The difficulties of managing safety on a construction site - can software help?

By Georgia Galloway | 9 May, 2022 | 4 minute read

Working on a construction site presents several challenges for project managers; safety should be everyone's top priority. However, it can be challenging to maintain when development schedules accelerate.


When considering health and safety management in construction, there are numerous problems that can burden both minor and major developers, as well as contractors, and subcontracting organisations. When working for a large UK house builder, it's critical to make every attempt to minimise the risk to people on the job site to safeguard both the workers and the developer.

Maintaining safe standards is a difficult endeavour, as safe work methods are not always fully implemented. Failures in the following areas could be among them:

  • Unawareness of the developer, main contractor, contractor or subcontractor's obligations for Health and Safety
  • Risk assessments not being completed at all, not on time or in a way that's appropriate to a site, so the hazards are being missed.
  • Safe systems of work not being available, missing method statements, COSHH sheets or where they're available, they're inappropriate to the site and/or activity of the work being requested.
  • Training - where subcontractors and contractors haven't been trained, inducted or have the knowledge required to be safe on site.
  • Incorrectly recording or documenting any of the above could lead to any part of the H&S process failing.

As Ryan Jones, the Operations Director at LJ construction, explains, "With so much growth in recent years, health and safety has remained our number one priority - as it should for every business, especially in the construction game. Whilst we always had a H&S Policy, Risk Assessments, Method Statements and Tool Box Talks, we struggled to keep on top of our record-keeping as much of the paper would be lost in contract manager's vans or simply just went missing.

"Switching from traditional paperwork to a safety management software streamlined so many aspects of H&S in our business and 100% eliminated this problem. We no longer were searching for various missing documents and rushing to notify subcontractors about new risks on their site or knowing 'who knew what."

Stephen Williams, HM Chief Inspector of Construction Chair of the Health and Safety Commission's Construction Industry Advisory Committee, explains, "Every year, many construction site workers are killed or injured as a result of their work; others suffer ill health, such as musculoskeletal disorders, dermatitis or asbestosis. The hazards are not, however, restricted to those working on sites. Children and other members of the public are also killed or injured because construction activities have not been adequately controlled.

"The construction industry's performance has shown a steady long-term improvement, which I welcome. However, there is no room for complacency. We can easily believe that accidents will always happen to other people and will never touch us."

Williams continues, "But unless we all recognise our own vulnerability – and just how vulnerable others can be – then, as a result of the decisions we make, construction workers and their families will continue to witness the unnecessary injuries, pain and suffering that so tragically afflict the industry. In addition, accidents and ill health have a financial cost. The business case for improving performance is absolutely clear."

Thankfully, both services and software are available to assist construction companies of all sizes with their health and safety duties.

As Ryan goes on to say, "The software specialist that we partnered with solved all of these issues by helping us implement a construction site safety software where we can now notify our employees about hazards through SMS (Text messaging), as well as having the ability to upload documentation onto a centralised management system which allows us to report on who has read and understood every price of documentation we send out, helping to seamlessly connect our workers on the ground to the admin in the office."

Working on a housing construction site can be a dangerous and challenging task. Falling debris, electrical risks, and heavy machinery are all potential hazards that workers must be aware of. The safety manager is in charge of ensuring that all employees are properly instructed on how to work safely on the job site and for the task at hand.

In addition, the contractor or subcontractor's safety manager must constantly monitor the work site for potential dangers and ensure that all necessary precautions are taken. When an incident or accident happens, the safety manager is in charge of investigating the incident and taking the steps needed to prevent future disasters.

Construction sites constantly change, and keeping subcontractors informed of new health and safety hazards can be tricky. Software can play a role in this, and there are numerous free or low-cost apps and services accessible.

Is construction safety software the solution?

Until now, staying on top of health and safety management in the construction business has been quite challenging. However, during the last decade, many various forms of construction site safety software have been developed to make site managers' and contractors' life easier and safer.

How do I find the right safety management software for my business?

As Ryan Jones pointed out, there are now a variety of solutions available to help you manage health and safety on the job. It's worth mentioning that many of these systems are designed for significant participants in the UK housing building business like Barratt Homes and Taylor Wimpey, leaving smaller subcontractors in the dark.

Stephen Clark, a software specialist from leading Health & Safety app Site Manager Pro, says, "Because most software businesses aren't trade contractors, they don't create software in a way that makes sense for contractors and subcontractors. Working on-site has shown us how special it is. You've got a mix of subcontractors, site managers, commercial directors, and the final client - the home builder - all with their own goals, resulting in a slew of challenges ranging from constantly changing timetables to quality management and health and safety, to name a few.

Clark continues, "When you consider that the public is also inhabiting those sites during phased development, the health and safety management becomes even more gruelling. My advice would be to do your due diligence into what your competitors are already using and look for smaller apps that are tailored more towards your company's needs."

Safety software can be a valuable tool in managing risks and hazards on site, but it is vital to find the right system for your company and implement it properly.

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