The lack of attendance from employees means there is no guarantee that these construction sites have remained safe for construction.

With the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak many construction sites have been forced to close and, as such, have been unattended for many weeks.

This lack of attendance from employees and managers means there is no guarantee that these construction sites have remained safe for construction workers and those who may visit them on a daily basis.

According to a 2019 report from HSE there are 79,000 construction workers suffering from work-related ill health as well as an estimated 54,000 non-fatal injuries to workers each year. It is therefore essential to ensure that construction sites are safe before workers return and construction resumes.

What are the biggest risks when working in construction?

Unsurprisingly there are a number of significant risks workers face when working in the construction industry, many of which can be prevented with the correct safety precautions. Some of the most common risks when working in the construction industry include:

Working from height:

Working from height is a significant cause of injury in the construction industry with 32% of specified injuries caused by working from height.

The most common hazards when working from height are a lack of guard rails or inadequate ledge protection and unsecured ladders or scaffolding and there are chances that scaffolding and rails have become loose or weakened while a site has been unoccupied.

It is therefore important to ensure that, upon returning to your construction site, that you or an employee checks that railings and guards are secure to allow workers to work from height in a safe manner.

Slips, trips and falls:

Slips, trips and falls are the most common non fatal workplace related injury and result in over 1,000 construction workers being injured each year commonly with a dislocation or fracture.

The most important factor to remember when dealing with slips, trips and falls is that they are one of the most easily preventable forms of accident and can be prevented with proper workplace managements such as ensuring spills are cleaned sufficiently and tools are put away after use.

An unattended site can perhaps mean that debris and rubble has been spread across the construction site and other materials may have spilled or been tipped by the weather or forms of wildlife. Therefore checking that your site is clear of such rubble and spills can go a long way in ensuring the safety of your workers.

Moving objects:

It is no secret that construction sites are often always busy, with various worker rushing around to complete various tasks to certain deadlines but this often means that moving and falling objects can become a hazard to workers without anyone realising there is an issue.

There are multiple reasons workers can be hit by moving or falling objects ranging from poorly lit working areas to untidy work areas that hinder movement.

As with slips, trips and falls, ensuring that your construction site is clear of any rubble, debris and tools is essential and ensuring that workers have sufficient space to move can easily prevent these types of accident.

Construction site safety after COVID-19

Having understood the potential risks you may face upon returning to your construction site it is now essential to understand how you can ensure that your workers remain safe when you return after the COVID-19 outbreak; this can be achieved through Coronavirus Risk Assessment Support.

The first step to ensuring your construction site is safe upon return is completing the relevant checks such as ensuring that the site is clear and any spills have been cleaned as well as ensuring that all equipment such as scaffolding is secure and is able to support the workers once they resume construction.

It is also important, however, to follow all guidelines and precautions that have been put in place amid the COVID-19 outbreak which relate, not only to worker safety, but to the government guidelines established around social distancing.

Guidance for operations on construction sites was released in late March and outlined the recommended procedures by stating that no on site work should continue if construction workers, managers and operatives were unable to distance themselves by more than two metres, in accordance with social distancing rules.

However, due to an expected increase in onsite activity, Build UK stated that;

“The relentless pace and volume of change, along with the unprecedented level of information to be absorbed, has created significant challenges for many in the industry. Following the Easter break, which offered the opportunity to re-group and look ahead, more sites are expected to re-open, implementing the new ways of working required for the social-distancing environment in which we now live.”

The new guidelines on social distancing now read that, if it is not possible to enforce social distancing to its full extent during a given activity, you should consider whether that specific activity needs to continue for the site to operate and, if so, take additional precautions to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

Ultimately, whilst sites are allowed to open it is important that all relevant site checks have been made and all the government rules are followed in order to prevent an additional spike in COVID-19 cases and ensure that all workers remain safe and protected.