About 36 people are injured on construction sites daily

Figures released by the Federated Employers Mutual Assurance Company (FEM) show an alarming number of injuries in the construction industry. FEM is one of two organisations providing workmen’s compensation for the construction industry.

Typical fold up ladder/scaffolding, Image credit: Adendorff

Typical fold up ladder/scaffolding, Image credit: Adendorff

“The figures relate to employers who are insured by FEM, meaning that the figure could be higher, considering that injuries are likely to occur in the informal construction sector as well,” explained FEM CEO, Ndivhuwo Manyonga.

On average, about 36 people are injured on construction sites daily. In total, for the period 2015 to 2021, there were 54,964 injuries requiring medical attention. Two of the major types of injuries sustained on construction sites were ‘falling to different levels‘ and ‘struck by’. These are standard statistical reporting categories used to record and report incidents both nationally and internationally.

Over the 2015 to 2021 period, of the 54,964 injuries that required medical attention, a total of 5,842 ‘falling to different levels’ cases were recorded, and 18,165 ‘struck by’ cases, accounting for 44% of all accidents and 35% of fatal accidents (extracted March 2022).

In addition, the two incident types accounted for 120 out of 243 people becoming permanently disabled, representing 5% of total disabilities during that period. The medical costs attributed to these two types of injuries totalled over R1 billion or 44% of the total cost of injuries between 2015 and 2021.

In the 24 months to Dec 2021, extracted in March 2022, the top four accident categories were ‘struck by’ with 4,032 incidents; ‘slip or over-exertion’ 1,743; ‘striking against’ 1,484; and ‘motor vehicle accidents’ 1,086. ‘Inhalation’ would have been in fourth position but was excluded due to COVID cases. These figures, in most cases, align with international trends, FEM said.

The average cumulative cost for these four causes exceeds R217 000. The injury with the highest average cost was ‘contact with temperature extremes’ at R136 000 per injury average.

Falling to different levels: This definition typically describes an incident in which a person falls while working in an elevated position, such as from a ladder or a scaffold.

Struck by: This definition captures a number of different types of incidents. For instance, a person struck by a motor vehicle while working next to a public road would be classified as a ‘struck by’, as the person was struck by a moving vehicle. Other typical examples of ‘struck by’ injuries would include a brick or timber boards falling on someone.

Ms Manyonga explained that training needs to be intensified regarding safety protocols and processes. “Employees are required to hold their employers accountable when these processes are not adhered to, and vice versa. By doing this, employers who are neglecting health and safety processes can be reported to the Department of Employment and Labour inspectors.”

“Stringent measures also need to be put in place to reduce the number of injuries sustained onsite. This can be achieved by creating a safe working environment and ensuring that employees receive proper training.”

“To lower the level of onsite accidents, employers must also ensure that their workforce is constantly trained on issues relating to health and safety. FEM provides its members with this requisite training if required,” she concluded.