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Causes of Construction Site Accidents

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Construction
Wordcount: 5219 words Published: 13th Aug 2018

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The construction industry is not only known as an industry which is developing rapidly but it is known for its highly dangerous activities as well. In Malaysia, hazardous works on construction sites that cause accidents are taken as a crucial matter. Every single year, construction workers are among the people who are always to get caught in accidents. This serious problem has caused them to involve in fatal injuries and some of them also have been killed. In the past few years, the construction industry has gained a lot of profits by buildings that have been constructed using latest advanced technologies, but somehow the safety measures on site still being neglected. Despite of delays of the construction progress and difficulties in repairing of works and machineries that cost lots of money to be spent, but of these are incomparable to the loss of the human life.

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The implementation of a proper and effective health and safety policy on construction site is very essential for a builder. The hazards must be clearly understood by all the personnel working on site especially those who hold a high position in a project. Proper commitment and attention by every personnel can help in reducing hazards and accidents in the working environment other than knowing their own responsibilities on site. Every party in the construction industry also should put safety measures as their main priority during the preliminary stage until the completion of a work or construction project.

The construction industry is often portrayed with negative images such as dirty, dangerous and difficult or commonly known as the 3D. Whenever a construction related matter is being discussed, people will have these thoughts embedded in their minds. This will make people feel uninterested to be involved or working in the construction field and finally resulting in lack of workforce in this industry. Thus, the safety measures on site need to be improved in order to eliminate this mindset and to achieve a safer working environment. Each party also needs to make drastic actions in ensuring an effective safety and health measures are being practiced on site to preserve the good image of the construction industry in the future.

1.2 Problem Statement

The standard of safety measures in construction industry in Malaysia has lagged behind if compared to any other industries. This scenario makes it hard to achieve zero accidents and developing a safety culture among the personnel working on construction site. In the real construction practice, it was found that the safety program implementation by majority of construction companies were only at the early stage. This clearly shows that these companies do not have a safety program driven by a safety culture (Abd Hamid & Abd Majid, 2006)

Although a lot of contribution to the national economy comes from construction industry, the number of accidents, incidents, injuries and fatalities are still reaching a higher rate (Hinze, 1997). For some employers or clients, the implementation of safety management system is often believed to cost more in a project and they make it as a less concentrated matter on construction site. This is why safety records are often being focused because of its unsatisfactory performance due to safety being neglected and has not been taken systematically. Safety aspects are considered very crucial especially in a construction project but unfortunately there are still many employers do not feel that it is one of the keys to the success of companies. It is also known that the nature of the construction industry requires physical demand and harsh works, make it an industry with higher risk of injury other than the lack of awareness on the responsibilities of each parties involve in a project to maintain the safety performance. Hence, the implementation of safety measure should not be taken lightly as it is an important element in keeping the construction site a better and safer place to work.

In order to decrease the jobsite risk and improve safety measures, this research will be carried out to identify the common causes of accidents that contributing to the high rate of accidents on construction and to emphasize on the roles and responsibilities of parties involved in this industry.

Research Aim and Objectives

1.3.1 Aim

The aim of this research is to know the significance of practicing and applying safety measures so that it can create awareness to the people who are working in the construction industry especially the management on how safety plays an important role in reducing accidents on site.

1.3.2 Objectives

The three objectives are to be achieved in this research are listed as below:

To study the various causes of accidents that occurred on construction site

This objective is to find out the causes of this problem so that it can be solved from the root more easily and efficiently.

To assess what are the roles and responsibilities of each parties in construction industry on improving the standard of safety on site and how they can reduce the number of accidents

This objective is to know the relationship between their roles and responsibilities with safety performance and how it ensures the site safety is implemented.

To find the ways to improve the site safety practice involved in the construction site in Klang Valley.

This objective is generate ideas, ways and methods to improve the safety measures on site

1.4 Scope and Limitation of Study

This research will only focus on the construction sites based around Klang Valley. Areas of study are limited to identifying the causes of accidents on construction site like unsafe equipment and machineries, job site conditions, human factor and others. Besides that, a study on the roles and responsibilities of various parties involved in the construction industry will also be done. The parties to be included in this study are from the paymaster of a project or the employer and up to the professional bodies of this industry such as Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB).

1.5 Research Methodology

In order to gain data for this research, various methods to extract necessary information regarding safety and health measures in the construction industry will be done. The information gathered is used to assist in the understanding of the causes that lead to the effectuation of accidents on construction site and the roles and responsibilities of various parties in the construction industry. The methods that will be used for this research are surveys, literature review and analyzing the information.

Stage 1: Topic selection

In this stage, the first matter that needs to be done is to identify problems occurring in this industry. Problem which is popular and most frequently arise will be chosen as the research topic. Then, literature review based on the topic selected is carried out by getting information from the previous research done by other people.

Stage 2: Study proposal

During the second stage, determining the aim and objectives of this research is important. It allows the research to achieve the target so that the main problem can be solved and eliminated. Besides that, the scope of the study is also specified to let the readers know the area of study that will be covered and not to be covered in this research.

Stage 3: Data gathering and processing

Primary Data

In order to get practical information that can contribute to this research, surveys will be conducted. Survey questionnaires will be distributed to personnel working on site such as project manager, safety officer, site supervisor and others to get valuable insight into the risk and hazards involved on construction site. A practical view from them is of utmost importance to obtain information which is not available in books. This is also an opportunity to interact with the people involved in the construction field. The information that need to be obtain in the survey are like the causes of accident to happen in the construction site, what accident cases are often being reported and the role and responsibility of each parties to improve the site safety in construction.

Secondary Data

Secondary data can be obtained by finding sources and information in a library. Some of the libraries that will be the place to conduct this method are the library in Tunku Abdul Rahman College and the public library. The sources that will be used in the library are articles, textbooks, journals and magazines. The author’s name, year of publication, title, place of publication and publisher of the book will be indicated in the research for referencing purpose.

Internet is also one of the best sources to get information about safety on construction site. Relevant materials and information can be easily obtained in the internet because the application is wide and unlimited. Information such as statistics of accidents occurred on site and latest news on the construction safety and health issues also may be obtained from internet searching.



2.1 Introduction

On the construction site, workers are exposed to hazardous works and dealing with such works everyday is something common for them. ‘Safety First’ is a very popular phrase that can be found on most construction site but it does not being put under first priority as it is stated in signboards and posters. There is no wonder why the accident rates on construction sites are getting higher each year. Statistics also have proven that the number of deaths caused by accidents in construction industry has surpassed all other industry. The chart below shows the number of victims involved in death cases that have been investigated by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) up until December 2010.

In this chapter, identifying the various causes of accidents will be the primary objective as it helps in generating ideas in improving safety measures on site.

2.2 Definitions

2.2.1 Accident

‘Accident’ can be defined as an unplanned, uncontrolled event which has led to or could have led to injury to people, damage to plant, machinery or the environment and/or some other loss. The controlling of work situation by providing safe conditions and insisting on the use of safe working method and procedures is the way of accident prevention.

2.2.2 Hazard

‘Hazard’ is a source, situation or occurrence in the workplace that has the potential to harm the health and safety of people or to damage plant and equipment. The situation could involve a task, chemical or equipment used.

2.2.3 Safety

‘Safety’ can be defined as the quality of being safe and the freedom from danger or risk where people are protected against physical, occupational or other types of harm, error, failure, accidents or any event which is non-desirable. The controlling of hazards to achieve an acceptable level of risk also can be the definition of safety.

2.3 Unsafe Acts and Conditions

2.3.1 Unsafe Acts

Usually, accidents at work occur either due to unsafe acts and unsafe conditions. There is no general agreement on the definition of an unsafe act. However, it has been defined in similar focus on unaccepted practices which have the potential of producing future accidents and injuries. Other definition of unsafe act that given by previous researcher is unsafe act is an action deviates from generally recognised safe way of doing a job and increases the chance of an accident (Stranks, 2000).

Unsafe acts can be classified into two types either as errors or violations (Reason, 1990). According to most accident reports, the errors are to be found as a major contributor to accidents. Meanwhile, violations are less common. There are two conditions where unsafe acts may occur. Firstly, workers do not know while they are acting unsafely. Secondly, they know while they are acting unsafely. For the first situation, the problem can be easily solved by providing safety training to the worker, supervise them closely, providing good work system design, etc. The reasons for the workers to act unsafely for the second case is more complex because it could be due to various factors like personality of the workers, influence by coworkers, the extent of managerial support and the nature of the job being undertaken. Although workers are fully aware that they are working unsafely, they still want to carry on with such unsafe acts.

There are various acts that are considered unsafe. Those acts are:

  • Working without authority on the job can cause accidents since unauthorized workers may lack of skills and unfamiliar with the job process.
  • Failure to secure coworkers or to warn about the danger is an unsafe act because many accidents occur while workers are paying less attention to warn and secure coworkers who are exposed to accidents occurrence when working.
  • Working at improper speeds, exceeding the prescribed speed limits or unsafe speed actions could cause accidents.
  • Not placing and stacking the materials properly in dangerous locations will cause unpredicted accidents to happen.
  • The usage of tools and equipment, hand tools, power tools and machinery which is done inaccurately may result in accidents.
  • Executing work by using defective equipment and tools.
  • Refusing to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) will increase the probability of getting injured.
  • Smoking which creates sparks in areas where flammable materials are stored could cause explosions.
  • Throwing or accidentally dropping objects from high levels could expose other workers being struck by the object and cause head injury.
  • Improper posture for tasks like workers making shortcuts by climbing or jumping from high levels instead of using ladders.
  • Servicing equipment which is under operation.

2.3.2 Unsafe Conditions

An unsafe condition is a condition in which the physical layout of the workplace or work location, the status of tools, equipment and material violate the safety standards. Some examples of unsafe conditions include open sided floors, defective ladders, improperly constructed scaffolds, protruding ends of reinforcing rods, protruding nails and wire ties, defective equipment, ungrounded electrical tools and many others.

In most accidents occurred on construction site, unsafe conditions are the main cause contributing to an accident. It is distinguished that that unsafe conditions are divided into two types according to when they occurred during the sequence of work and who caused them to exist and develop (Abdelhamid & Everett, 2000). The unsafe condition may exist in different situations which are before an activity is started and another one is develop after an activity is started. The occurrence of these two types of unsafe conditions is due to some other causes like actions and inactions by the Management Team and worker or coworker unsafe acts. Actions and Inactions by Management Team

Among the example of Management Team actions and inactions that lead to unsafe condition on site are they fail to provide proper and adequate personal protective equipment to the workers, fail to maintain or safeguard tools and equipment, violating the workplace standards such as ignoring slippery floors that can cause someone to fall, insufficient ventilation leaving the workers to choke, poor housekeeping and others. Workers are also sometimes requested to perform tasks that exceed the human capabilities or violate the human factors, ergonomics and the principles of industrial hygiene. This request which made unintentionally by the Management Team will expose the worker to unsafe condition of the site and eventually leads to injuries and illness. Coworker Unsafe Act

Inexperienced worker or coworker in working on the site will tend to act unsafe when handling a task which may lead to unsafe conditions for other workers. Unsafe condition will exist when these inexperienced workers doing their job recklessly like removing machine safeguards, working while intoxicated where they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, working with less concentration due to insufficient sleep, neglecting the housekeeping rules, executing works where they do not have the authorization to do so, etc. Site Layout

Poor site layout in construction site is also contributing to the unsafe condition factor. It was reported that insufficient working space was a problem in a number of accident studies (Hide et al., 2003). Sometimes, the commencement of the build prior to the completion of demolition is blocking the space allocation on site resulting in number of reorganizations of site layout to fulfill the changing of the build plan. Other than that, space constraints can restrict the allocation of floor area for workshop placement, footpaths, storage, parking provision and adequacy of space transport routes. This will cause constriction to the room for vehicle to access the drop-off points and effect on the traffic flow on site and interrupt the ease of receiving deliveries where it leads to a subsequent need for double handling materials. It also will make the routes to become narrow and may cause accidents where vehicles can overturn and hit the workers in the surrounding area. Ground Conditions

Ground conditions are one of the risk factor for accidents. The common problem that is always found is raised structures on the walking surface that can create trip hazards. Some examples of trip hazards are electrical cables, ply board used as a temporary manhole cover and raised setting out points. It is hard for the workers to be aware of these hazards because most of the time they were coloured black, grey or brown instead of being marked or coloured. Poor Housekeeping

Good housekeeping is upmost the important thing to be considered to ensure the site is safe. Unfortunately, many sites found these days did not put housekeeping into their priority. Everyone on the site must do their part to ensure that the site is clean and orderly. Although, there are workers that felt that clearing up the site is the responsibility of other people who had created the mess or up to the Contractor to undertake it. This situation will make good housekeeping hard to achieve. As we know, the most common types of injuries that occur on site are slips, trips and falls which are also contributed by poor housekeeping. Accidents happened due to unorganized material will result in workers suffer cuts from materials and materials fall down striking workers’ head resulting in head injury.

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2.4 Accidents by Equipments and Machineries

On construction site, workers are required to use different types of equipments and machineries to ease the work that need to be done. By using these equipments every day, workers tend to put themselves at great risk for injury when they are using construction equipments. The equipments also can be defective and will cause the person using them or another person on site to be injured or killed. The defective equipments and machineries are required to be immediately tagged to indicate that they are damaged and remove from the construction area. However, the tags will sometimes come off and workers will not usually stop to walk away from their working area. Finally, someone may pick up and use back the defective equipments or machineries that make them involved in accidents.

2.4.1 Scaffolding

The usage of scaffolding is essential in a construction project to get workers to a higher level of the building structure when they are executing a work. As much as it is useful to workers, it is also very dangerous and hazardous. Statistics reported that 28% of the accidents involving scaffold are caused by construction deficiencies. Among the deficiencies happened are because of the usage of substandard components, omitting essential components and failure to complete the assembly of scaffold. (OSHA, 2003). The people who are exposed to the scaffolding hazards are the ones who erecting the scaffold themselves, the workers that are going to use it when doing works and the general public near the scaffold.

Scaffolding accidents usually will involve either people falling, incorrect operating procedures, environmental conditions, the scaffold collapse and/or people being struck by falling objects from the scaffold itself (Berry, 2011). There will be objects that fall to the ground because workers who work using scaffold will bring along some of equipment together with them such as paint and other related supplies, tools like hammers, screwdriver and also widow cleaning equipment. When there is a worker on the scaffold, it will not only cause harm to that worker but also to those who are on the ground with serious injury by getting hit by the scaffolding or other falling objects.

Scaffoldings are usually kept outside which exposed to the environment. This can cause the scaffoldings to deteriorate. Scaffolds are often being reported to be in good condition by inspection and maintenance before they collapsed. This is because it is hard to detect corrosion of the internal surface of tubular scaffolds. Other causes of accidents of scaffoldings are:

  • Unsecure scaffolding
  • Poor or careless construction
  • Use of poor quality of damaged material
  • Missing or malfunctioning brakes
  • Missing or malfunctioning fall safety systems
  • Lack of or poorly conducted safety inspections

2.4.2 Crane

The usage of crane is one of the major causes of fatalities during constructing a building and accidents often happen when lifting operation is executed. The occurrence of fatalities during crane operation still continue to increase although ongoing research and recommendations to reduce this problem have been done for the past several decades (Beavers et al., 2006).

The most common types of crane accidents involve the crane coming into contact with electrical power lines. Overhead electrical power lines present a serious electrocution hazard to workers on site. The most common means of electric power transmission and distribution is the overhead line which normally made of uninsulated conductors supported on tower or poles. It is likely to come in contact with a crane because it is placed in a high position. When a crane is contacting with energized overhead line, it becomes elevated to a high voltage that can cause harm to the crane operator (Sacks et al., 1998). Severe injury or death from electrocution is the risks that need to be faced by the operator and anyone standing nearby if this catastrophe happens.

The crane rigger also can contribute to an accident. Workers or bystanders are exposed to rigging crane accidents when the material connected to the load block or headache ball fall onto them. Besides that, heavy loads that exceed the limitations and stability of a crane will result in structural failure, causing the crane to tip and collapse over the operator and other workers below it.

2.4.3 Excavator

The massive size, weight and power of an excavator will place an operator or workers at high risk of serious injury when there is an accident happens caused by excavator.

The most common accident caused by excavator will involve quick-hitch. A quick-hitch is device used to make connection and removal of attachment such as buckets and rock breakers of the excavator. The risk arise from the quick-hitch is the disconnection of the attachment resulting works to be loose and falls from the excavator (Edwards, 2007). This incident can cause crucial injury or even worst, death, if the attachment such as heavy buckets are detached and fall onto the workers nearby.

Other causes of quick-hitch accidents that involve unintentional release of the attachment are:

  • the failure to engage the quick-hitch properly due to carelessness
  • failure to use any secondary locking device
  • poor maintenance of locking mechanism
  • attachment being overloaded.

Even though the cause of an accident can be obvious at first, there are also some root causes of excavator accidents that need to be identify such as:

  • lack or inadequate training given to the operator
  • inadequate supervision by supervisors during excavation works are executed
  • poorly trained ground workers
  • workers encroach the excavator operating area while it is working

2.5 Poor Management System

It is necessary to have a good management system in a construction project as it can generate an organizational setting in which workers will be trained and motivated to perform safe and productive construction work. Unfortunately, many management systems fail to be responsible in creating outline procedures to identify and eliminate hazards and eventually letting personnel involve in undesired accidents.

2.5.1 Poor Safety Policy

Nowadays, it is common to see Site Management not establishing an effective safety policy. Safety policy is important in a construction company stress on the principles and goals to show the company’s commitment to workplace health and safety (CSAO, 1993). Less awareness on the importance of having safety policy is why there are big numbers of management did not implement it.

When there is no effective safety policy made by the management, personnel on site tend to execute their work in a dangerous way because they do not have a proper guideline in safe working methods which may lead them to be exposed to risks and hazards in the construction site environment. By not having a safety policy, accidents that occurred will not only harm the personnel, but it will make the company bare a high financial risk. This situation is likely to happen because the management fails to provide support for safety programmes where it is considered as a need since an accident were proved to be costly. A better safety performance is also hard to achieve because management system does not have the responsibility to provide a safe work site for all personnel because the key in achieving that is to have viability and participation by the management (Sawacha et al, 1999).

2.5.2 Poor Organising

Among all of the functions safety management, the most important one is to designate individual with responsibilities so that the construction safety programme and plan can be implemented successfully.

Without having a well planned organisation, the management will find it hard to execute monitoring on policy implementation, to determine the roles of safety committees and safety representative, and to portray health and safety responsibilities in every individual job descriptions. The unsatisfied involvement and commitment by both management and workers also makes the safety policy to be less effective (Holt, 2001). Undertaking fault and correcting action being taken can hardly be done causing less improvement to the safety performance because the safety representative is also not well-trained due to poor organisation (Sawacha et al., 1999). The safety performance will only be at the same level without any improvement when companies with poor organisation fail in providing effective safety committees where they play a positive role in this matter (Sawacha et al., 1999).

2.6 Other Factors

2.6.1 Personal Factors Laziness

Taking shortcuts in doing works that being assigned are done by most workers because they want to avoid extra activities (Hall, 1995). Sometimes, workers feel that it is troublesome for them to choose the right tool during work so it is preferable to them to work with the wrong tools. Past Experience

For workers that have been working in a company for a long time and having to perform a similar job, it is hard for them to change or give up the way they do things. This is actually not recommended because the old habit can increase the possibilities of accidents to happen by preventing them from noticing the hazards (Kittleson, 1995). Doing Works in a Hurry

Sometimes supervisors want the works to be done as fast as possible which gives pressure to some workers and leading them getting the works complete in a hurry. In order for the workers to save time finishing the works, he or she may abandon the good safety practices (Stice, 1995). Being Angry

Angry is sometimes uncontrollable and makes someone not to be caution, leading him or her to be involved in accidents. To identify when someone is angry is by noticing that person is sweating, tremble and grinding the teeth. Anger that cannot be resolved will cause distraction, proneness to accidents, anxiety, rage and violence (Kittleson, 1995). Overconfidence

Having confidence is important for every worker and it is a good thing, but overconfidence can bring more harm than good. A person with an attitude of thinking that he or she will never involve in an accident will lead to wrong procedures or methods and cause injury (Hirsch, 1998).

2.6.2 Job Factors Work Overload

Workers can develop high stress especially when they are asked to do works more that what they could handle together with the pressure due to deadline. Work overload can be divided into two different forms which are quantitative overload where workers are asked to do more works, and qualitative overload where the workers lack of belief that they do not have the skills to get the work done (Greenberg & Baron, 2000) Work Underload

Stress can also arise when someone is being asked to do too little work. There are two types of work underload which are quantitative underload where a person feels bored from having little work to do, and qualitative underload where a person is lack of mental stimulation like routines and repetitive jobs (Greenberg & Baron, 2000). Time Pressure

Workers will get overwhelmed and worry once they felt that they are unable to finish a work before the deadlines (Stranks, 2000). Moreover, when there is a change in the work process and workers are not given sufficient time to complete it, they will easily become stressed.


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