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79,000 reasons why Health and Safety matters

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The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) most recent stats for 2018-19 for construction show that there were 30 fatalities involving construction workers (with a further seven involving members of the public). This is fractionally better than in 2017-18, when there were 38 deaths overall in construction. However, there has not been much change for the past five years, when there have been, on average, 36 fatalities to workers and five to members of the public. 

When it comes to non-fatal injuries sustained in construction, there were 54,000 instances, 37% of which resulted in the injured person taking three days off work and 28% over seven days.  Moreover, these 54,000 people represent 2.4% of the workers in construction, which is statistically significantly higher than the rate for all industries.

Overall, there was an average of a staggering 79,000 construction work-related ill health cases (of all kinds, both new or long-standing) per annum over the last three years. Of these, 62% were musculoskeletal disorders.  Given the physical nature of the work involved, it’s perhaps unsurprising that construction is clearly the worst for this type of injury, as shown on the chart below, taken from the HSE report. 

H&S 1

Around 2.1% of workers in construction reported suffering from a musculoskeletal disorder which they believed was work-related. This is statistically significantly higher than the rate for workers across all industries (1.2%). 

When we compare construction to other industries for total ill-health, it’s about average, certainly not the worst (which is agriculture), but also not the best (see below, also taken from the HSE report). 

H&S 2

Looking at specific illnesses associated with our sector, for construction as a whole the incidence of dermatitis is more or less the same as for all other industries, at about 2.8 per 100,000 workers.  However, there are occupations specific to construction where this disease is far more prevalent. It will come as no surprise that painters and decorators, joiners, tilers, floorers and others in similar jobs suffer at about twice the rate of all other industries.

In contrast, and this was a slight surprise, occupational asthma occurs less frequently in construction than the average for all other industries.  

Like everyone else, we love the pranks and clowning about that On the Tools features on its Instagram page (we share them regularly on our own Facebook page!), however, it’s worth pointing out that many of these videos highlight the key dangers that are endemic to our industry.  The main types of accidents over the last three years are: falls from height (32%); slips, trips or falls on the same level (30%); being struck by falling/moving objects (13%); and injuries sustain while carrying, lifting or handling things (7%).

Finally, when it comes to mental health issues, construction seems to be actually far better off than most other industries (see below).  

H&S 3That said, there were around 16,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in our sector. I do wonder if this is a reflection of the macho image that the overwhelmingly male workforce.   Do trades and construction professionals simply not want to admit to any mental health issues?  I’d be interested to hear from anyone who is prepared to admit to not having reported mental health problems because he does not want to seem weak in front of his mates. 

Emma Jaberu, Peace Recruitment   

If you want to see the full HSE report, it’s available here.

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