Work-related accidents in construction: causes and possible solutions

In 2016, approximately 15,000 construction workers were the victims of a work-related accident, accounting for 11% of all work-related accidents in Belgium. Although the number of incidents in the sector has been falling for 10 years, our country scores worse than the European average. Moreover, more industrial accidents have a serious outcome. Luc Aelvoet, risk management team leader at Mensura, exposes the causes and offers possible solutions.

In Belgium, construction workers have the highest risk of work-related accidents. Half of these work-related accidents also lead to temporary incapacity to work. Some 15% causes permanent disability and in rare cases (0.2%) even death of the employee.

What are the causes of these high figures?
Luc: “Construction has been one of the most dangerous sectors in the country for years. There are three reasons for this. To start with, a construction worker carries out risky activities on a daily basis, like working at height, working with equipment such as tools or machines, and using rolling stock, Such as a wheel loader, truck, or crane.”

“Secondly, the working environment is constantly changing. Contractors and subcontractors regularly modify scaffolding, remove a handrail, or lay electrical cables, but communication about this is unclear and inadequate. This keeps employees in the dark about new risks on a site. Finally, there is a great diversity of nationalities active in the construction sector, which makes communication difficult.”

Safe working practices and environment

How can employers reduce these risks?
Luc: “First, they should focus on a safe working practice. This starts with identifying possible dangers. A risk analysis helps them to do so and answers some crucial questions: which activities does the company carry out and what are the possible dangers? Based on these answers, employers can set priorities and formulate and implement corresponding solutions, whether or not in cooperation with the external service.”

“In addition to the right working practice, a safe working environment also plays an essential role. Construction workers should strive for an orderly site to avoid falls. When working at height, there must be sufficient handrails and openings must be appropriately covered. Are different contractors and subcontractors working on the same site? In that case, consultation is essential in order to nip the risks in the bud.”

Customised training courses

What additional measures can employers take to promote safe working practices and environments?
Luc: “Appoint one of your employees as a safety coach. This person will continue to perform their current tasks, but will also speak to colleagues when they work unsafely and gauge the cause. Failure to comply with safety regulations may be due to a lack of time or materials. An open discussion about safety at work exposes these sticking points.”

“A safety coach has an exemplary function. So choose an experienced employee who is committed to safety. Preferably someone who has obtained an SCC certificate, which shows that they have the skills to integrate safety on site. A safety culture can only be created by continuous attention to safety where everyone finds safe working the logical choice.”

“In addition, customised training courses are useful if certain expertise is lacking or if there is a need to raise awareness. Think of workshops about scaffolding construction, working at heights, or with rolling stock and machines. Be sure to pass that knowledge on to new employees and temporary workers as well: keep a precise record of the training courses (temporary) employees have already followed. Finally, a last-minute risk analysis can also contribute to a safe working environment.”

What does a last-minute risk analysis entail?
Luc: “Before employees even start their working day, they inspect the workshop and consider the possible risks. Even if they do not immediately find a solution, they are at least aware of the dangers and can raise them with the safety coach or employer. This way, everyone contributes to safety on site.”

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Is occupational safety also a priority in your organisation?

From performing a risk analysis to training courses for managers and employees to an analysis of past work-related accidents: Mensura assists you every step of the way, resulting in a safer working environment.


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