Health in the construction industry

Construction Industry

What is the Health and Safety Authority's (HSA) role in the construction sector?

The HSA carries out regular inspections of building sites and can close them, if necessary, for breaches of safety standards. Almost half of HSA inspections are carried out in the construction sector. This sector continues to occupy a high degree of attention from the HSA because of the increasing level of activity in the construction industry. The level of employment in the industry has increased by 25% over the past six years

What does the construction sector include?

This sector includes construction work, demolition, maintenance of buildings and the commissioning and decommissioning of fixed plants and equipment.

Are there any guidelines aimed at prevention of accidents on construction projects?

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations, 1995. These guidelines are concerned with protecting workers from accidents and ill health in the construction industry.

The regulations provide guidelines for the following areas:

  • Excavations, shafts, earthworks, underground works and tunnels.
  • Explosive works.
  • Working on or adjacent to water.
  • Transport, earthmoving and materials-handling machinery and locomotives.
  • Working at heights.
  • Lifting appliances.
  • Carriage of persons and secureness of loads.

The injury rate in construction is the highest of all industries.

Is health and safety improving in general in the construction sector?

The injury rate in construction is higher than in any other sector. Despite an increase in the number of workers in this sector for 1999, the year saw a decrease in the number of fatalities, from 22 in 1998 to 18 in 1999. However this is still an unacceptable level and was largely due to falls from heights. In fact, during the year, High Court Orders were obtained to close down four sites, in breach of safety codes, until suitable procedures were implemented.

What precautions should I take when working on a site?

  • Never take extra money as compensation for unsafe working practices.
  • Make sure the ladder is in good shape, secure and on a firm base.
  • Always inspect a roof before you walk on it. Always use a crawling board on sloping or fragile roofs.
  • Be extra careful when doing excavation work. Make sure it is inspected daily and make sure you know where any underground pipes and cables are before you start excavating.
  • Make sure any driver on the site is competent and authorised to do so. Never carry anyone on a vehicle not designed for passengers.
  • Avoid cranes where possible. Make sure the crane is on a hard base level and that the banksman is trained to give clear directions.
  • Never overload or use makeshift plugs and fuses. Keep trailing cables off the ground and away from water.
  • Never adjust power tools unless the supply is disconnected and always follow instructions.
  • If you uncover any hidden material, which you think might be asbestos, stop working until further advice is given. Never walk on an asbestos roof, as they are very fragile.
  • Lift heavy loads with care. If the work involves a great deal of manual handling it is wise for employers to provide basic training on proper lifting technique.
  • Always obey no smoking signs.
  • Wear protective clothes if you are told to do so.
  • Always wear a safety helmet.

Basic safety measures and care on site prevent most of these accidents. The Construction Regulations provide guidance in essential safety requirements making a major impact on improving site safety.

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