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The Real Cost of Workplace Injuries on Construction Sites

June 26, 2024
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Construction workplace injuries can happen in a matter of seconds, but the consequences can last a lifetime. According to Safe Work Australia, the direct and indirect costs associated with workplace illness and injury stand at around 60 billion dollars a year. However, on top of the financial burden, there are also significant physical and mental impacts.

The construction industry is one of Australia’s largest employers, with 9.4% of the population working in the field. It’s also one of the most dangerous industries in Australia, with around 12,500 serious injuries per year. Construction site injuries take their toll on the nation’s economy even while the industry generates around 9% of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That’s not even touching on the mental and emotional damage inflicted on workers and their families and the detriment to their career prospects.

As an experienced company trusted by some of the biggest names in the construction business, SSTC has seen firsthand the cost of workplace injuries in the construction industry.

The Cost of Workplace Injuries

The true scale and cost of a workplace injury or accident depend on factors like the kind of work being undertaken, the nature of the industry, and rehabilitation costs. According to Safe Work Australia, there are several conceptual groups for accident costs. These include short-term Production Disruption Costs (PDC), Human Capital Costs (HCC), administrative costs (including investigations and legal action), and medical costs.

Workers, employers, and the community all bear the costs of construction workplace injuries. In some cases, a workplace injury can mean a lifetime of lost income for the injured worker and their family and an expensive Worker’s Compensation claim for their employer.

The indirect costs of workplace injuries in the construction industry include lost productivity, damage to equipment and property, fines, penalties and damage to the company's reputation. These are just the financial aspects. The full physical, emotional and mental impact associated with construction site injuries is much higher.

Preventing accidents from occurring in the first place is always better than trying to mitigate the damage after the fact. As a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), there are steps you can take to address the causes of construction workplace injuries before they become an issue.

Causes of Construction Site Injuries

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While there’s no way to prevent construction workplace injuries entirely, it helps to be aware of the common causes so you can take action.

Failure to train staff properly

Staff induction and training are not optional extras. They’re essentials. Failing to adequately train your staff can result in legal ramifications, including heavy financial penalties. Proper staff training prevents injuries to team members and costs to your business, boosts worker health and wellbeing, increases job satisfaction, increases productivity and reduces costs and time wasted.

Falls from heights

Construction workers often have to work in elevated positions, such as on scaffolding or rooftops. Common risk factors when working from heights include inadequate fall protection systems, lack of training, and incorrect use of safety equipment.

Electrocutions

Workers on construction sites are typically exposed to overhead powerlines, electrical equipment and sometimes faulty wiring. You can reduce the risk by strictly adhering to safety regulations, having equipment regularly inspected and providing proper training on electrical tools.

Machinery accidents

From cranes to excavators, construction sites rely on all kinds of machinery, including heavy equipment, to run. With machines of all types, the risk of accidents and injuries exists. Training operators well and strictly adhering to safety standards are two important steps to take to prevent them. Regular equipment maintenance is also important.

Hazardous materials

Working on construction sites often involves handling dangerous materials like flammable substances, asbestos and chemicals. Employers need to provide adequate training on the proper handling, storage and disposal of these substances.

Struck-By Accidents

On construction sites, there are ample opportunities for people and objects to collide, with dangerous consequences. Usually caused by a lack of adequate training or by ignorance and disregard for the appropriate safety measures, struck-by accidents can involve swinging equipment, flying debris from tools or falling materials from overhead.

Vehicle Collisions

Vehicles are commonplace on and around construction sites, both as onsite machinery and as passing traffic. In NSW, separating workers from vehicles and equipment is part of an employer’s duty to provide a safe construction site.

Confined spaces

On some construction sites, it’s normal to find confined spaces like trenches, crawl spaces and drainage or sewerage pipes. The dangers of working in confined spaces include fumes and gases, dangerously high or low temperatures, hearing damage from loud noise and trips and falls.

How to Minimise Injury on a Construction Site

Some measures you can take immediately to help create a safer construction site for your staff include:

  • Always supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to your staff including hard hats, safety glasses, steel-capped boots, gloves, ventilators etc.
  • Train your staff in every aspect of the job, including safety protocol and proper use of tools.
  • Use tools and equipment only for their intended purposes and store away when not in use.
  • Depower equipment and tools when not in use, especially when performing repairs on them.
  • Exercise awareness of your surroundings when you’re operating power tools, vehicles and machinery and when moving through the job site.
  • Regularly inspect equipment and tools for damage, especially before use.
  • Only use tools for their intended purposes.
  • Ensure that drivers and machinery operators can see your staff when they’re working in shared areas.
  • Avoid anything that could get caught in machinery, such as loose long hair, dangling jewellery and ill-fitting clothes.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain scaffolding, safety harnesses, and other equipment that protects your staff at heights.
  • Use proper signage to notify everyone on the premises of potential hazards.
  • Clean up spills and remove tripping hazards as soon as possible.
  • Hire an authority liaison to help you ensure you have the right permits, plans and procedures in place.

Minimise Injury on Your Construction Site with SSTC

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SSTC doesn't just offer advice. We provide reliable solutions for minimising the risk of injury on construction sites. Our approach is multifaceted, taking into account everything you need to ensure the safety of your site.

Plans and permits are crucial for the safety of your workers, the public, passing motorists, and pedestrians. SSTC’s construction traffic management plans and traffic control plans minimise disruption and reduce the severity and number of hazards.

Our gas detection and confined space monitors can monitor a confined space when you need to open it to free gas, maintaining continuous communication with workers and dispensing first aid if necessary. We can take care of your confined space needs from start to finish, from issuing your first permit to preparing an emergency response team at the ready.

We can have electrical spotters onsite to minimise your risk of electrocution and your vicinity to (and contact with) powerlines. All of our electrical spotters are level two accredited, first aid certified and thoroughly trained in emergency procedures. SSTC can help you procure all the plans you need, with authority liaisons to oversee compliance and a team with the most reliable access to local councils. Our fully accredited, highly certified team is thoroughly trained in emergency procedures and has an unparalleled commitment to safety. With 25+ years of combined experience and competitive rates, we’re cost-effective professionals who are dedicated to creating safer conditions for all those in the construction industry.

To adequately protect your crew against construction workplace injuries, do it the right way, the SSTC way.  Contact the SSTC team for a free quote

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