WORK SAFETY ON THE CONSTRUCTION SITE: AN OVERVIEW

Work Safety on Construction Sites

Employees on construction sites are exposed to a particularly high accident and health risk compared to employees in other sectors. According to accident statistics, the frequency of accidents in the construction industry is twice as high as in other areas of the economy. Therefore, the implementation and observance of safety measures are particularly important for all employees on construction sites. The Corona crisis has added further requirements for health protection.

WHAT A THE HEALTH RISK ON CONSTRUCTION SITES?

A variety of stresses and hazards can occur on construction sites, for example, due to:

  • the regular change of jobs and working conditions
  • the high physical strain
  • the high time and deadline pressure
  • working in various and unpredictable weather conditions (heat, cold, wet and draught)
  • working at great heights, trenches, pits or tunnels
  • working with and near equipment and machinery
  • working in forced postures
  • the presence of dust, noise, vibration and hazardous substances

The respective coordinators for safety and health protection on the construction site must identify and implement necessary measures for safety and health protection on the construction site at an early stage. In doing so, they are guided by the specifications contained in the legal regulations relevant to the construction industry.

On construction sites, many regulations must be observed to ensure work health and safety. These include the Work Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG), the Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV), the Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance (BetrSichV) and the Construction Site Ordinance (BaustellV). Besides, the German Federal Institute for Work Safety and Health (BAuA) has published rules for industrial safety on construction sites (RAB).

Here is a brief overview of which regulation serves what purpose:

Work Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG): According to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, this Act regulates the employer’s essential work safety and health obligations, the obligations and rights of employees and the monitoring of work safety and health for all areas of activity.

Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health (BetrSichV): This ordinance contains information on risk assessment and the resulting protective measures, regulations for plants requiring monitoring and information on the committee for industrial safety and enforcement regulations. It also contains rules on administrative offences and criminal offences.

Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV): This ordinance sets out what employers must observe when setting up and operating workplaces concerning work safety and health protection for employees.

Construction Site Ordinance (BaustellV): This ordinance focuses on improving the safety and health protection of employees on construction sites. The BaustellV also contains information on the coordination, commissioning and duties of employers and other responsible parties.

Rules for Work Health and Safety on Construction Sites (RAB): The catalogue of standards specifies the state work health and safety regulations for safe and healthy working conditions on construction sites. In addition to definitions of terms for the Ordinance on Safety and Health Protection on Construction Sites, the RAB contain recommendations on the provisions of the Compressed Air Ordinance as well as requirements for the content and form of a safety and health protection plan.

Did you know?

According to the BAuA, most accidents happen on construction sites, during the following activities:

Transport and Traffic 33.2 %

Extraction and Production 24.1 %

Maintenance 14.8 %

Dismantling 9.4 %

Roads in Operation 5,9%

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SAFETY ON CONSTRUCTION SITES?

The work safety authorities are responsible for monitoring construction sites, advising building owners, architects and companies, and for the shutdown of construction sites with significant work safety deficiencies. The building owners, site managers, architects and coordinators as well as the companies with their safety specialists are responsible for work safety on the construction site itself.

Since the Construction Site Ordinance (BaustellV) came into force in 1998, the building owner has been responsible for the safety and health of the employees on his construction site. He must observe the following:

  • During the planning of the construction project, the concerns of work health and safety must be taken into account.
  • At least one health and safety coordinator must be appointed during the planning phase and for the execution phase.
  • Extensive construction projects must be reported to the relevant state office. 
  • Extensive construction projects or particularly dangerous work require a safety and health protection plan.
  • Compiling documents with the necessary information on safety and health protection, which will be taken into account during subsequent work on the construction site.

In addition to the building owner, the employer whose employees are working on the construction site must, above all ensure their safety and health. The Work Health and Safety Act obliges the employers of all employees working on the construction site to prepare a risk assessment. With its help, working conditions can be assessed, protective measures can be defined and implemented, and their effectiveness can be monitored and documented.

Furthermore, employers and contractors without employees working on the construction site as well as the employees themselves bear joint responsibility for safety and health.

CORONA CRISIS: GUIDELINES FOR CONSTRUCTION SITES

According to the corona regulations of the individual federal states, the operation of construction sites in the corona crisis is still permitted. However, work safety measures must also be adapted there to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. The published guidelines for the construction industry generally include the following 15 points:

  1. The health and safety coordinators must be involved in the planning and implementation of the construction project.
  2. The persons responsible for the construction project and the safety coordinators responsible for the construction site must update the individual risk assessment by adapting it to the corona situation.
  3. Employees must be informed about the dangers of infection by the coronavirus.
  4. As far as possible, employees should keep a minimum distance of 1.50 metres between themselves and to other people.
  5. The general hygiene rules should be observed: Sufficient handwashing facilities with running water, soap and disposable towels must be available for all employees; the surfaces in break rooms must be cleaned or disinfected daily.
  6. Wearing Personal Protective Equipment – PPE (goggles, gloves and face masks) can reduce the risk of infection.
  7. Cough and sneeze only in the crook of your arm, covering mouth and nose and turning away from colleagues.
  8. Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes with your hands.
  9. During working hours and breaks, contact between employees should be kept to a minimum. The breaks should be taken at different times.
  10. Shifts that are staggered also reduce the risk of infection.
  11. Employees are obliged to ensure that the rules on distance and hygiene measures are observed in accommodation as well.
  12. Carpools are to be separated according to craftsmanship and construction work.
  13. The number of employees travelling in one vehicle must be kept as low as possible.
  14. All employees entering and leaving the construction site must leave their contact details.
  15. Anyone showing symptoms of illness or having had contact with people infected with coronavirus must report this immediately.

These rules apply to all construction sites in public areas as well as in the private and commercial sectors. Besides, it is recommended to work in teams of two at most and not to mix the teams.

ALWAYS A TOPIC ON THE CONSTRUCTION SITE: WORK SAFETY

Every year, the BAuA records all fatal accidents at work in Germany to identify accident blackspots and derive preventive measures from the data. Despite all the improvements in work health and safety on construction sites, the industry continues to lead the statistics. Around 40 per cent of all fatal accidents at work occur there. This makes it all the more important for building owners, employers and employees to comply with regulations during work. Compliance with such rules is no guarantee of an accident-free working environment, but they do help to increase the safety and health protection of those working on construction sites and contribute to a smooth construction process.

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