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Accidents at work on construction sites

Latest stats show accidents on construction sites continue to happen with fatalities three times more likely than the all-industry average. Tim Jones investigates...

The latest research from Herts Tools shows that construction workers are statistically more likely to sustain an injury at work compared to workers in all other industries. Despite comprehensive construction regulations and legislation, the very nature of the work means accidents will happen.

The statistics for accidents on construction sites

Data from the Health and Safety Executive revealed 61,000 non-fatal injuries occurred in the last year, of these:

  • slips, trips, and falls account for 26% of injuries,
  • injury whilst handling, lifting, or carrying account for 19%,
  • falls from height 19%, and
  • being struck by a moving/falling object 12%.

Falls from a height are the number one cause of fatal and non-fatal incidents in the construction industry, accounting for half of all deaths on site.

Herts Tools collated statistics from Health and Safety Executive reports from 2018 to 2021 which showed in 2020/21 there were 39 fatal injuries to construction workers, which is around 3 times the all-industry rate.

Workers on a building site illustrating that accidents can and do happen at work, including on a construction site
Accidents can and do happen at work, including on a construction site

Reporting construction site accidents

Employers have a legal duty, under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) to report certain work-related accidents. These include:

  • work related accidents which cause death;
  • work related accidents which cause certain serious injuries (reportable injuries)
  • diagnosed cases of certain industrial diseases; and
  • certain ‘dangerous occurrences’ (incidents with the potential to cause harm).

Types of reportable injuries

Injuries which are classed as reportable injuries are:

  • a fracture, other than to fingers, thumbs, or toes;
  • amputation of an arm, hand, finger, thumb, leg, foot, or toe;
  • permanent loss of sight or reduction in sight;
  • crush injuries leading to internal organ damage;
  • serious burns (covering more than 10% of the body or damaging the eyes, respiratory system, or other vital organs)
  • scalping (separation of the skin from the head) which need hospital treatment;
  • unconsciousness caused by a head injury or asphyxia; and
  • any other injury arising from working in an enclosed space which leads to hypothermia, heat-induced illness, requires resuscitation or admission to hospital for more than 24 hours.

Additionally, if the injured worker is absent or unable to perform their normal duties for more than 7 consecutive days, these incidents must be reported. 

It is important to note that these requirements apply to both employed and self-employed workers.

What should employers be doing to reduce accidents at work?

The research from Herts Tools comments that “training is key to protecting workers, whether it’s highlighting dangers or teaching workers to make their own risk assessments on site. Then there’s ensuring workers have all the PPE they need, such as helmets, safety goggles and slip-resistant footwear”.

In addition to the PPE that workers should be using, employers must ensure that they

  • provide training, and plan work at height correctly;
  • use the correct equipment and regularly check it to prevent falls;
  • avoid slips and trips by keeping floors clean, dry, well-lit, and free of obstacles;
  • clear up spillages quickly, deep cleaning after working hours;
  • install safety guards on machinery;
  • store heavy objects close to the ground and fit debris nets.

Your employers have a duty of care to maintain a safe working environment.  If you have suffered serious injury due to an accident at work and have concerns that the correct health and safety laws were not being followed or adequate risk assessments being completed, a specialist major trauma injuries solicitor will be able to carry out investigations to see whether you could have a potential claim.

How long do I have to bring a claim?

Its always advisable to speak to a solicitor as soon as possible after suffering injuries, so that evidence and witness statements can be obtained whilst the incident is fresh in everyone’s minds. Generally speaking, you will have three years from the date of your injury in which to begin a claim, although there are exceptions to this time limit, for those under 18 and where the injured party lacks the mental capacity to bring a claim.

Case study: Brendan’s story

Brendan was employed as a labourer for a scaffolding company. He had received some basic scaffolding training but had not completed his full training which was necessary to allow him to work as a qualified scaffolder.

Whilst working on a building site in Somerset, under the supervision of the foreman who was a qualified scaffolder, he engaged in the dismantling of scaffolding on some newly built houses.  On one particular property, the scaffolding had been removed in part the day before Brendan’s accident. On arriving at work, Brendan climbed the scaffolding to continue dismantling, but as he walked along one of the walkways at roof level, the planks gave way and Brendan fell through the scaffolding, landing on his back on the ground below.

He suffered multiple fractures to his arms and legs, as well as a fracture to the vertebrae in his lower back. An investigation followed which revealed a load bearing scaffolding pole beneath the walkway had been removed in error. The scaffolding had not been checked by his supervisor or the main site contractor prior to Brendan continuing the dismantling work and they were held responsible for the incident.

Brendan’s injuries meant he had to have many months off work and was unable to return to his previous manual labourer role due to on going weakness in his right arm and lower back pain. He found alternative employment but at a lower wage than he was earning prior to his accident.

The compensation he received was for the pain he suffered as a result of this incident, rehabilitation to help him recover from his injuries and compensation for the loss of earnings he suffered when he could not work, as well as for his future loss of earnings as he was forced to take a lower paid role.

How Major Trauma Group can help

If you have been injured whilst at work and would like a free, no-obligation chat to see whether you are able to make a claim for compensation, contact the team – email hello@majortraumagroup.co.uk, call us on 0330 311 2578, or access live chat on our website.

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