HSE Publishes Research on Construction Accidents

The UK Health and Safety Executive has published the first phase of a research project it hopes will help improve data on the causes of accidents in the construction industry.

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published the first phase of a research project designed to improve data on the causes of accidents in the construction industry.

The study, conducted by engineering consultants BOMEL Ltd., is an analysis of HSE data and structures the causes of accidents into a model which will provide a basis for quantifying risk and identifying or evaluating improvement measures.

The research identified some 40 fundamental underlying influences on construction which can lead to accidents, including political, economic and social and human factors as well as the more immediate organizational and technical factors. A number of key influences were highlighted, such as safety management and client contracting strategies, training, supervision information feedback and design for safe construction, competence, communications, situational awareness and compliance.

The research supporting HSE's current approaches to construction safety made the following key findings:

  • Falls are the major cause of fatalities with ladders and scaffolds being the main agents with scaffolders and roofers continuing to be at most risk.
  • The majority of fatal accidents happen on smaller construction sites but there is no specific association with time of day, age or geographic region.
  • Risks associated with employment status were difficult to evaluate because data on employment status was unreliable. The available evidence appeared to be related to trades and their traditional employment practices.

Some potential analysis was restricted by uncertainties or limitations of key data, including population data (particularly by trade) and some of HSE's coding and classification of injuries.

The report also suggests the action plans presented at the Construction Health and Safety Summit held in February in the UK should be further refined to demonstrate a clear link through to the targets for accident and illness reductions.

Kevin Myers, chief inspector of construction, says the HSE will move forward on the recommendations in the report. "We will use it to help frame our construction intervention strategy. We will also work with BOMEL to both fine-tune the influence network and extend it to include health issues, thereby providing a more generic view of the main causative factors in construction accidents on illness," said Myers.

He added that there are clearly lessons in this list for all stakeholders, adding that HSE intends to act on those issues where it can have the greatest effect through its contacts with the industry.

"These lessons will help shape HSE's and the industry's strategies to improve health and safety, and assist the industry to meet its Revitalizing targets," said Myers.

The construction industry has set the following targets for improvement as part of the Revitalizing Health and Safety initiative:

  • Reduce the incidence rate of fatalities and major injuries by 40 percent by 2004-2005 and 66 percent by 2009-2010.
  • Reduce the incidence rate of cases of work-related illness by 20 percent by 2004-2005 and 50 percent by 2009-2010.
  • Reduce the number of working days lost per 100,000 workers from work-related injury and illness by 20 percent by 2004-2005 and by 50 percent by 2009-2010.

A copy of the report, "Improving Health and Safety in Construction: Phase 1: Data Collection, Review and Structuring," price 35, ISBN Number: 0 7176 2140 5, can be ordered online at www.hsebooks.co.uk or is available for downloading directly from HSE's Web site as "Contract Research Report Number: CRR 387" at www.hse.gov.uk/research/content/crr.index.htm.

edited by Sandy Smith

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