Critical Risks | What they are and what you need to know

Critical Risks | What they are and what you need to know

During Construction Safety Month, you might have heard a lot about ‘Critical Risks’ in the context of the construction industry. We are reminded of the importance of knowing your critical risks, having adequate controls in place to manage these risks and making sure that colleagues are aware of these risks. In our latest blog, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the most common critical risks. 

Safe Access & Egress 

One of the cornerstones of ensuring safe access and egress is to plan accordingly during the planning process, and not only if – and when – an issue arises. Some key elements to be aware of are to ensure that work areas are large enough to be safe and have adequate stability, ventilation, fresh air, temperatures and lighting. Both pedestrians, vehicles and machinery should be able to circulate safely and traffic routes including entrances and exits should be kept clear. 

All access areas must be kept safe and clear of debris – these including roofs, doors, gates, loading bays and ramps, for example. Any hazards that are present – such as holes – should be barricaded or covered, and a suitable means of access and egress – such as a ramp or stair – should be in place. 

Safe Control of Hazardous Energies 

Overground wires, underground cables and gas & water pipelines are some of the most common construction hazards, and they have the potential to cause serious damage and injury if not properly attended to. Contractors are responsible for managing and mitigating these risks. A competent person should review site records and utility drawings well in advance of works taking place in order to identify these risks, and liaise with the respective utility providers accordingly. 

Safe Use of Mobile Equipment

Vehicles and Mobile Plant is regarded as the greatest risk to pedestrians. With substantial blind spots on dozers, wheeled loading shovels and excavators, workers are at great risk of being hit or run over if they are in the operator’s blind spot. 

The employer or person in control of the workplace must carry out a risk assessment of workplace transport hazards, including an evaluation and assessment of the vehicles and mobile work equipment that are in use in the workplace. Pedestrian activity within the operational area should also be restricted. 

Safe Working at Height 

Working at height is the most common cause of fatalities in the construction industry. Some of the most dangerous falls occur at relatively small heights of 2 to 3 metres. Roof work, in particular, is a high-risk activity. Falls through fragile roofs and fragile roof lights are a common cause of serious injury. Before working at height, there are some simple steps you should consider: 

  1. Avoid working at height if it is reasonably practicable to do so;
  2. Where the work cannot be avoided, prevent falls using either an existing place of work that is already safe, or using appropriate equipment;
  3. Where the risk cannot be eliminated, minimise the distance and consequences of a fall by using the right type of equipment. 


All work at height must be thoroughly planned, risk assessed and organised to avoid, or at the very least reduce, the risks as low as reasonably practicable. The HSA advise that those in charge of the work: 

  • Carry out risk assessments and ensure that all work is planned, organised and undertaken by a competent person; 
  • Follow the ‘General Principles of Prevention’ for managing risks form works at height, taking steps to avoid, prevent or reduce risks; 
  • Choose appropriate equipment and prioritise collective measures to prevent falls, such as guard rails, before other measures which may only reduce the distance or consequences of a fall.

Safety by Example

Leadership is essential to every health and safety management system, as attitudes towards safety and health are determined by top management. Workers should be empowered to protect their own safety, health and wellbeing – as well as that of their colleagues. OSH systems need to function smoothly to be effective and should work in tandem with the overall management, rather than being a contradiction. 


The HSA detail two approaches to ensuring safe behaviours, which are used to influence or change existing behaviours to better focus on creating a safe workplace: 

  1. Behaviour based safety: focuses on the identification and modification of critical safety behaviours. This approach classifies behaviours which might lead to errors, regardless of whether accidents ultimately occur as a result. 
  2. Culture based approach: focuses on an organisation’s culture and climate. Safety culture refers to an individual’s perceptions, whereas safety culture refers to an employer’s beliefs and values. Cultural change approaches are more of a ‘top down’ activity and entail safe work practices, hazard control and incident reporting to drive a safety focus. 


At Ayrton, our consultancy team has considerable experience in the assessment and management of hazards across all types of workplaces and are continually up-skilling to provide best-in-class service. Contact us here to find out more.

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