Common health hazards on construction sites

Although safety standards have improved a great deal in recent decades, construction is still a more hazardous occupation than most.

As well as the suffering this caused, there is also a cost for the construction industry and the economic activity it supports. In 2014-15, a total of 1.7 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health or workplace injury.

Health hazards in construction work

Many of the injuries sustained by construction workers are related to physical obstacles and heavy objects; 23% of injuries were caused by slips, trips and falls, 22% were caused by lifting and handling, 19% involved falling from a height and 11% occurred because someone was struck by an object.

There are also many respiratory hazards on building sites which can cause health problems. These include silica dust, wood dust, asbestos, exhaust fumes, solvents, resins, welding fumes and legionella or other biological hazards. Inhaling toxic fumes or substances can lead to respiratory conditions such as lung cancer, pneumonia, pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema.

Construction workers often have to deal with unsanitary and neglected sites, which pose additional risks. This raises the risk of contracting certain diseases such as hepatitis A, B and C, HIV, Weil's disease and e-coli from biological material.


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How risky is your trade?

Different trades within the construction industry carry different levels of risk. For example, those at greatest risk of asbestos exposure are tradesmen who open up walls and pull down materials: obviously, this includes asbestos removal specialists but also plumbers, plasterers, roofers, demolition teams and electricians.

Stonemasons and bricklayers are at risk of respiratory illness due to inhaling silica dust, while carpenters are threatened by wood dust. Some substances such as epoxy resins or wet cement carry a risk of contact dermatitis, while all trades that involve being outdoors are associated with increased risk of sunburn and skin cancer.

While there are measures you can take to substantially reduce your risk, such as wearing a face mask or using protective equipment, it's generally not possible to eradicate risk entirely. This is why contractors' insurance is so important. Most insurance policies include cover to help with training staff to recognise and manage risks, helping to prevent problems from developing in the first place.

Other risks of construction

As well as the risk to workers involved in construction, contractors face many additional issues. There is the risk that something will go wrong with a contract and a property will be damaged or a member of the public will be injured. Then there is the possibility that tools and equipment, whether belonging to the contractor or hired, will be damaged or stolen.

Contractors also face claims that they have failed to carry out their duty to a reasonable standard, or that advice they gave was inappropriate. This can give rise to a claim for professional negligence, which can prove very costly.

Contractors also face the usual concerns experienced by all businesses – late-paying or non-paying customers, adverse events such as prolonged flood delaying work, and non-compliance with health and safety legislation.

What is covered by contactors' insurance?

Contractors' insurance pulls together all the types of cover required by your business. Purchasing insurance as a package in this way usually offers considerable savings compared to the cost of buying individual policies relating to different areas of risk.

A typical policy will include employers' liability insurance, which covers claims for injury to workers. It will also include works insurance, public and product liability insurance, and perhaps directors' and officers' insurance. Construction-specific policies include latent defects, JCT cover, environmental impairment liability, statutory engineering inspection cover and health and safety cover.

You may also wish to protect your business with credit insurance, loss recovery services, business interruption, advance profits cover and professional indemnity insurance. Depending on your individual needs as a contractor, you can find a policy that will provide value for money as well as peace of mind.

Why not talk to Stride about your insurance needs? Our experienced team will be able to advise you on the best option for your business.

Published: 10th October 2017
Need help finding the exact insurance for you? Get insured
Need help finding the exact insurance for you? Get insured