No matter where you are in the world, construction sites are dangerous. Worldwide, one construction site worker is killed every 10 minutes. In industrialised nations, up to 40% of work-related deaths occur on constructions sites.

In South Africa, where health and safety compliance lags behind the international community, the construction industry has the third highest fatality rate, after the fishing and transportation sectors. 

Inadequate health & safety training

On average, 20 people per 100 000 die on construction sites in South Africa each year. A lack of health and safety training may be partly to blame. 

According to the Construction Industry Development Board (cidb), 18% of site supervisors, and a third of construction site workers, have not received adequate health and safety training.

Working around moving vehicles and equipment

Nearly half the construction site fatalities in South Africa occur when a worker is struck by a vehicle or moving object.

Heavy equipment – including motor graders, overhead lifting equipment, dump trucks and supply vehicles – may operate around the clock to clear areas for construction. Scaffolding is erected, and materials are moved from A to B.

In short, a construction site is often a hive of activity. With so much going on, accidents are more likely to happen. 

Preventative measures

Management can help prevent these sorts of accidents by conducting a comprehensive risk assessment of a site and carefully coordinating day-to-day activities.

Also, high-visibility clothing should be mandatory and training should alert workers not to position themselves between any moving object and a fixed one.  

Working at elevated heights

In South Africa, 14% of fatalities are caused by falls from elevated heights. By its nature, construction requires bricklayers and other workers to operate at the same height as the progress of the building.

Accidents occur when scaffolding hasn’t been erected properly, ladders are incorrectly used or workers simply slip or trip and fall. 

Preventative measures

To prevent height-related fatalities, workers should use fall arrest equipment and systems, including safety harnesses, helmets and safe lines. Perimeter protection should be installed and maintained, and workers properly trained to use scaffolding and ladders in a safe and responsible manner.

Collapsing trenches

Each year, dozens of construction workers are killed by collapsing trenches and partially built walls. Predicting this sort of failure is extremely difficult, so awareness is key.

Preventative measures

Trenches and excavations that are one metre or more in depth should be protected by a trench shield system, such as sloping, shoring or benching. It’s also up the site manager to ensure workers never enter an unprotected excavation or trench. 


Construction sites are noisy environments. Excessive and repetitive noise can lead to permanent hearing loss. A Canadian study that measured the hearing of 5,000 construction workers in the mid-1980s found that nearly half had noise-induced hearing loss.

Bear in mind that this type of hearing loss doesn’t happen all at once – it occurs gradually, over a period of time. 

Preventative measures

Standard ear plugs are not effective at curbing hearing loss on busy construction sites. Instead there’s a need for industrial hearing protection complemented by noise controls that limit noise exposure.

You can also prevent construction-related fatalities and accidents by using only the best machines and equipment. At KH Plant, we restore Caterpillar 140G, 140H and 140K motor graders to as-new condition, ensuring you get the benefits (and safety) of a new grader at a fraction of the cost of a new machine.

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