Construction workers operate in a high-risk industry for occupational ill health. Employees are exposed to hazardous substances and excessive noise and vibrations on a daily basis. The duty to monitor and maintain control measures against these risks resides with all construction companies and employers.
Construction sites are tough environments where equipment can get damaged, significantly affecting the effectiveness of your risk controls. Work-related ill health can be prevented, and construction work can be accomplished without causing ill-health.
You can manage construction risks by identifying measures to control the health hazards around your site. If you have measures in place to protect your employees, these tips will help you ensure you have covered everything you need to.
In order to assess construction health risks, you firstly need to plan your work.
Common construction health hazards that require assessing include construction dusts, noise and vibration. Each construction task and work material are linked with a set of risks. When assessing the hazards, consider the work area, time spent on the task and frequency of the task in addition to which materials are being used.
Specific exposure limits and action values can be found in current legislation; the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended), the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 or the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.
You must to do everything 'reasonably practicable' to control the hazards around your construction site/building, which were uncovered during your planning and assessing stage. Determine measures required to control the hazard using the respective set of regulations and decide which option will be most effective for your workforce. The Hierarchy of Control can be used to help you at this stage:
The hierarchy of control
- 1. It is more effective to prevent health risks rather than control them once the work is underway. Eliminate the risk in its entirety before the work starts. You can do this by:
- Designing out the hazard
- Choosing less hazardous materials or substances
- Using alternative methods of work
2. Replace substances with less harmful ones and provide the right tools for the work.
3. Isolate workers from the hazard by keeping people out of harm’s way if they are not required to be present during the task.
4. Work in a different way / work rotation to reduce exposure to the hazard.
5. Issue Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) – but remember this only protects the operator and not people or workers in the area, so PPE should not be solely relied on.
Training and information should be provided to all workers being exposed to any risks in the workplace. You should provide this in a way that is easy for your workforce to understand so they know what they are expected to do.
New hazards can arise as changes are often made part way through construction projects; new equipment might be brought in or different substances or procedures may be implemented. Therefore, you should regularly review your controls to ensure they are still working properly and are effective in preventing ill health.
- Supervise your workers to ensure that your team correctly understands the risks and the measures in place to control them.
- Your control equipment must be properly cleaned, stored and maintained – provide your team with the correct tools to allow this and ensure machines are isolated when maintenance is being carried out. It is advised that you use someone who has the relevant skills, knowledge and experience to carry out maintenance work safely.
- Monitor your controls to ensure they are effective. Exposure monitoring and health surveillance will ensure that your controls are adequate and can identify any instances of work-related ill health occurring.
Monitoring and maintenance of construction risks
Alcumus Sypol’s fully trained and experienced Occupational Hygienists are available to assess your risks of exposure to construction hazardous. Our experts can help you to ensure that your business is meeting legislative requirements to protect your employees. Email [email protected] or visit our Workplace Monitoring pages for more information.