According to Ireland’s Health and Safety Authority, 9,070 workplace injuries were reported to them in 2022. Nearly 10% of these of injuries (878 to be precise) occurred on building sites and other construction industry settings. Furthermore, the farming and construction industries were the two sectors where the most fatal workplace accidents occurred, with a total of 26 deaths – 7 of those deaths occurring on construction sites. These figures of course do not include cases where employers have failed in their obligations to report such accidents to the HSA or cases where the accident did not require to be reported as the employee was in a position to return to work before missing three consecutive days due to injury.
Although the rate of fatal work-related incidents per 100,000 workers has gradually dropped over the years, as shown in the chart below, construction sites remain one of the most dangerous places to work if employer’s do not follow health & safety legislation. This report in the Irish Examiner notes that over €1.2m in fines were handed out in the courts over breaches of legislation in 2022.
Here we look at some of the most common types of building site accident claims in Ireland, your employer’s responsibilities, and going about bringing a claim.
Common Building Site Accidents
There are many different types of accidents that occur on construction sites where an employee may have the grounds to bring a personal injury claim against their employer. This includes the following:
- Falls from Height – This is one of the most common and dangerous accidents that occurs on building sites. It can involve falls from scaffolding, ladders, roofs, or any elevated work area. According to the HSA, the highest percentage of non-fatal accidents in the construction industry involved slipping or falling, with 285 accidents of this nature recorded in 2022.
- Slips, Trips, and Falls – Uneven surfaces, wet floors, and obstacles scattered around a building site can lead to slips, trips, and falls, causing serious injuries.
- Struck by Falling Objects – Workers can be injured by tools, materials, or debris falling from above. This type of accident is particularly dangerous as it can happen without warning.
- Machinery Accidents – Construction sites often use heavy machinery. Accidents can occur due to malfunctions, improper use, or lack of training, leading to serious injuries or fatalities.
- Electrocutions – Exposure to live wires, power lines, or electrical systems can lead to electrocution accidents on building sites.
- Exposure to Hazardous Materials – Workers may be exposed to hazardous materials like asbestos, chemicals, or toxic dust, which can lead to long-term health issues.
- Overexertion and Repetitive Stress Injuries – Physical labour at construction sites can lead to overexertion and repetitive stress injuries due to lifting heavy materials, repetitive motions, or working in awkward positions.
- Vehicle Accidents – Construction sites often involve the use of vehicles like forklifts, trucks, and cranes. Accidents can occur due to operator error, mechanical failure, or lack of communication on site.
- Trench or Building Collapse – Trenches or partially constructed buildings can collapse, trapping workers underneath.
- Fires and Explosions – The presence of flammable materials and potentially hazardous conditions can lead to fires or explosions on construction sites.
Any of these types of accidents can potentially form the basis of a personal injury claim, however, to win your case, you will need to demonstrate that your employer failed in their duty of care to you.
What is my employer’s duty of care?
An employer’s duty of care refers to the legal obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of employees while they are at work. This involves providing a safe working environment, ensuring that machinery and equipment are safe and well-maintained, and offering adequate training and supervision. Employers must also implement and enforce proper safety procedures, provide necessary protective equipment, ensure coworkers are appropriately trained, and comply with relevant health and safety regulations. This duty extends to taking reasonable steps to prevent physical and psychological harm, including workplace stress or harassment. Failure to meet these responsibilities can result in legal liability for any accidents or injuries that occur as a consequence of their negligence.
Are there additional requirements for construction industry employers?
Yes, construction industry employers have additional requirements due to the inherent risks associated with construction work. They must adhere to stricter safety regulations and guidelines, specific to construction sites, to manage the higher risks of accidents and injuries. This includes conducting regular risk assessments, ensuring the structural integrity of construction sites, providing specialised training for handling construction equipment and hazardous materials, and enforcing the use of protective gear. They must also implement detailed safety protocols for high-risk activities like working at heights or with heavy machinery. Regular site inspections and maintaining clear communication about safety practices are essential. Compliance with construction-specific legal standards, such as those set by Ireland’s Health & Safety Authority, is mandatory to ensure a safe working environment for all construction employees.
What is BeSMART?
BeSMART, which stands for Business electronic Safety Management and Risk Assessment Tool, is an online resource provided by Ireland’s Health and Safety Authority. It’s designed specifically to assist employers in the construction industry with safety management and risk assessment. BeSMART guides construction employers in creating site-specific safety statements and risk assessments, catering to their particular business needs. It is particularly useful for identifying hazards and implementing control measures to minimise risks on building sites. This tool is vital for ensuring compliance with Irish safety regulations, enhancing workplace safety, and is instrumental in reducing accidents and improving health standards in the construction sector. Employers that have invested in BeSMART are more likely to be able to defend themselves against claims of negligence by injured employees.
What is the key legislation that construction employers must adhere to?
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 outlines several key responsibilities for employers. These include ensuring the safety, health, and welfare of employees as far as is reasonably practicable. Employers are required to manage and conduct work activities safely, provide information, instruction, and training to employees, and prepare and revise a safety statement. Additionally, they must identify workplace hazards, assess risks, and implement necessary protective measures. The Act also places duties on employers regarding emergencies and serious dangers, as well as obligations towards persons other than their employees, such as visitors or the public, ensuring their safety in relation to work activities. In addition to this piece of legislation the Courts may impose liability on an employer for any injuries caused by breaches of contract law or negligence generally.
What are examples of negligent behaviour by an employer that could lead to a claim?
Building site accidents can be caused by various types of negligent behaviour, including the following:
- Failing to Provide Adequate Safety Training – Not properly training employees on safety procedures and the use of equipment.
- Not Enforcing Safety Protocols – Overlooking the use of safety gear like helmets, harnesses, or protective eyewear.
- Ignoring Maintenance of Equipment – Allowing machinery or equipment to be used without regular maintenance checks, leading to malfunctions.
- Poor Site Management – Not properly securing the building site, leading to hazards like falling debris.
- Inadequate Supervision – Not supervising construction activities adequately, leading to unsafe practices.
- Exposing Workers to Hazardous Materials – Not providing protection or training for handling hazardous materials.
Need help bringing a building site accident claim?
If you’ve sustained an injury on a building site and you believe your employer’s negligence is the cause of it, you may have the grounds to bring an injury claim. Call us on 1800 390 555 and an experienced member of staff will discuss your situation and potential next steps. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as we can.