How to safeguard against common building site hazards
There will always be plenty of laughs on a building site, but it’s important to keep safety in mind for the sake of your workmates’ and your own physical wellbeing. Here is our list of top ten hazards to avoid and help keep yourself and your career in one piece.
Have a head for heights
Hazard: On building sites there are many risks of accidents, injuries and falls from heights due to unguarded floors, scaffolding and ladders. In a busy environment with lots going on, it’s easy for mishaps to happen, so being diligent against all hazards is essential.
Solution: There are straightforward ways to help avoid these risks on a building site, such as signposting unguarded floors with hazard markers. If you find yourself working near an unguarded drop, using a safety harness can protect if you do happen to fall over the edge.
As an apprentice you’ll learn how to work safely at heights when on site and through your college. You can join the 700+ apprentices that choose to study at Exeter College each year, or find a course in your local area. Doncaster College and Central College Nottingham are some of various UK colleges currently offering apprenticeship training.
Hazard: Contact with electric cabling, power tools and other electronic components can cause electrocution. There is a high possibility that throughout your time on site you will either be working with electric tools or tackle exposed cables.
Solution: Only a qualified electrician (or a supervised apprentice) should touch the electrical systems. A qualified professional will make sure that the right safety measures are in place to prevent harm to themselves and others. That’s why it’s important that you have the appropriate training before you undertake any electrical works or repairs.
Once you’ve completed your apprenticeship, it’s important to make sure your skills are visible to potential customers and employers. Online marketplaces like Rated People help connect homeowners with quality local trades people who understand the importance of safety.
Look out below!
Hazard: Construction materials and tools that fall from heights can cause severe injuries and even death. It’s easy for a tile to fall off a roof in the course of a repair and cause injury or worse.
Solution: A hard hat should be worn at all times to protect you from falling objects. Although all site visitors should wear hard hats, scaffolding netting should also be set up to catch falling debris. Particularly when working in a domestic setting.
You’ll learn all about how to stay safe at work during an apprenticeship course at colleges like City of Liverpool College. It’s also worth making sure you get yourself properly equipped before you head out on the job. You can find hard hats and other safety equipment, work wear and maintenance supplies, at stores such as B&Q and Screwfix.
Hazard: Building sites will have delivery vehicles, trucks, diggers and more. Getting hit by one could put the brakes on your career. In a busy construction context, it pays to be cautious about where you’re walking or working.
Solution: Vehicle pathways should be clearly visible to all, with marked crossing points. Everyone on site should wear high visibility clothing, and hazard markers should be laid out where dangerous work is happening around stationary vehicles such as forklifts.
Knowing the potential risks of vehicles on site is an important part of apprenticeship health and safety training. Look out for apprenticeship providers like Cambridge Regional College, who will help you learn everything you need to know, or you can find a provider in your local area. Walsall College and Great Yarmouth are also a couple of the providers that offer training nationwide.
Hazard: Cables, loose flooring, tools, and piles of materials are common features of any construction sites. The full list of trip hazards are almost is too long to mention. When you’re going about your work, often against the clock, it’s likely you may sometimes lose your footing.
Solution: Being head over heels isn't a good thing on a building site. Slips, trips and falls can be avoided by putting anti-slip matting and hazard markers in areas where this is likely to happen. Whenever there are spillages, they should be cleared up promptly and the area clearly marked with the appropriate signage. Keeping everything in the right place will also help maintain an orderly site.
Covering essential health and safety training is part of all apprenticeships programmes. If you’re looking to make a start, recruiters and employment agencies like Reed have a dedicated section for apprenticeships where you can find all the information you need to get started.
What’d you say?
Hazard: The noise levels on a building site can cause permanent damage to your hearing. These can be caused by power tools, vehicles and the nature of the work. Even the most routine on site activities like using a drill are often noisy and can have repercussions on the quality of your hearing after even a short time.
Solution: Obviously no one wants to lose their hearing, so make sure you wear hearing protection when working with loud tools or in a noisy area.
Again, you can find ear protectors and other work-related kit at stores like B&Q and Arco. Getting the right ear protection in place early on will help you to work more effectively and more comfortably in the longer term.
Find out more about how to look after your health at work by taking an apprenticeship course at Bath College where you can study at their new construction skills centre.
Hazard: Regular use of power tools can cause a painful condition called Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome. It can result in permanent numbness, severely reduced fine motor skills and significant pain. This can impact your wellbeing and affect your ability to complete your work with any degree of comfort.
Solution: Use low-vibration, well-maintained tools. Use the right tool for each job to reduce the time you’re exposed to vibration, and take regular breaks during extended periods of work with power tools.
You can see the right way to use power tools at careers events like WorldSkills UK. Events such as these help young trades people develop the skills and knowledge they need to get set up and to work safely.
Hazard: Lifting object in the wrong way and trying to move items that are too large or heavy for one person to handle can cause permanent damage to your back. It doesn’t take much to cause a long term back injury. The simplest error in positioning can have huge repercussions. Sensitive injuries like this often have long recovery periods and may stop you from working.
Solution: It may seem common sense, but when handling lighter loads, make sure you bend your knees and keep your back straight while lifting with the legs. For heavier loads, consider sharing the weight with a colleagues, or use pulleys, sack trucks or vehicles.
Hundreds of apprentices across the Thames Valley learn about on-site safety every year by studying with organisations like Activate Enterprise. Look out for courses near you that offer the training you need to stay safe at work.
There’s something in the air
Hazard: Dust and fine particles are common on construction sites and can cause breathing difficulties and damage your eyes and skin. For instance, glass fibre particles can cause very uncomfortable itching and be very painful if they get into your eyes or nose.
Solution: Breathing masks and protective clothing are essential for working in dusty environments. At the same time, extraction systems, enclosed chutes and water spraying will reduce the risk to the environment. It’s important to asses the risk and protect yourself accordingly.
Understanding how to work around hazardous materials and use protective equipment is an important part of an apprenticeship. Choosing a college local to you could reduce your travel time and give you more time you focus on your learning. Carshalton College offers a range of apprenticeship programs and is based in South London. Look out for other training opportunities local to you at colleges such as Carlisle College, Canterbury College and Chichester College.
Hazard: Putting up and dismantling scaffolding poses hazards to the scaffolders and those around them. This can range from falls to dropped items. Assembling scaffolding is a skill that requires more than one person and a great deal of teamwork.
Solution: You can ensure safety while assembling or dismantling scaffolding wearing a safety harness and by creating a 'scaffolder's safe zone'. This helps prevent other people being in a dangerous vicinity to your work, so if anything does fall off the scaffolding while you’re working, then it’s a lot less likely someone will get hurt.
Site safety is a central focus for apprentices and employers. The College of West Anglia is somewhere you can develop the insight and understanding you need to work safely. Look out for training providers in your area. City College Birmingham, Central Sussex College and City College Plymouth are just a few of the providers.
Stick to the above safety guidelines and you can help secure for yourself a fit and healthy future in your industry.
Why not test your knowledge by playing our Spot the Hazards game?
If you’ve already played the game, head over to Tools of the Trade to find additional support and guidance for young tradesmen.