Construction sites are one of the most dangerous workplaces, not only for employees but also for visitors and passers-by. In the UK, there is an average of 36 fatalities to workers and five to members of the public on building sites each year (see HSE).
Furthermore, around 135,000 workers suffer an illness or non-fatal construction site injury each year. Employers must take all reasonable measures dictated by the Health and Safety Executive and other relevant legislation to ensure all employees are safe at work.
Most building site accidents are caused by either slips, trips and falls, being struck by an object or manual handling accidents. Appropriate training, risk assessments, maintenance and personal protective equipment are essential to improve the health, safety and well-being of employees.
If employers fail to follow the health and safety guidelines, building site hazards can cause severe injuries to workers. These could range from minor sprains and strains to complex fractures and traumatic brain injuries. In the most unfortunate cases, construction site accidents can be fatal.
If you or a loved one suffered an injury at work, you might be able to make a building site accident claim. You could receive compensation for your pain, suffering and any financial losses you incurred due to your accident.
Can I make a building site accident claim?
If you had a construction site accident that you believe was not your fault, you might be entitled to compensation. Usually, you could make a building site accident claim if you had an accident or learned about a work-related condition in the last three years and:
- Your employer or another party owed you a duty of care
- They breached their duty towards you by acting negligently
- Their negligence caused you to suffer an injury
You should contact a personal injury solicitor as soon as possible after an accident. They will use various legislations such as The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 to prove that your employer or another party is liable for your injury.
To determine who might be responsible for your injuries, your solicitor may ask you if your employer:
- Carries out regular risk assessments at the construction site
- Provided you with proper personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Gave you training and instructions on how to use the available tools and machinery
- Has implemented procedures for cleaning spillages and waste disposal
- Has scheduled regular equipment maintenance
If your employer failed to carry out any of their obligations, resulting in you suffering an injury, you might be able to make a construction site accident claim. To build a strong case and prove your claim, you will need relevant evidence such as:
- Medical records of your injuries and the treatments you received
- Photographs of the accident scene and your injuries
- Contact details of any witnesses to the accident
- A copy of the accident report you should file as soon as possible after an injury
- Contact detail of the person you reported the accident to
- The address of the building site
- Your notes regarding the date, time and circumstances of the accident
- Records of the training you received to do your job
- Evidence of the financial losses you incurred due to the accident
After preparing all the required documents, your solicitor will send a letter of claim to the liable party, informing them of your allegations of negligence. If they accept responsibility, you can begin to negotiate a settlement. Otherwise, you might have to argue your case before a judge (although this is extremely rare).
What are common causes of accidents on building sites?
According to the Health and Safety Executive, most accidents on construction sites occur due to:
- Falls from a height
- Slips, trips and falls on the same level
- Getting trapped by something collapsing or overturning
- Getting struck by a moving vehicle or falling object
- Coming into contact with moving machinery
- Handling, lifting or carrying a load
There are many reasons why a building site accident could happen. Your employer must identify any possible hazards and make sure you are safe at work. Common examples of negligence leading to a construction site injury include:
Lack of appropriate risk assessments
Regular risk assessments are essential to identify potential dangers to the health and safety of workers. A risk is any hazard that could cause employees an illness or injury. After evaluating a hazard, employers must take all reasonable measures to eliminate or control the risk.
Lack of training
Appropriate training is essential to creating a safe working environment. It ensures that employees are aware of the risk involved in their job and know how to minimise them. Lack of proper training significantly increases the risk of construction site accidents and may entitle you to make a building site accident claim.
Poor working conditions
Building materials and equipment left in walkways, wet and uneven surfaces, trailing cables and missing handrails are just some hazards that could cause a slip, trip and fall. Employers have a duty to identify safety risks and take all reasonable measures to contain them. Weather and environmental conditions like high noise levels, hot or cold weather, rain or wind can cause a wide range of health problems on building sites if they are not properly managed.
Poor electrical safety
Employers must take all necessary precautions against the risk of injury or death from electrocution. All electrical equipment must be safe and adequately maintained. Any work near electric power lines needs to be carefully planned and carried out. Electrical work should only be carried out by a competent authorised individual wearing the proper PPE.
Working on a building site while tired can be dangerous, especially when operating heavy machinery or working at a height. Regular and constant exposure to hand-arm vibrating machinery could also have severe repercussions. By law, your employer should provide regular breaks of at least ten minutes an hour when working with vibrating machinery.
Repetitive work and awkward body postures
The effects may not become immediately apparent, but, over time, they can lead to repetitive strain injuries (RSI). Repeating the same motions or working in an uncomfortable position puts stress on muscles, tendons and joints. This may cause constant pain and discomfort and significantly affect your daily life for many years to come.
Under the PUWER equipment regulations, your employer must check that equipment is suitable and safe for its intended use. They should carry out regular inspections and replace any faulty equipment, as even a minor defect could be dangerous. The construction site equipment includes scaffolding, ladders and safety harnesses.
Employers and contractors must ensure that all machinery provided to workers is safe and well-maintained, even when supplied by another party. Employees must receive the proper training and instructions before operating heavy machinery such as forklifts. Machinery accidents include entrapments, contact injuries, crushes or impact accidents. Harmful emissions, vibrations and noise can also cause long-term health problems to workers.
Poor manual handling practices
The Health and Safety Executive provides clear manual handling guidelines to avoid injury while lifting, carrying or handling heavy loads. When these rules are not followed, you could suffer severe damage to muscles, tendons and ligaments. Typical areas of the body affected by manual handling injuries include the neck, back and shoulders.
Lack of personal protective equipment (PPE)
According to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022, employers must provide free PPE to all workers, even those who are self-employed. This includes gloves, safety helmets, masks, goggles, safety harnesses and ear defenders. The protective equipment can make the difference between a minor and a severe injury.
Exposure to dangerous substances
Coming into contact with chemicals or irritants such as carbon monoxide or asbestos can have devastating health consequences. It is essential to identify potential risks and take the appropriate measures to contain them.
If another party was responsible for your accident, you might be eligible for compensation. To find out if you have a valid building site accident claim, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with an experienced legal adviser.
What are the most common construction site injuries?
According to the Health and Safety Executive, around 64,000 construction workers suffer a non-fatal injury at work each year in the UK. Between 2018 and 2021, 74,000 workers suffered from work-related illnesses. The most common injuries leading to a building site accident claim include:
Musculoskeletal disorders make up around 54% of all work-related ill health cases. Most injuries are mild sprains and strains caused by manual handling or slips and trips. Other injuries often occur due to constant wear and tear and repetitive strain. Common conditions include tendonitis, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and vibration white finger.
Stress, depression or anxiety was reported in 27% of all ill health cases in the construction sector. Construction work often involves working long hours, tight contracts and time away from family.
According to the Office for National Statistics, more than 1,400 construction workers committed suicide between 2011 and 2017 in the UK. Employers should implement mental health awareness and support to workers.
The remaining 18% of work-related illnesses include occupational asthma, pulmonary diseases and occupational cancer. Asbestos exposure is also commonplace on building sites. It may take decades to develop an asbestos-related disease such as asbestosis, but you should be able to make a claim if you were negligently exposed to the dangerous mineral in the past.
Non-fatal injuries are mostly caused by slips, trips and falls on the same level or from a height. Manual handling and being struck by an object are also among the most common causes of injuries on construction sites. Injuries range from minor to extremely severe and include:
Cuts and lacerations could be caused by coming into contact with sharp objects or by impact trauma after a fall. Due to the environmental conditions, even a minor cut could get infected if not properly cleaned and treated. Severe lacerations could cause damage to the underlying structures and may require immediate medical attention.
Bruises and abrasions, commonly known as contusions, are blood vessel lesions caused by trauma. The damage could be at the skin, muscle and even bone level. While minor contusions are usually not dangerous, severe damage can lead to other life-threatening conditions.
Burns and scalds could be caused by hot surfaces, flammable liquids, welding equipment and electric shocks. Severe burn injuries are potentially life-changing injuries and a medical emergency. Aside from physical pain, they may cause psychological trauma, organ damage, scarring and bodily disfigurement.
Sprains and strains are usually caused by slips and trips or lifting heavy objects without the proper training or equipment. If the damage to the muscles, ligaments or tendons is minor, it may heal within two weeks without medical intervention. But severe sprains and strains could take months to recover from and even need surgical repair.
Eye and hearing injuries due to environmental hazards. Without proper protection, the eyes are exposed to splinters, tiny pieces of metal, dust, grit and chemicals that could cause a severe eye injury and even blindness. The excessive noise caused by heavy machinery and other equipment on a construction site could also cause irreversible hearing damage.
Fractures and dislocations are common injuries caused by falls, being struck by a vehicle or object and other impact trauma. Severe and complex fractures usually require surgery and an extensive recovery period. Overuse and repetitive motions may also lead to stress fractures, which can take up to several months to heal fully.
Back injuries can be very painful and require an extended recovery period. Mild injuries include pulling or twisting a muscle or tendon in your back from falling or lifting a heavy object. More severe injuries may be caused by falls from a height, such as falling from scaffolding or a ladder. They can also be caused by being struck by an object such as a forklift truck or falling debris. These injuries may include slipped disks and spinal fractures. If an accident causes damage to the spinal cord, this may have permanent debilitating consequences.
Head injuries range from minor bumps or bruises to severe skull fractures and brain injuries. Concussions are the most common type of head injury and may be caused by falling over or being struck by an object. While concussions are temporary, more severe injuries may have devastating long-term consequences. Construction site workers should always wear appropriate PPE, such as hard hats, to prevent severe brain injuries.
Amputations are very traumatic injuries that could be caused by machinery accidents, crushing injuries and even electrical shocks. Workers may suffer an immediate amputation on the job or damage so severe that the injured body part cannot be saved and has to be surgically amputated.
Fatal injuries in construction are around four times higher than the all-industry rate. In 2020/21, there were 39 fatal construction site injuries to workers and four to members of the public. Half of all casualties are caused by falls from a height. Other causes include being trapped under a collapsing or overturning object or struck by a falling object or moving vehicle.
If you suffered any kind of injury without being at fault, you might be able to make a building site accident claim. You can find out if you have a valid case by calling 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser.
Who is responsible for construction site accidents?
All construction workers have the right to feel safe and protected while working on a building site. Employers and main contractors are the primary responsible parties for the health and safety of employees. They should keep workers safe by adhering to the guidelines and regulations dictated by legislation, such as:
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – sets out the general duties of employers to protect the health, safety and well-being of their employees, including:
- Supply and maintain safe equipment and machinery
- Provide adequate information, training and supervision
- Make sure that all objects and substances are safely handled, transported and stored
- Consult with employees and employee representatives on health and safety issues
- Provide a safe working environment that is adequately maintained
- Provide suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) when necessary
- Make sure contractors have the skill, knowledge and training to safely complete the job
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 – covers the health and safety management when carrying out construction projects. According to the CDM, employers should:
- Carry out regular risks assessments and make sure hazards are managed from start to finish
- Provide welfare facilities to workers
- Make sure to hire suitably skilled and qualified workers for the job
- Communicate with workers about the risks and how they are being managed
- Provide suitable and sufficient safe access to and from a construction site
- Make sure workers have the required training to handle heavy machinery and vehicles
The Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations Act 1996 – impose requirements regarding the health, safety and welfare of persons carrying out construction work, such as:
- Prevent falls from a height by taking physical precautions or providing protective equipment
- Make sure to prevent falls through fragile materials
- Take the necessary steps to prevent materials or objects from falling
- Make sure the scaffolding is erected under the supervision of a competent person
- Identify and prevent the risk of ground collapse in and above excavations
- Ensure that both pedestrians and vehicles can move safely and without risk
- Make arrangements for dealing with emergencies and evacuating the site
- Ensure enough fresh or purified air is available to all workers
- Ensure a reasonable working temperature and sufficient lighting
Besides the employer and main contractor, other parties like the site manager, designer or construction regulations coordinator might be liable for a construction site injury. Because of the many parties that could be at fault for an accident, there must always be a thorough investigation before making a claim.
If you believe your construction site accident was due to another party’s negligence, you should contact a personal injury solicitor to assess your options. For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410 or enter your details to receive a call back. They can let you know if you have a valid claim and help establish liability.
Can I still claim if I am a self-employed construction worker?
Construction workers and contractors are often self-employed, and construction companies will often have many self-employed electricians, plumbers and other workers in charge of different projects. After signing a contract with a company for a short term or long term job, you essentially become an employee of that company.
While you may be classed as self-employed for tax purposes, you are treated as an employee for the purposes of making a building site accident claim. Your benefits and rights might be different from those of a full-time employee, but you are entitled to the same health and safety protection.
While working on a construction site as self-employed, your workplace rights are still covered by the Health and Safety Act 1974. If the company you work for directs your work or provides you with machinery and equipment, it is their responsibility to keep you safe.
Your employer must provide you with personal protective equipment (PPE) and adequate training and make sure the machinery and equipment you use are not defective. If you suffer an injury while doing work for a company and you can prove they breached the health and safety rules, you could still have a valid accident claim.
Can I claim if I was injured while visiting a building site?
Construction sites are dangerous places not only for the workers but also for occasional visitors or passers-by. According to The Occupiers Liability Act 1957, the building site owner must keep their property safe and free from hazards.
Although most victims of construction site accidents are employees or contractors, injuries to visitors are also fairly commonplace. Employers have a duty to maintain the safety of construction sites not only for workers but also for visitors. Otherwise, they might be liable for compensation in a building site accident claim.
Employers should conduct regular risk assessments to identify and control potential hazards. The main areas of concern for visitor construction site safety include:
Falling objects – including equipment, scaffolding or materials. Employers must install scaffolding netting and chutes to manage falling objects or debris. Additionally, all visitors must be provided with the correct PPE.
Openings and holes – these should be properly fenced off and guarded, and warning signs should indicate the danger to visitors.
Trespassing – to discourage trespassing, employers should increase security around construction sites. This could involve CCTV cameras and alarms, safety barriers and anti-climbing fencing.
Slips, trips, and falls – these types of accidents can be due to scaffolding blocking pedestrian walkways, spillages, debris, or equipment carelessly left about.
Vehicle accidents – heavy lifting equipment, cranes or forklifts could cause severe damage by coming into contact with a visitor, pedestrian or another road user. It is essential to have portable signs to manage traffic flow.
Dangerous materials – include heavy building materials, sharp objects, wires, flammable materials and other hazards that could cause injuries to visitors. These materials need to be carefully handled and properly disposed of. Exposure to dangerous materials can cause long-term illnesses and can even be fatal.
Noise and dust – may be difficult to avoid, but employers should closely follow the relevant regulations to control noise and dust levels to minimise the potential impact.
Many hazards have the potential to injure visitors or members of the public. Children may be particularly drawn to construction sites as they might seem like a fun place to play. As a result of this, there are some specific steps relevant to keeping children safe and away from dangers:
- Secure the site when finishing a workday
- Cover or confine any pits or excavations
- Isolate or immobilise vehicles
- Store building materials so they cannot roll over or topple
- Remove any access ladders form scaffolds
- Lock away hazardous substances
If you or your child suffered an injury while visiting or passing by a building site, you might be able to make a building site accident claim. To find out if you are eligible for compensation, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser.
How long do I have to claim for a building site accident?
If you had a construction site accident or learned of a related condition that developed over time, you should contact a personal injury solicitor as soon as possible. Generally, there is a three-year time limit to bring a claim, either from when the accident occurred or the date you became aware of your injury or illness.
However, the sooner you speak to a solicitor, the easier it will be to gather evidence and build a strong claim. This could take a few months or more, according to each unique situation. You should not wait until the last moment to seek legal advice, as most solicitors will not take on a case with less than six months left to claim.
Usually, if you do not apply to the court within the time limit, your case becomes time-barred, and you can no longer pursue compensation. Under the Limitation Act 1980, a judge may, however, allow you to proceed with the claim in exceptional circumstances, depending on:
- The length and reason for your delay
- The conduct of the defendant
- How the delay will affect the strength of evidence
- The steps you took when you found out you could claim
There are a few exceptions to the three-year limitation date to make a building site accident claim, such as:
- If a victim was under 18 when they were injured, the three-year countdown starts on their 18th birthday. A litigation friend (usually a parent or guardian) could claim compensation on their behalf at any point before that, regardless of when the accident occurred.
- Another scenario is where a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury or another severe injury, causing them to lose the mental capacity to claim. In this case, there is no time limit for a litigation friend to make a construction site accident claim on their behalf. The three-year time limit would begin if the victim recovers from their disability.
- You could also claim compensation if you suffered a construction site injury while working abroad. The limitation date to bring a claim can vary significantly between countries, so you should seek legal advice as soon as possible after an accident.
- If a loved one suffered a fatal injury in a building site accident, a close family member could claim compensation within three years after they passed away.
To start your claim, call 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury solicitor. Alternatively, you can request a call back by entering your details into our simple online claim form.
How much compensation can I claim for a building site injury?
The amount of compensation awarded in a building site accident claim varies from case to case, depending on:
- The accident circumstances
- The type and severity of the victim’s injuries
- The long-term or permanent effects of the injuries
- The impact it had on the life of the victim and their family
- Any out of pocket expenses or financial losses incurred after the accident
If you had a construction site accident, your solicitor will consider every aspect in which it affected your life and the lives of your loved ones. They will calculate a suitable compensation award which will cover:
Special damages for financial losses and expenses such as:
- Short-term medical expenses for surgery, treatments and hospital stays
- Long-term medical expenses for rehabilitation, medication and other interventions
- Private care costs
- Cost of mobility aids or prostheses
- Travel costs to and from medical appointments
- Costs or care and assistance with daily tasks, even if provided by friends or family
- Loss of wages and earning capacity
- Any modifications to your home or vehicle to accommodate your disability
- Any other related financial expenses you incurred
General damages for physical and psychological trauma and lifestyle changes:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and psychological trauma
- Loss of consortium or companionship
- Reduced quality of life or life expectancy
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Physical and mental disability
- Loss of prospects
- Loss of amenities such as the ability to pursue a hobby or leisure activity
The Judicial College Guidelines recommend compensation awards for each type of injury you could suffer in an accident. Their figures refer only to general damages; compensation for special damages is awarded by summing up all the financial losses you can account for. According to the Judicial Board, you could get:
- Up to £6,870 for minor cuts and lacerations with no long-term effects
- Up to £18,000 for bodily scarring
- Up to £91,350 for very severe facial scarring
- £4,240 to £10,040 for breathing in harmful fumes
- £2,390 to £30,630 for vibration white finger
- £18,020 to £281,520 for arm injuries ranging from simple fractures to amputations
- £3,370 to £111,690 for hip and pelvis injuries
- £2,090 to £151,070 for back injuries, with the upper bracket involving severe spinal damage
- £7,780 to £240,590 for leg injuries ranging from sprains and strains to complete amputations
- £2,070 to £40,410 for minor to moderate head injuries with overall good recovery
- £40,410 to £379,100 for moderate head injuries to severe brain damage, leaving the victim unresponsive
How much will it cost to make a building site accident claim?
If you have a valid building site accident claim, it may not cost you anything to start legal proceedings. A free initial consultation with your solicitor will help them understand the circumstances of your accident and who might be responsible for your injuries.
If they believe there is a fair chance to receive compensation, they will offer you a no win no fee agreement. Therefore, your solicitor will take on your case without asking for any upfront fees, and you will only have to pay them if your case is successful.
Furthermore, you do not have to worry about any legal charges. No win no fee claims usually involve an After the Event (ATE) insurance policy that your solicitor will take out in your name. The ATE insurance covers the legal costs and expenses involved in claiming.
If your case is unsuccessful, the insurance policy will cover:
- your legal costs
- the legal costs of the defendant
- the defendant’s solicitor fees
- barrister and expert witness fees
- police and medical reports
The ATE insurance removes the financial risk of making a construction site accident claim. Otherwise, you would have to pay the defendant’s legal costs and any other fees incurred during the claiming process. By making a no win no fee claim, you will not be left with any out of pocket expenses, and there are no hidden charges.
If your claim is successful, the defendant will have to pay most of your legal fees. You will only have to cover some expenses, which will be deducted from your compensation award:
- some basic legal fees that cannot be recovered from the defendant
- the cost of the ATE insurance premium
- a success fee to your solicitor
The success fee covers the time and effort your solicitor put into winning the case and the risk they took by offering you a no win no fee service. It cannot exceed 25% of the compensation for general damages and past financial losses, and you will agree to it before starting legal proceedings.
No win no fee is the preferred way of making a construction site injury claim. It involves no upfront fees or legal costs, and you do not have to pay anything if your case is unsuccessful.