Work and hazards in construction

The construction industry employs about 10% of all employees in Australia. About 8% of employed young people work in the construction industry.

There are several sub-sectors in the construction industry:

  • domestic housing construction
  • commercial and civil construction
  • trade services.

The industry has a high proportion of small employers and self employed workers and the use of sub-contractors is very widespread.

There are many jobs that young workers can do in the construction industry including:

  • plumber
  • electrician
  • carpenter
  • builder's labourer
  • bricklayer.

The most common hazards in the construction industry are:

  • lifting and pushing - eg.handling heavy or awkward sized objects
  • slips, trips, falls - eg. slipping on a wet surface or falling from a ladder
  • using hand tools such as power tools, saws, shovels and crow bars
  • noise from machinery such as concrete cutters, drills and saws
  • atmospheric contaminants such as dust, synthetic mineral fibres and asbestos.

The chance that these hazards will result in an injury for young workers is higher when they are combined with risk factors such as:

  • lack of supervision
  • lack of training
  • working alone
  • being uninformed about their rights
  • trying to impress the boss, supervisor or co-workers.
  • temporary employment.

When hazards are combined with risk factors (these are called dangerous combinations) the chance of injury, and the possible seriousness of the injury, increases.

A dangerous combination in construction - an example

Nikos has recently finished his apprenticeship as a carpenter. He has just started to work for a new boss and wants to show the boss he is keen and resourceful. The job he is doing is a renovation on an old house and he is mainly working alone. There is asbestos on the site. Nikos hasn't had asbestos specific training and doesn't recognise or know how to manage the risk. As a result, his risk of injury or illness is dramatically increased.

Want to know more?

Check out some of the resources about the construction industry in the Resource centre.