The Most Dangerous Roles in Construction

Katherine McCallum
Jun 29, 2024
min read
Construction workers at work standing on a building

Globally, construction is one of the most hazardous industries. Unfortunately, Australia is no exception. 

In particular, Queensland has seen its share of serious work injuries and fatalities in the construction sector. So what are the most dangerous roles in construction? Let’s look at the recent statistics from WorkSafe Queensland and Safe Work Australia on specific incidents in Queensland. By doing so, we’ll also share some tips for workers to assert their rights to a safe worksite.

Recent Statistics on Construction Safety

According to Safe Work Australia's "Key Work Health and Safety Statistics Australia 2023" report, the construction industry remains one of the highest-risk sectors for work-related injuries and fatalities. Here are some key findings:

  • Fatalities: In 2022, there were 195 worker fatalities due to traumatic injuries sustained in the course of work-related activities across all industries in Australia. The construction industry recorded 24 of these fatalities. 
  • Serious Injury Claims: The incidence rate for serious injury claims in the construction industry was 16.9 claims per 1,000 workers. These figures are significantly higher than the industry average of 10.5 claims per 1,000 workers.

In Australia, the construction industry continues to pose significant risks. WorkSafe Queensland's data states:

  • Falls from Heights: Falls from heights are a leading cause of fatalities and serious injuries in the construction industry. In 2023, nine Victorian workers died from falls, with four of these fatalities occurring in the construction sector.
  • Serious Injuries: The number of accepted claims from construction workers injured in falls from heights increased to 441 in 2023, up from 421 in 2022.

Specific Incidents in Queensland

Several recent incidents in Queensland underscore the dangers faced by construction workers:

  1. Cross River Rail Site Incident: In July 2023, a 54-year-old man suffered extensive internal injuries after falling from scaffolding at the Cross River Rail site in Brisbane. The incident highlighted ongoing safety concerns, including the risk of falling objects and previous falls on the job.
  2. Falling Scaffold: In October, 2023, WorkSafe Queensland reported that a construction worker suffered serious injuries after being struck by a scaffold plank on site. The alert emphasised the importance of managing the risk of falling small objects. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the principal contractor or PCBU to manage the risks to health and safety associated with a falling object including providing training to workers on how to keep safe. 
  3. Electrical Safety Issues: The Cross River Rail project also faced scrutiny for electrical safety issues, with workers raising concerns about the risk of electrocution and other electrical hazards on the site.

The Dangers in Construction

As we have seen, the construction industry is full of hazards that can lead to serious injuries or fatalities. Some of the most common dangers include:

  1. Falls from Heights: Working at heights is a significant risk in construction. Falls from ladders, scaffolding, roofs, and other elevated surfaces can result in severe injuries or death.
  2. Struck by Moving Objects: Construction sites are dynamic environments with heavy machinery, vehicles, and materials constantly in motion. Workers are at risk of being struck by moving objects and vehicles, leading to serious injuries.
  3. Electrical Hazards: Electrical safety is a major concern in construction. Workers can be exposed to live wires, faulty equipment, and other electrical hazards that can cause shocks, burns, or electrocution.
  4. Collapse of Structures: The collapse of scaffolding, trenches, or partially constructed buildings poses significant risk to workers. Proper safety measures and inspections are crucial to prevent such incidents. 
  5. Exposure to Hazardous Materials: Construction workers may be exposed to hazardous materials such as asbestos, silica dust, and chemicals, which can lead to long-term health issues.

Tips for Workers to Assert Their Rights to a Safe Worksite

Workers have the right to a safe and healthy work environment. Here are some tips for construction workers to assert their rights and ensure their safety on the job:

  1. Know Your Rights: Familiarise yourself with your rights under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws. In Australia, employers are legally required to provide a safe work environment and take reasonable steps to protect workers from harm.
  2. Report Hazards: If you identify any hazards or unsafe conditions on the worksite, report them immediately to your supervisor or safety officer. Use the appropriate channels to ensure that the issue is addressed promptly.
  3. Participate in Safety Training: Attend all safety training sessions provided by your employer. Understanding the proper safety procedures and how to use safety equipment can significantly reduce the risk of injury.
  4. Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Always wear the appropriate PPE for the task at hand. This may include helmets, safety glasses, gloves, high-visibility clothing, and fall protection gear.
  5. Refuse Unsafe Work: If you believe that a task is unsafe, you have the right to refuse to perform it until the hazard is addressed. Communicate your concerns to your supervisor and seek advice from your safety representative if needed.
  6. Document Incidents: Keep a record of any safety incidents or near misses. Documentation can be crucial if you need to escalate the issue or if an investigation is required.
  7. Seek Support: If you feel that your safety concerns are not being taken seriously, seek support from your union or a workplace health and safety representative. They can provide guidance and advocate on your behalf.

Stay Informed: Stay up to date with the latest safety alerts and guidelines from WorkSafe Queensland and other relevant authorities. Knowledge is a powerful tool in preventing accidents and injuries.

Hope for construction work safety?

The construction industry in Australia remains one of the most dangerous sectors for workers. By understanding the risks and asserting their rights to a safe worksite, construction workers can help reduce the incidence of injuries and fatalities. Employers, regulators, and workers must work together to create a safer environment for everyone.

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