Part of a company’s responsibility on a construction project is to ensure that the workforce is safe and protected from potential risks.

The presence of heavy loads, machinery, and moving vehicles all contribute to the likelihood of an accident. One of the ways a company can minimise the risk of on-site injuries and prevent an accident at work claim from arising is through the provision and upkeep of adequate work equipment.

The Health and Safety Executive, Britain’s regulatory body for health and safety in the workplace, publish extensive resources on how employers can maintain high standards of safety in their working environment.

Let’s take a look in more detail.

What is Work Equipment?

HSE guidance defines work equipment as almost any equipment used by a worker during their work activities. On a construction site, this can include:

  • Vehicles such as dumper trucks, excavators, bulldozers and lorries.
  • Hand and power tools such as drills, saws, screwdrivers and wrenches.
  • Lifting equipment such as forklifts, mechanical hoists, elevating platforms and cranes.
  • Other equipment such as ladders and pressure cleaners.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, protective footwear and gloves, and hi-vis jackets also help keep workers safe while on the job. It is the responsibility of the building contractor to ensure that all work equipment used on site is safe and fit for purpose.

How Can Work Equipment Reduce Accident At Work Claims?

The proper use of work equipment can reduce the risk of an injury and the likelihood of an accident at work claim being made. Improper use of machinery and work equipment can result in workers being struck by moving objects, body parts being caught in the machines or lacerations from sharp edges.

While the risk level cannot be eliminated completely, using work equipment safely can minimise risks to a sufficiently low level. The HSE has published an introduction to machine safety that we have used to inform this section.

Employers should take the following steps when implementing work equipment into their work activities:

  • Use fixed guards to enclose dangerous parts of machines.
  • Ensure control switches, operating controls and emergency stop controls are clearly marked and within reach.
  • Conduct regular maintenance inspections and repair or replace any damaged or broken machine parts.
  • Provide appropriate protective headwear, safety glasses, gloves, ear protection and safety shoes.
  • Conduct thorough training in the safe use of work equipment, and complete regular checks to ensure procedures are being carried out per the training provided. Only competent persons should operate work equipment.

By ensuring that safety guidelines and regular inspections are followed, employers can reduce the risk of an accident occurring due to a fault in work equipment or employee mistakes.

Statistics For Construction Industry Accidents

The HSE statistics on workplace injuries reported by employers under The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR). The HSE must be informed of accidents that meet the reporting threshold under RIDDOR.

In the year 2022/23, there were 4,038 non-fatal accidents reported under RIDDOR across the construction industry.

Of those 4,038 accidents, 260 were caused by contact with moving machinery, and 514 were the result of contact with falling or flying objects. As these statistics only specify the type of accident and not what caused it, we can only speculate as to whether or not better use of work equipment could have prevented some of them.

However, as every good building contractor knows, ensuring your workers are equipped with the right protective gear, have received sufficient training, and the work equipment is safe and fit for purpose, is the way to prevent accidents on your building site.

When Can Accident At Work Claims Be Made?

An accident at work claim can be made if an employer breaches the duty of care they owe to their employees. Under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, an employer must take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the workers.

If this duty of care is breached and results in an accident, the injured worker could potentially make a claim for compensation. Accident at work claims can be very costly, due to both the compensation paid out and the loss of a valuable employee to injury. Every effort should be taken to avoid such an accident occurring

Final Thoughts

By ensuring work equipment is properly set up, maintained and operated in a safe manner, the risk of an employee making an accident at work claim is significantly reduced.

As well as protecting your company from protracted and costly legal action, prioritising the provision of work equipment and instruction in its safe usage will safeguard the well-being of your workforce.

Contractors considering acquiring new work equipment should review all relevant safety legislation and guidelines carefully, and consider the specific risks involved in their project and how these risks can be mitigated.