Revitalising Occupational Health And Safety In Construction Site Construction Essay

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Fatal injuries in the construction site continue to rank among the highest in Malaysia. Construction work is more dangerous and hazardous than other occupations. Most accidents involve falls of person and occur during work on roofs, scaffolds and ladders. Collapse of structures and falling materials also account for many fatalities. Based on the research conducted by OSHA in year 2009, accidents occur because the construction site fails in implementing occupational health and safety programs, therefore leads to poor safety condition in the construction site.

The awareness of health and safety in the construction site cannot be neglected. To increase efficiency and reduce accidents, high standard of performance should implement throughout the construction progress. Peoples who work in the construction sector such as safety manager, site staff, workers, contractor etc, and also the parties with full support of Malaysia government such as Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), Social Security Organization (SOCSO), and Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) should play their major roles by make sure that they practice an appropriate and safe working attitude to minimise the accident rates in the construction industry.


The accidents in construction site are gradually increased for the past decade. These result in injury, fatalities and financial losses and emotional distress. Therefore, it is necessary to revise the current practices to ensure the rate of accidents could minimise. The finding of this research report able to justify the facts of rising in number of accidents, as well the ways to improve health and safety condition in construction site. The findings highlight the important role of parties involved in the construction. The findings can be a guideline to improve the safety and health condition in construction site. The findings also provide information for the students who will work in the construction field in the future, and also the lecturers who teach the subjects that relate to building construction.

Aims and Objectives

The aim in this project dissertation is to study the occupational hazards of construction site in Klang Valley. The objectives are:

To study the type of occupational hazards in construction site,

To determine the factors that cause accidents in construction site, and

To determine the effective methods and tools for continuous health and safety improvement on site.

Research Methods

The materials and information which relate to health and safety can be gathered from books, internet sources, articles, journals, magazines and newspaper. Objective 1 and 2 can be achieved through this research method.

Next, Questionnaire will be employed for this research project to ensure the objective 2 and 3 is achieved. A total of 100 Questionnaires issue to the contractors and project managers within Klang Valley. The questionnaires are sent either by hand, email or post. The results of the collected data is analysed and will presented by using bar chart and graph. Discussion will be carried out after the analysis of the data collected.

Guide to Report

The research report will be organised in 5 chapters. Chapter 1 is the introduction and background of the report. The general background is explained and the justification is found in this chapter. The objectives are set clearly and the research method is planned to enable the research to be conducted smoothly.

Chapter 2 is the literature review that identifies the scope and key issues of the report. Research gaps can be identified while doing this chapter.

Chapter 3 is research methodology to carry out Questionnaires and interviews for the research project. The target of the respondents and interviewees is chosen and the data collected is analysed in this chapter.

Chapter 4 is the discussion and result analysis from the research that had been carried out in Chapter 3. The result collected from Chapter 3 is analysed and the issues can be identified from the findings. The data is presented by using bar chart and graph. Then the discussion of the research topic will be carried out too after the analysis of the data collected.

Chapter 5 is the conclusions and recommendations of the report. This chapter is to ensure that the research objectives are achieved and recommendations will be proposed in this chapter.

Work Programme



Construction workers build buildings for the benefits and convenient to the peoples. The occupation of the construction workers can be classified into many types, for example, bricklayers, carpenters, electricians and more. These workers spend most of the time working in the construction site, so they are exposing to health and safety hazards during their working hours. Construction hazards not only affect the workers in the construction site, but also the peoples who live and work nearby the construction site (Weeks, 1998). According to the surveys prepared by Occupational Safety and Health Associations (OSHA) in year 2000, injuries, serious illness, disability and death may occur due to excessive exposure of the hazards. Besides, an analysis has been carried out by Toole in year 2002, to determine the causes of accidents happen in the construction site. The construction accidents may reduce if the factors of the accidents is identified and determined (Toole, 2002).

Types of Occupational Hazards in Construction Site

Numerous studies have explained the common hazards in construction site are physical hazards and chemical hazards, which is also known as respiratory hazards (Weeks, 1998; Coble, et al., 2000; Tarlo, et al., 2010). Other hazards that explained by Weeks (1998) is biological hazards.

2.2.1 Chemical hazards

According to International Labour Office (ILO) in year 1999, chemical substances are widely used in the construction site. Based on the studies prepared by ILO, these chemical substances can be found in cleaning agents for brickwork and stonework, floor treatments and others. Several studies investigate the chemical substances are in the form of dusts, fumes, vapours and gases (Weeks, 1998; Coble et al., 2000; Tarlo et al., 2010). OSHA also explained some chemical substances that encounter in the construction site would harm the skin. Furthermore, ILO also explained that cement is also one of the chemical substances too.

Dusts are produced by crushing and demolition works (Tarlo et al., 2010). Based on the explanation from Infrastructure Safety and Health Associations (ISHA), dusts particles are larger than fume particles. ISHA explained that there are two kinds of dust, which is fibrous dust and non-fibrous dust, whilst OSHA also explained another kind of dust called lead dust besides fibrous dust and non-fibrous dust.

Fibrous dust, also known as asbestos dust, is generated when asbestos is existing in the materials such as insulation materials, sprayed asbestos coatings and asbestos ceiling sheets. High level of fibrous dust can be produced through demolition work on asbestos insulation and sprayed asbestos coating (Tarlo et al., 2010). The construction workers at high risk are electrician, electrical power installers and repairers (Weeks, 1998). According to the surveys prepared by OSHA in year 2000, fibrous dust can lead to lung cancer. Smoking increases the risk of lung cancer for those smokers who exposed to asbestos. Non-fibrous dust, also known as silica dust, is generated through the process involving breaking and crushing the materials which contain silica, for example, sandblasting, concrete cutting and rock drilling. Silica is a major element of the earth's crust. Building materials which contain silica are natural stone, bricks and concrete (Tarlo et al., 2010). Drillers, rail and track laying equipment operators are the workers at high risk (Weeks, 1998). According to the surveys prepared by OSHA in year 2000, exposure to excessive dust for a long period can lead to difficulty in breathing. The risk is higher if the workers work in narrow spaces with poor ventilation such as tunnels. Lead dust is generated from handling materials that contain lead, or from hot cutting that contain lead compounds, for example, handling of metallic lead and leaded paint. The construction workers at high risk are welders and flame cutting operators. Lead dust may cause chronic health effects.

Based on the explanation of ISHA, fumes consist of small particles formed by the condensation of materials that is subjected to high temperatures. The most common types of fume in construction site are welding fume. Pitch fume from coal tar used in built-up roofing, fume from diesel engines and hot asphalt are the other types of fume (Tarlo et al., 2010). Electricians, plumbers and electrical power installers and repairers are the workers at high risk (Weeks, 1998). Moreover, ISHA also explained vapours are formed by the evaporation of liquids. Solvents produce vapours such as xylene and mineral spirits that used in paints and coatings. Vapours may exist in heavy construction equipment or from off-gassing of construction materials such as carpeting and plywood (Tarlo et al., 2010). The construction workers at high risk are hard tile setters, painters and paperhangers (Weeks, 1998). On the other hand, ISHA also explained gases consist of individual molecules of substances. Gases are always maintained in gaseous state at room temperature and pressure. Carbon monoxide from engine exhaust and hydrogen sulphide from the decaying matter that found in sewers is the common toxic gases in the construction site. Oxygen, oxides of nitrogen and acetylene used in welding and cutting of metals are the other gasses that the construction workers expose when working (Tarlo et al., 2010). According to the surveys prepared by OSHA in year 2000, enter into confined spaces may encounter problems include oxygen deficiency and inhalation of toxic or inflammable gases. The harmful effects are depends on the types, toxicity and concentration of fumes, vapour and gas in the working condition and environment. Some workers can have long-term health effects because they expose it in a long period of time.

Besides, some chemical hazards are absorbed through the intact skin. There are some chemical substances would harm the skin, for example, mineral oil may cause skin cancers; Bleaches, solvents, oils, acids and alkalis can lead to irritation; Epoxy resin, acrylic resins and nickel may cause allergic reactions. Based on the explanation from ILO, cement also can cause skin disease. Wet cement can lead to irritant and allergic to skin. Exposure to wet cement by stand on it for a long period can cause cement burns and ulceration of the skin. Brickmasons and stonemasons are the construction workers at high risk (Weeks, 1998; Nordberg, 1998).

2.2.2 Physical hazards

Physical hazards are existing in every construction site (Weeks, 1998). Several sources have identified the common types of physical hazards are noise, heat and radiation (Weeks, 1998; Spellman and Bieber, 2011). Other types of physical hazards that explained by Weeks (1998) is vibration, whilst Hughes and Ferett (2008) explained another types of physical hazards called falls from height.

The machines increase the noise level of the construction site. Vehicles such as cranes, and also the machines or equipment such as rivet guns, nail guns and pneumatic hammers are the sources of noise in the construction site. The construction process, for example, demolition works also creates very loud noise level. The construction workers at high risk are sheet metal duct installers, drillers and air hammer operators. The person who operates a noise-making machine may suffer hearing loss (Weeks, 1998). According to the surveys prepared by OSHA in year 2000, exposure to excessive noise in a long period can lead to hearing damage. Difficulties in speech communication may occur, therefore increase the risk of accidents in construction site because high noise level can distract concentration.

Most of the construction works are carried out under the hot sun by the construction workers. The workers are expose to the sun, thus they are receiving heavy radiant and convective heat loads when they are working. Heavy equipment operators have to sit beside the hot machine and work in a small cab with poor ventilation. Although these heavy equipment operators no need to expose to the sun, but they are also expose to heat because they are sitting beside the hot machine. The problem may be serious when these heavy equipment operators are work in the enclosed area with strong heat source and high humidity. Paving, surfacing and tamping equipment operators are the workers at high risk (Weeks, 1998). According to the surveys prepared by OSHA in year 2000, exposure to excessive heat in a long period may cause heat rashes, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

The most common types of radiation are ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the hot sun and electric arc. Exposure to ionizing radiation is less common in construction site and it is used for detecting weakness of metal structure. Based on the explanation from OSHA, exposure to excessive ionizing radiation may increase the risk of cancer and genetic disease.

Moreover, construction workers are exposing to vibrations by pneumatic hammers, hand tools and other large mobile machines. The workers at high risk are air hammer, pile driving and grader operators (Weeks, 1998). Vibration may cause carpal tunnel syndrome, which the disease affects the fingers and hands. Exposure to excessive vibration in a long period may cause damages to the nerves that result in loss of the sense of touch and dexterity (Hudges and Ferrett, 2008).

The most serious accidents that usually happen in the construction site are falls from height. According to the surveys prepared by OSHA in year 2004, fall hazards include falls from scaffolding, ladders and stairways. Based on the explanation from ILO, scaffolding is a temporary structure to support one or more platforms in the construction site. Fall hazards may occur when the scaffolding is not properly used or unstable. On the other hand, slips, trips and falls from ladder and stairways are the major causes of injuries and fatalities in the construction site. Roofers and structural metal installers are the construction workers at high risk (Weeks, 1998).

2.2.3 Biological hazards

Previous studies have identified the types of biological hazards, which are animals and harmful micro-organism, for example, fungus (Weeks, 1998; Gallant, 2006; Dhaar and Robanni, 2008; Merson, et al., 2006). Sewer workers may affect by disease called Leptospirosis, who comes in contact with water-contaminated with the urine of infected animals such as cats, dogs and rats. The symptoms of Leptospirosis are fever, headache and vomit. A fungus that grows on soil that rich in organic matter can cause infection of the lung, which is known as Histoplasmosis for the excavation workers. The symptoms of Histoplasmosis are fever, cough and chest pain (Dhaar and Robanni, 2008).

Factors of Accidents Occur in Construction Site

A number of studies found the common factors that cause accidents in the construction site. These factors are include: Lack of proper training, deficient enforcement of safety, safe equipment not provided, unsafe methods or sequencing, unsafe site conditions, not using provided safety equipment, poor attitude toward safety and isolated accidents (Toole, 2002; Orlow, 2011; Bush, 1975; Lubega et al., 2000). Other factors which are identified by Orlow (2011) are failure to abide current building codes, improperly maintained construction equipment and handled substances, outdated construction equipment, lack of oversight and inspection, whilst Bush also identified another factors include lack of interest, impairment of functions and fatigue.

A construction worker may not able to identify and avoid all the occupational hazards that he or she will face in the construction site, if he or she has not been trained before. For example, a new worker without being trained on the proper use of the fall restraint system is sent up to work on the roof of the building (Toole, 2002). As a result, fall hazards occur. This is because the worker is lack of proper safety training thus cause tragedy happens. Workers may not aware the dangers when they are working with some materials or equipment if the workers does not undergo any proper safety training (Orlow, 2011).

The construction workers are deficient enforcement of safety because they do not follow the proper methods to minimize the occupational hazards in the construction site. For example, a worker does not use the fall restraint system which has provided to him when working on the roof, but the foreman just ignores the worker's behaviour. The worker's supervisor, or other individual with safety oversight responsibilities, know the methods for preventing and avoiding hazards are not follow by the worker, but they neglected and ignored the problems to enforce safety standards on the worker (Toole, 2002). The workers have to follow the safety guidelines that prepared by OSHA in the construction site to avoid the accidents happen on them. But, the employer always ignores the importance of safety and often sacrificed it for the profit of the building (Orlow, 2011).

On the other hand, the safety equipment is not provided for the construction workers when they are working in the construction site. Lack of proper safety equipment can lead to accidents happen in the construction site. For example, the fall restraint systems are not provided for the worker when they want to carry out their works on the roof. Risk of fall hazards may occur on the worker without the fall restraint system. This is because the proper safety equipment is not provided for the worker to minimize the occupational hazards in the construction site.

Besides, accidents happen when a task is performed in the sequence of construction that is unsafe. For example, the Contractor insists that the construction workers have to start framing before the foundation is properly backfilled. Therefore, the construction works is more dangerous because the sequence of the construction works is not followed properly and the procedure is not match with the actual site conditions.

The chances of the accidents in the construction site are higher when the construction workers are working in unsafe site conditions. Poor site conditions include poor housekeeping, slippery surfaces and atmospheric conditions in the construction site. Thus, poor site condition is more dangerous and hazardous than other typical constriction sites.

Furthermore, the construction workers are not using or not properly using the safety equipment provided for them. For example, the workers who has been trained and experienced refuse to use the appropriate fall restraint system that provided for them (Toole, 2002). They are taking risk to prove they still can continue their works without using the safety equipment (Bush, 1975). As a result, fall hazards may occur, even though how experienced is the workers. The workers think they are experienced enough and can work without using safety equipment. Therefore, accidents occur because the workers are poor attitude toward safety. For example, the workers who has been trained and experienced refuse to face the ladder when walking down from a higher place. Accidents may happen if the workers did not use the ladder in properly manner. This is because they did not prevent and avoid the occupational hazards due to a "tough-guy" mentality and they think that using the safety equipment will slow down the work progress.

Some accidents occur in the construction site are considered as isolated accidents, which means that the accidents occur with no one individual or organization at fault. Accidents cannot be predicted and foreseen. Sometimes the experienced construction workers suddenly perform an unsafe act due to lack of oversight or familiarity, impairment of functions, fatigue and inattention with their works. For example, a carpenter striking his thumb while hammering a nail (Toole, 2002). Some experienced workers may forget some important steps when they are carry out their tasks. Some of the construction tasks are dangerous compare than others. As a result, it may lead to accidents happen in the construction site due to lack of oversight (Orlow, 2011). Some of the workers insist to work in the construction site although they are sick or ill. Usually the human minds and bodies cannot function normally when sick or ill. It will affect the sense of balance and brains while working. Therefore, accident may happen if the experienced workers do not want to rest at home but still continue their tasks in the construction site. Excessive works gives stress for the workers. They have to rest for a period but not work continuously. If the workers did not rest well, it may lead to accidents happen in the construction site. Some of the workers are working in emotional condition, thus their attention will be diverted. Accidents may fall on the experienced workers if they are listening to radios or having conversation with other workers because they are not aware of their safety while working (Bush, 1975).

Some of the buildings fail to abide the building codes by using the defective materials, faulty designs of the building and lack of inspection that can cause structural accidents. Serious injuries can cause on construction workers when there is the collapse of walls, floors and roofs of the buildings. Moreover, improperly maintained the construction equipment and handled harmful chemical substances can lead to accidents happen. The workers will injure when there is any objects falling from heights when the construction equipment is not stored properly. The harmful chemical substances have to be stored properly because the substance is dangerous and may affect the worker's skin or body. On the other hand, outdated construction equipment is one of the factors that cause accidents because the employer and other parties refuse to update the current equipment in order to cut the costs to earn more profit. This may increase the risk of accidents on the workers (Orlow, 2011).

Research Gap

In this chapter, the objectives of this research project are not fully achieved. Objective 1 is achieved and the types of occupational hazards have been identified. Objective 2 cannot be fully achieved in this chapter because the accidents occur are depends on the situation and circumstances of the construction site, therefore the accidents can be many ways to saying the factors of the accident. Once the factors are not clearly identified, objective 3 cannot be achieved in this chapter because the methods for health and safety improvement in construction site is determined and identified based on the factors of the accidents in Objective 2. So, the research methodology for the objective 2 and 3 has to be carried out in Chapter 3.


The types of the occupational hazards can be classified in 3 types: Chemical hazards, physical hazards and biological hazards. Chemical hazards are including dusts, fumes, vapours, gases and other chemical substances which are harmful to the human skin. The common types of physical hazards are noise, heat, radiation, vibration and falls from height.

Besides, the factors of the accidents in the construction site are identified by numerous researches. The factors are including lack of proper training, deficient enforcement of safety, safe equipment not provided, not using provided safety equipment, and other factors.