Prioritising Workplace Health and Safety for UK Contractors

By Georgia Galloway | 4 Oct, 2023 | 6 minute read

Workplace health and safety directly impacts the well-being of employees, productivity levels, and a business's reputation.

A safe working environment keeps employees physically healthy and significantly affects their mental well-being.

Consider this - the latest HSE statistics estimate that over a three-year period of 2019-2022, there were an estimated 78,000 work-related ill health cases in construction. Each one represents not only physical harm but potentially long-term psychological effects as well.

Construction workers in high-visibility jackets looking at tablet on site to improve health and safety measures

A Safe Working Environment Boosts Productivity

Employees who feel unsafe at work due to lax safety standards or poor occupational health measures will likely be less productive. 

A commitment to safety in the workplace not only guards against potential damage to your organisation's reputation but also encourages people to view you as an attractive employer.

Consequences of Neglecting Workplace Health and Safety

Failing to observe health and safety rules can have serious outcomes, including greater injury occurrence, legal repercussions, and harm to the business's standing. 

Endangering Employees

Neglecting workplace health and safety puts employees at risk. Every worker deserves to return home safely after their shift - in the 2022/23 period, there were 45 fatal injuries in the construction industry (RIDDOR).

Failing to prioritise safety not only jeopardises their physical well-being but can also lead to lasting psychological trauma in the event of accidents or injuries.

Legal Repercussions of Poor Health and Safety Practices

Failing to adhere to health and safety standards is a serious offence that can lead to significant penalties, including fines, prosecution, or even imprisonment.

Businesses have a legal responsibility towards their employees to maintain safe work environments. When this duty isn't met adequately, breaches of safety legislation occur, which can result in legal repercussions.

The consequences are particularly severe if gross negligence leads to an incident. A company could be charged with corporate homicide under such circumstances. 

Risking Reputation Damage

Beyond potential financial losses following accidents on site (often substantial), damaging public perceptions around how much value businesses place upon staff safety can have lasting impacts on their overall standing within marketplaces. 

We live in an era where information travels faster than ever before, thanks mainly to social media platforms - this means negative news stories about companies ignoring worker welfare can spread rapidly across networks.

Common Health and Safety Hazards in Construction

Working at Height

This includes tasks at elevated levels and often encompasses various equipment and surfaces, including working on scaffolding, ladders, and rooftops.

According to recent HSE statistics, in construction, there was an average of 36 worker fatalities and 5 public fatalities annually over the past five years, with 51% due to a fall from height. This makes working at heights the primary cause of fatal injuries among workers. 

Moving Objects on Construction Site Safety

Moving objects such as vehicles and lifting equipment can be hazards if not managed correctly. They pose significant threats to workers' safety because they are often heavy, move quickly, and have unpredictable trajectories. 

Slips, Trips and Falls

Given the typical conditions found on construction sites, such as uneven terrain and ongoing construction works, Slips, Trips and Falls often pose frequent hazards. Statistics found that 'Slips, Trips and Falls' accounted for 26% of non-fatal injuries between 2019-2022. 

Noise Pollution

Beyond physical injuries from falls or moving objects, other health risks are increasingly common - noise pollution. Prolonged subjection to loud sounds can cause employees long-term hearing impairments. 

Adequate protection against these potential dangers helps ensure safe working conditions while maintaining productivity within acceptable standards.

Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)

Prolonged use of vibratory power tools can lead to HAVS, a painful industrial disease that creeps up silently.

Here are some tips on how to prevent HAVS...

  • Pick low-vibration tools whenever possible.
  • Limited usage time with frequent breaks.
  • Maintain your equipment well – bad condition means higher vibration levels.

Hazardous Materials Handling

In addition to immediate physical dangers like falling from heights or getting struck by moving machinery or hazardous materials.

Different substances used in construction may release harmful fumes or particles, which, when ingested over time, could result in severe respiratory issues. 

To mitigate these effects, adequate training and personal protective equipment (PPE) are essential. COSHH Basics provides an excellent resource for managing hazardous substances.

Collapsing Trenches 

Frequent incidents on construction sites involve the unexpected collapse of trenches. Additionally, buildings undergoing demolition or construction have the potential to collapse, often resulting in severe injuries or even fatalities.

The Threat of Asbestos in Construction Sites

Asbestos is a persistent threat within many public buildings undergoing renovation or demolition. Exposure may cause severe health problems like asbestosis or lung cancer down the line.
Among men born in the 1940s experiencing mesotheliomas, 46% of cases are linked to the construction industry (occupations such as carpenters, plumbers, and electricians.)


There are approximately 1,000 workplace electrical accidents reported annually. Most of these incidents result from contact with either overhead or underground power cables and electrical machinery or equipment.

Preventing Accidents and Health Risks in Construction

With so many risks in construction, preventing accidents and reducing risks is critical.

Risk Assessment 

Risk assessments are like safety nets; they catch unseen dangers before turning into accidents. Conducting them regularly makes sure no risk goes unnoticed on-site.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The UK Government expanded the scope of the 1992 Protective Equipment at Work Regulations in 2022, enhancing the obligations and responsibilities of employees and employers and encompassing a wider range of workers. 

Appropriate Training 

Preventing workplace accidents and illnesses resulting from on-the-job errors should be a top priority for every company member. However, human mistakes are inevitable, and errors can occur. 

Through effective health and safety training, you can achieve the following: 

  • Lower insurance premiums. 
  • Increase overall productivity. 
  • Reduce absenteeism rates. 
  • Establish legal safeguards against potential liabilities. 

Health and safety training is indispensable because it can align employers and employees toward a common objective: creating a secure and stable work environment.

Maintaining Equipment 

Regular inspections and maintenance significantly reduce the likelihood of equipment failure. In construction sites, there are two key maintenance categories to consider. 

The first is proactive or preventive maintenance, which involves planned activities such as scheduled inspections, repairs, and part replacements to ensure continued functionality. 

The second category is reactive or corrective maintenance, which is necessary for unexpected issues or breakdowns. 

However, there are instances when equipment replacement becomes necessary. Staying informed about the latest and safest equipment options can help prevent injuries related to outdated equipment.

Protection Against Falls

It's widely known that falls are a leading reason for workplace fatalities in the UK - there are two primary categories of fall protection measures: 

  • Collective Protection: A safety measure designed to safeguard everyone collectively. 
  • Personal Protection: A safety measure that protects individuals and necessitates personal responsibility during use. 

Here are some examples of fall protection equipment: 

  • Safety Nets: When used correctly, safety nets can offer a level of protection against injuries in the event of a fall from a height. 
  • Working Platforms: They provide collective protection against falls and falling objects; this includes scaffolding, mobile towers (tower scaffolding), and mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs).
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Personal fall protection systems typically require workers to wear a full-body harness and a connecting element such as a lanyard, flexible rope, or an anchor. 
  • Fall Arrest Systems: Fall arrest systems are designed to prevent the user from making contact with a surface and getting injured; they often have built-in shock absorbers. When using a fall arrest system, it's essential to have a Working at Height Rescue Plan.

Benefits of Construction Management Software for Site Managers and Contractors

Construction management software is a real game-changer in the construction industry. It's like having an extra pair of eyes on site, always alert to potential risks.

This can help with three key areas: health and safety, efficiency, and communication.

Safeguarding Health & Safety

In an industry where skilled trades have high rates of back injuries and upper limb disorders - not to mention ill health caused by noise and vibration - ensuring the well-being of workers is essential. 

Construction management software helps you identify hazards early so they can be dealt with swiftly. Fee For Intervention suggests that prevention is better than cure when avoiding penalties.

Boosting Efficiency

No one wants their project running over time or budget due to avoidable mistakes or miscommunications. Streamlining processes saves both time and money – something all contractors appreciate.

Better Communication Among Team Members

Last but certainly not least; enhanced communication between team members minimises misunderstandings, leading to fewer accidents onsite. 

Site Manager Pro is software built specifically for trade contractors who work for the UK's house builders.

If you need smarter management of subcontractors on site or if you're looking to prioritise workplace health and safety for your contractors; we're on hand to answer any questions about our contractor management software.

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