Time to get technical! We’re taking a closer look at everything you need to know about being on a construction site, including health and safety concerns and some of the workers you might find on a job.
What is a construction site?
A construction site is an area or piece of land where construction work is taking place.
Sometimes construction sites are referred to as ‘building sites’. This usually implies that buildings or houses are being constructed, whereas ‘construction site’ covers a wider scope of work. This could refer to anything from a house extension to a landscaping project, road or bridge construction or a huge engineering project, such as the Crossrail development or the creation of a new power station.
Land is generally classed as a ‘construction site’ when it’s handed over to contractors to begin work. Across a construction site, multiple activities often take place at different times, under the same plan.
Health and safety concerns onsite
Construction industry sites are potentially dangerous environments. To minimise risks, it’s important to be aware of health and safety issues and put measures in place to reduce their impact.
Some of the main health and safety concerns on a construction site include:
Movement of machinery and materials
Construction sites are busy places, where heavy machinery is often used to move materials or lift loads. Traffic plans and barriers separating plant operations from other important works are key to site safety.
Uneven ground can present the risk of trips, slips and falls during construction works. Materials left lying around can create a dangerous obstacle course, so equipment should be monitored and safe zones cordoned off to minimise hazards.
Harmful materials and substances
Asbestos and lead paint can be harmful to construction workers, as can chemicals, paints and the fumes created by these. Asbestos needs to be removed and disposed of in a safe way. Appropriate PPE should be worn to prevent dust and toxic substances from affecting skin, eyes and airways.
Working at height
Working at height is often part and parcel of building construction. Falling tools and debris can also increase risks. All staff on site should be provided with training to prevent accidents, and scaffolding and towers need to be made secure.
Manual handling and physical strain
Training on lifting and moving heavy items, with or without mechanical lifting tools, will help to minimise accidents that arise from poor manual handling. To reduce physical strain resulting from the use of vibrating power tools and groundworking equipment, safety equipment should be worn, tools routinely maintained, and regular breaks taken.
Repetitive sounds from machinery and tools can affect hearing and may prevent workers from communicating efficiently, resulting in accidents. Ear protection and adequate training can help to reduce strain and injury.
Using power tools and being in close proximity to overhead cables and power lines puts construction workers at risk of electrocution. All work around power lines should be thoroughly risk assessed, and only qualified electricians should carry out electrical work.
Risk of collapse
Any incomplete construction work presents risks of collapse. Good preparation and precautionary measures can help to prevent injuries. Demolitions should only be undertaken by trained operatives.
What are the key roles working onsite?
Every construction project is different, and the workers and contractors required will change depending on the task in hand. Many construction projects will be made up of core specialists from the industry, however, including:
The site manager will have an overview of an entire project and will help to plan and coordinate resources, assist with overall planning, ensure smooth communication between teams and contractors, monitor progress and produce reports for clients.
Engineers plan, design and manage large construction projects, using computer modelling software and data to advise on the best course of action and create project blueprints.
Architects and designers
Architects design new structures or renovate existing ones. CAD operatives or BIM coordinators model their plans using 3D design software.
Surveyors provide professional advice on a range of construction-related matters, from measuring buildings and checking quality, to assessing damage for legal and insurance purposes.
Construction operatives carry out a range of manual tasks on a construction site, including preparing ground, driving heavy machinery, moving materials, erecting scaffolding and carrying out work whilst a project is in progress.
From bricklayers to carpenters, fitters, plumbers, painter and decorators and more, there are a wide range of craftspeople needed to bring a construction project together and give it a professional finish.
In addition to these roles, there could be hundreds of other people working on a construction project, from estimators and accountants, to legal experts, health and safety advisors, ecologists and sustainability consultants, landscape architects, transport managers and more.
Things to remember when working onsite
Construction sites are exciting, vibrant places; however, when working onsite, it’s important to be aware of the work being carried out around you and to minimise any potential risks to yourself or to others where possible.
If equipment appears to be out of place or could pose a danger, you should inform a manager or team leader, and ensure the issue is resolved by a qualified person, rather than jumping in and harming yourself unnecessarily.