Workplace hazards in the construction industry

As the working environment in construction industry is dynamic, managing workplace hazards become a priority.

Workplace hazards in the construction industry

The environment in a construction site is extremely distracting with many different contractors working alongside, workers constantly interacting with each other and high-risk equipments crossing each other. The dangers become more complex as many projects are carried out in multi-storeyed constructions. As a direct consequence, the prevalence of injury and fatality remains high.

According to a report from Safe Work Australia, the construction industry only accounted for 8% of the entire workforce in Australia in 2019-2020. Despite the small reservation, the construction industry accounts for more than 12% of the work related fatality for the same year.

Workplace hazards in the construction industry

Similarly, the construction industry has consecutively held the record for the highest injury rate for the past four years in the same report and the fifth highest fatality rate.

 When we compare the statistics released in 2021, we see similar results where the construction industry is dominating the first place.

Although some reports say that vehicle collisions have overtaken falls from height by accounting for 43 per cent of all injuries, accounting for all injury fatalities, being trapped under moving machinery or heavy equipment remains 28% of all workplace fatalities.

 This article will discuss the most common workplace hazards in the construction industry, guiding you to enhance your safety training theme.

 The three leading causes of fatalities

If we go back to the basics, we can say that there are three leading causes of fatalities in the construction industry. These include vehicle collisions across interaction between people and moving mobile plants, being hit or caught under moving objects or coming in contact with electricity.

  1. Vehicle collisions and interactions with a mobile plant

Safety professionals must maintain an effective exclusion zone between operating mobile plants and workers on foot to mitigate this hazard.

However, this is an excellent challenge as construction sites are dynamic, and the landscape is ever-changing. Examples of mobile plants include forklifts and cranes and extend to larger machinery such as diggers, excavators, loaders, trucks, water carts, rollers and so on.

What should be done to prevent vehicle collision interaction with the mobile plant?

The most effective mitigation plans are those that are simple yet effective. Safety practices should always be pushed to remain at the forefront of all working at the construction site. This means that operators should be constantly aware of the surrounding operators on foot and other powered mobile plants when they are handling mobile equipment.

What should be done to prevent vehicle collision interaction with the mobile plant

Additionally, as every mobile plant has a specific blindspot or vision shadow, this should be incorporated when planning its movement. Since the operators view of pedestrians or other mobile plants can be restricted or obscured, but in compensation, auditory alarms can be made.

The mobile-powered plant can be temporarily halted if a worker needs to enter a plant operating zone. Workers must:

  • Lower all tools to the ground.
  • Positively communicate with the plant operator.
  • Visibly remove their hands from the controls.
  • Disengage the plant controls to ensure engagement is inadvertently closed.
  • Stop the motion of the plant.

Check out our safety mobile plant training courses. Our well-developed, comprehensive, innovative, out-of-the-box yet practical safety training courses help you mitigate common safety hazards through thoughtful and actionable steps.

  1. Working at a height

A person does not have to hit the ground to be categorised as a fall hazard. Falling from one level to another is also a fall hazard. Evidently, fall hazards are the most common in multi-storey constructions, but the height of the project is not the only factor you should take into consideration when planning your safety practice. For example, falling 2 metres onto the sand is survivable, but following 1 metre onto a star picket may be harmful or fatal.

In fact, falling from heights contributed to 28% of all deaths in 2017-18. Moreover, out of all the fatalities caused due to falling from a height, 57% were from ladders and ropes, and 50% fell less than 5 metres.

Workplace hazards in the construction industry

What should be done to prevent falls from one level to another?

Placing significant measures helps to create awareness of the risks for individuals working at height, and introducing safety protocols helps to reduce these risks.

  • Edge protection incorporates mid rail, guardrail, and toe board at the edge of any scaffold, fixed stair, suspended slab, landing, platform, falsework or formwork so that the risk of a person following two or more metres is significantly reduced.
  • Edge protection should also be provided where there is a risk of a person falling more than 3 m by demarcating that area.
  • Whenever it is not practical to utilise edge protection, then a fall prevention system should be put in place, so that adequate controls can be used to prevent or arrest a fall.

Tap into our height safety training courses developed to help you identify and mitigate the hidden hazards at your workplace.

  1. Coming into contact with electricity

Unmanaged electricity has the potential to become hazardous and create significant injuries or fatalities on the construction worksite. A typical construction site is laced with equipment and power tools, and damage can incur from frayed leads.

What should be done to prevent coming into contact with electricity?

Be highly vigilant in tagging damaged power tools as “out of service,” or “no longer used,” until they are replaced or repaired. Similarly, when power lights encroach working spaces, establish power line corridors, mainly when mobile cranes are used, or erect scaffolds to ensure minimum clearances. Examples of activities that are high-risk include:

  • Excavating, drilling, hauling, loading or dumping.
  • The construction of fabricated storage or building of such structures.
  • Operations of vehicle with elevating parts require special clearance when not elevated fully.

Additionally, when your equipment is lifting with your head power lines, keep a safe distance of minimum 6 m. A Spotter must be used when a crane needs to move closer to the power lines to ensure that the boom remains 3 m away.

Site Hazards

Utilise positive confirmation that de-energising has taken place before erecting scaffolds that are near live lines. Always utilise non-conductive materials such as timber when scaffolds are constructed closer than 1.5 m to power lines. Metal components should not be kept closer than 4 m.

Check out our safety training courses that include electrical hazards. We have created safety training courses to enhance your safety training theme around electrical hazards by focusing on practical and doable steps.

The leading causes of injuries in construction

There are three leading causes of injuries in the construction industry: manual handling, falls, trips or slips and being hit by moving vehicles.

  1. Body stressing through manual handling

Manual handling of heavy equipment can become hazardous as workers make poor choices of lifting items using improper positioning and picking loads that are too heavy for prolonged periods. Body stressing can even occur through prolonged sitting behind the wheel and completing manual tasks for long periods of time.

What should be done to prevent manual handling injuries?

When lifting heavy loads, utilise mechanical aids or use the two-person lift technique. You can eliminate a lot of load by adopting the correct manual handling techniques like maintaining the S curve of your spine to protect its integrity and keeping your arms close to your body to preserve your shoulders.

Before lifting any equipment, ask yourself:

  • Is it necessary to be moved?
  • Is the load too heavy to be lifted safely by hand?
  • Would it be better if it is moved mechanically?
  • Can someone help me in the lifting process?

If there is no option but to lift the load on your own, you must use the correct lifting technique and do proper warm-ups before you start. Scan your body to ensure that your knees are behind your toes as you squat so that you remain in the safe zone and your spine is in a neutral or S curve instead of horizontal. This position can be achieved by hingeing your hips.

What should be done to prevent manual handling injuries

Keep the load close to your body and remember to point your nose and toes in the same direction when lifting, so that your body does not twist when you are carrying heavy loads.

Check out our safety manual handling training courses that provide several out of box training tips to address safe handling.

  1. Falls, trips and slips

Slips, trips and the resultant fall takes place very frequently at construction sites and are a vital safety training theme. Many times, they arise due to poor housekeeping practices.

A report by Safe Work Australia states that 30% of all falls between 2018-2019 occurred when the worker was on a ladder. Serious injuries can take place if the falls are from a height of 2 m or more.

What should be done to prevent slips, trips and falls?

There are several ways in which you can reduce the risk of a slip, trip or fall:

  • Only keep the tools that you frequently use in your work area.
  • Floors around benches should be kept clear.
  • Work area tidiness should be a priority, and materials and equipment should be stored neatly.
  • Remove all extensions from the ground by using cable stands.
  • Dispose of all waste materials regularly.

Check out our safety training course that addresses slips, trips and falls.

  1. Collision with a vehicle

Although this topic has been discussed at length above, a summary is to switch off any heavy machinery when a pedestrian is nearby. Utilising auditory or visual alarms help to enhance safety.


The above article outlines the three leading causes of fatalities and injuries in the construction site, going on to provide some effective yet practical tips to mitigate these problems. Managing workplace hazards is a complex issue when talking about the construction industry, as the nature of work is constantly changing. The construction sector has had the highest number of fatalities and injuries consecutively for four years. To enhance the safety training theme of your construction site, your focus should be on how your powered mobile plants interact with others and how your workers are protected while working at heights and walking around electricity.

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