Health and Safety for the Construction Industry in the United Kingdom

The construction industry exposes workers and even occupants to a variety of hazards. Injuries and fatalities can be caused immediately through accidents and equipment malfunction, or through long-term exposure to hazardous materials. Owing to the prevalence of worksite death and injuries, a variety of legislations have been introduced to ensure the safety of people on construction sites through the implementation of standard operating procedures, material and equipment regulations, certifications and training.

In the U.K., the industry is primarily regulated by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which, among others, outlines the responsibilities of employers, employees and customers, as well as the responsibilities of inspection and certification agencies like the Office for Nuclear Regulation and Office of Rail Regulation.

In 2015, the construction and building industry reported a fatality rate of 1.62 per 100,000, which is considered the best among developed nations. However, these figures are not conclusive, as deaths resulting from long-term exposure to carcinogens such as asbestos and crystalline silica can be difficult to detect. We do know that workers from the construction industry in Britain account for 46.25% (3,700) of all occupational cancer deaths (8,000). There is clearly some correlation here, and in years to come, new data will probably demonstrate the causal relationships behind the striking percentage.

Aside from cancer and other post-occupational exposure, over 60% of deaths among construction workers are caused by falls from height, either through direct falls from ladders and cranes, or due to collapsing structures like scaffolding or temporary floors.

Accidents involving heavy machinery such as fork lifts, cranes, and electrocution are some of the other major causes of death in the industry.

It is worth noting that over half of deaths on construction and building sites happen to firms with ten or fewer employees. This suggests that smaller companies are not properly incentivised to adhere or implement standard safety measures.