The construction industry is both one of the country’s most important and most dangerous sectors. Crucial to maintaining and growing the nation’s infrastructure and housing, the workers in this sector nonetheless open themselves up to numerous health and safety risks on a daily basis.
But what exactly are the most salient threats for those in this industry? Knowing what the most common types of injuries are can help construction workers be smarter and safer on their sites, reducing the need to make unnecessary claims on their tradesman insurance.
To raise awareness for workers in the state, WorkCover NSW conducted a six-week “safety blitz” among construction sites last year, advising workers on what to watch out for. Here are the main causes of injury in the construction sector, according to the authority.
Falls from height
Given the size of the structures many builders work on, it’s no surprise that falls from height are among the most common sources of injury in the sector.
According to Safe Work Australia, there were 51 fatalities due to falling from height in Australia between 2007 and 2012. Breaking down by the type of fall, 18 of these were from a building, 15 from ladders and 8 from scaffolding.
The contribution of falls to injuries and fatalities in the construction industry can be greatly reduced by adopting some simple measures. For instance, WorkCover NSW recommends using a fall prevention device (such as edge protection), a fall arrest system (such as safety harnesses) and a work positioning system (such as an elevating work platform).
Falls on the same level
While they may not be as serious as falls from a substantial height, slips and trips on the same level are nonetheless an all-too-common cause of injury. Figures from Safe Work Australia show that falls, trips and slips accounted for more than a quarter (26 per cent) of workers’ compensation claims between 2007 and 2012.
Again, falls on the same level can be minimised through simple adjustments to the work environment. This includes keeping the flooring clean and clear of spills and other hazards, and ensuring workers wear appropriate footwear.
Being hit by moving objects / falling objects
According to Safe Work Australia, these two causes of injury were responsible for 29 workplace deaths each between 2007 and 2012. Being hit by moving objects accounted for nearly one in five (16 per cent) of workers’ compensation claims in the same time period.
In addition, this risk led to 11 per cent of all worker fatalities between 2009 and 2013. Securing workstations and encouraging workers to be aware of their surroundings at all times is key to eliminating this threat.
The vast number of electric tools and appliances used by builders presents another major risk to safety. Although a relatively minor threat – Safe Work Australia reveals that contact with electricity led to 5 per cent of worker fatalities from 2003 to 2013 – it is another hazard that needs to be eradicated.