Construction workers face numerous health and safety risks every day – heavy lifting, working at height and working with machinery are obvious ones which spring to mind.

However, construction sites are also home to hazardous chemicals, dusts and in some instances, asbestos, meaning construction workers are also exposed to other, more hidden risks. Construction workers’ skin is often at risk of exposure to chemicals, cement and sunlight (resulting in the infamous “builder’s tan”).

One of the biggest risks facing construction workers is that of developing occupational cancer. The construction industry has the largest estimated instance of occupational cancer cases. Every year, around 3,500 construction workers die of cancer and 5,500 are diagnosed with the disease, according to government figures.

As part of our Under the COSHH campaign, we’re highlighting the importance of having robust health and safety structures in place to protect workers in all sectors. This includes making sure employers are complying with the relevant regulations, and are providing a safe working environment, as well as making workers more aware of their rights.

Here, we share some tips and advice for those working in the construction industry on how to stay safe on-site.

Tips for staying safe on a construction site

1.) Carry out thorough health and safety risk assessments

Employers must identify the health and safety risks associated with the project and work, and put procedures in place to prevent and limit these risks. For example, employers must identify and report the presence of asbestos in any assessment, and carry out work to control and manage the risk of asbestos exposure. 

2.) Provide the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) – and wear it

Construction workers should be wearing the correct PPE when visiting or working on a construction site. This includes a safety helmet, steel toe-capped boots, gloves, a high-vis vest, ear protectors and safety goggles. You should also wear a dust mask when necessary.

3.) Keep the site tidy

A construction site is never going to be completely tidy, but employees can make sure equipment is stored in a safe place, ensure there are no objects lying around that could cause workplace accidents, such as trips and falls, and ensure that any corrosive, toxic or other dangerous substances are properly stored or clear away promptly and safely if spilled.

4.) Highlight any hazards

Signs and posters alerting people to any potential dangers, such as flammable, corrosive or harmful substances are there for employees – pay attention to them! Health and safety is everyone’s business – substances on-site might seem innocuous but the risks are real and if you spot a split hazard, report it to your union representative and Health and Safety rep.

5.) Carry out health and safety training

Employers must ensure all workers are appropriately trained and are aware of how to handle and manage dangerous substances. Has someone new joined your crew? Make sure they’ve had the proper training before they’re put to work.

6.) Report any potential issues

Employees should report any accidents or issues that could potentially harm your fellow workers. Construction sites can be dangerous even for experienced workers, don’t let standards slip.

If you have any concerns about safety on your construction site, you should speak to your supervisor. Your trade union representative will also be able to help you raise your concerns to your employer and take action. For more advice and information about staying safe and #UnderTheCOSHH, visit our Under the COSHH campaign page.