedures in place — such as a streamlined incident reporting system — you can make the construction site much safer for all your workers.
To learn more about how our incident reporting software can help eliminate the friction around the safety reporting process, contact us, and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.