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Warning sign on construction siteConstruction site work remains one of the most dangerous occupations in the UK, and this is despite a raft of legislation which is in place to protect workers.

According to work accident statistics, in 2019/20 there were 40 fatal injuries to workers in the construction industry, a figure which, tragically, is above the annual average of 37 from 2015/16 to 2019/20. Over the same period, an annual average of 61,000 workers self-reported non-fatal workplace injuries.

The construction industry sees around 3,500 reported cases of occupational cancer each year, while all other industries account for an average of 4,500 per year.


A good indication of the depth of the problem is the fact that Health and Safety Executive construction site inspections frequently identify problems on UK construction sites. For example, in 2019/20, the HSE issued 2,031 notices to construction sites.

In fact, there were 143 prosecution cases led by the HSE in respect of construction site safety breaches and in 137 of these (96%) the defendant was convicted of at least one offence.

The most common problems identified included failing to protect workers during activities at height, exposure to harmful dust and inadequate welfare facilities.

Thompsons believes it's a good sign that the HSE continues to try and ensure the safety of people working on dangerous construction sites. Unfortunately some employers will only provide a safe place to work after such a body has visited them.

It is the duty of the employer and the controller of a construction site to ensure the safety of the workers and to make sure that the working environment is as safe as possible.

This means that if you are working as a sub-contractor on a site and you have an accident then it is possible to hold the company in control of the site responsible for your injury provided you can prove negligence. However there is always a duty on your own employer to ensure that the place you are working in is as safe as possible.

In essence there are numerous duties placed on contractors and employers in relation to these sites.

Safety responsibilities

Employers, the self-employed and controlling persons must ensure that they provide a safe place of work and that workers are not in danger when exiting or entering a site. For example care should be taken to try and keep workers and vehicles away from the each other as much as possible. At the very least there should be a walkway designated to workers.

Building siteThere is also a duty to prevent workers from working at height, or if this is not possible, to ensure that working at height is as safe as possible. This is dealt with through The Work at Height Regulations 2006, and it is worth noting that they do not just apply to construction sites. They apply to all workplaces including offices and factories.

Essentially the law states that an employer should not ask a person to work at height unless it is necessary and if so then they should do everything they can to make it as safe as possible. This could mean providing harnesses and ensuring that people are properly trained and know how to use the harness.

There should also be a system of checking the equipment being used as a further step towards protecting people when they are working at height. This measure should prevent accidents from happening due to equipment failure through wear and tear or damage such as a missing buckle. Any defects in equipment should be reported immediately to the site management and they should replace or repair the equipment.

There is obviously a duty on people who go to work to follow the instructions of their employer and wear the protective equipment provided to them.

Safety in scaffolding

Another major cause of injury is falling from scaffolding. Again this is governed by the Work at Height regulations which have specific requirements in relation to scaffolding. These include a stipulation that scaffolding is required to be checked and erected by competently trained scaffolders. This means that in order to comply with the regulations the scaffolding must be put up by a fully trained company and not just a worker on the site.

The person erecting the scaffolding must have had full training and have the relevant qualifications, or the regulations have not been complied with. This is a very important piece of legislation and it is there to ensure that working at height is made as safe as possible.

The scaffolding must also be inspected prior to use. If an accident occurs and fault is found with the scaffolding and it is established that this fault caused the accident, then a breach of the regulations could be found upon. The consequences of someone falling from a height can be devastating and the HSE recognises that as many safeguards should be put in place as possible.

Adequate lighting is essential

Work areas should be well lit to ensure that accidents are kept to a minimum. It is not acceptable that a worker has to walk around in an area and not be able to see exactly where he is putting his feet. Suitable lighting is required under the 1996 Construction Regulations and if an accident occurs as a result of bad lighting the employers or controllers may be held responsible for the injuries.

Compensation for construction site injuries

In summary, it is important to remember that, as a worker on a construction site, you must use any protective equipment which is issued to you. Similarly, as an employer, you should ensure that all relevant safety equipment is provided to your employees and that they use it.

Checks on equipment must be made on a regular basis and the appropriate documentation completed. It may take time but it could prevent someone sustaining a serious injury.

The construction regulations have been drafted in such a way as to make construction sites as safe as possible but they must be adhered to if they are to ensure the safety and wellbeing of workers. . If you believe that your employer or site manager has failed in some way to uphold their legal responsibilities and you have sustained injury as a result, talk to our personal injury lawyers today about the possibility of claiming compensation.

To get FREE compensation claims advice call us today on 0800 0891 331.

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