Physical risks during building and civil engineering work

Here you will find information about different physical risks during building and civil engineering work, which should also be risk-assessed. These risks do not have to be described in the work environment plan, but there is nothing preventing them from being included.

There are a number of risks that must always be described in the work environment plan. You can read about them below.

The work environment plan and risks

Ergonomics – work that is heavy or work in small spaces

Building and civil engineering work is often heavy and a physical strain on the body. Every year, many occupational injuries are reported, and many employees are sick listed as a result of physical overloading of the body. That is why it is so important for us to become better at planning the work.

There must be sufficient space for the work, as well as equipment for lifting and transporting building products and other material, so that those who work are not subjected to health-endangering or unnecessarily tiring physical loads. It is important that everyone considers this in the different planning stages of the building project. In practice this demands that the developer, architect, designer, building work environment coordinator and employer thinks about ergonomic prerequisites for the building stage as well as for the building’s usage stage. This means that the space for future maintenance and future known workplaces in the building must be designed according to our regulations about the design of the workplace (AFS 2009:02).

Ventilation rooms, electrical distribution boards, access routes to the roof and around chimneys, are examples of spaces that must be designed from an ergonomic perspective, with thought of the need for future maintenance, among other things. If the building is, in general, planned for certain activities, they should also be investigated and planned according to the provisions about musculoskeletal ergonomics, the design of the workplace, and other current provisions.

Keep in mind that ergonomics should function not only during the building phase, but also in the usage phase.

Examples of bad ergonomic conditions in the building stage can be:

  • that there is no space to work, such as in attics, in crawlspaces, interior work in pipes, installation aisles.
  • that there are no transport possibilities for heavy goods such as rolling handling or using lifting devices and accessories. 
  • heavy handheld machines and tools.
  • that the work does not allow fixed working platforms but demands the use of ladders.
  • that there is no space for stairs, scaffolding and elevators.
  • that work must be carried out with hands/arms over shoulder height or under knee level.
  • that there is no space or possibility to use lifting devices and accessories for windows, doors or slabs.
  • machines with high vibration levels, for example chipping machines and heavy machinery.
  • bad lighting.
  • significant level differences without stairs or gangplanks.
  • unstable gangplanks.

Measures for preventing risks can be to:

  • plan work and logistics for material.
  • see that there are lifting and transporting possibilities for material.
  • choose material that is lighter and easier to handle.
  • do the work in the right order.
  • keep the workplace organised.
  • investigate the technical aids available for different work.
  • vary the work.

It is important that the body is warmed up before physical effort, and has the possibility to recover after physical effort. Rest and recovery takes time, particularly if the physical effort lasted a long time. For example, long term or repetitive screwing with a screwdriver brings with it musculoskeletal disorders if the muscles in the shoulder do not have time to recover. When movement variations are given in the work, the physical strain is spread around different parts of the body.

Machinery – work with hand held machines and heavy machinery

Machines are often involved in accidents at building sites. This can be due to safety devices being removed, or that one has, in another way, lost control of a machine and been injured.

The user of a machine needs to receive instructions from their employer. In order to use some machines, we demand documented knowledge.

Hand held machinery

Different types of machines for sawing, drilling, cutting, clipping, bending, screwing, bolting and nailing, are often used. Different machines have different types of risks, but accidents most often occur when machinery is incorrectly used. It is common that one injures hands and legs. There can also be material that flies up and hurts someone. Some machines must be used together with safety equipment, such as safety goggles and hearing protection.

In addition, many machines are heavy to handle and can contribute to different musculoskeletal ergonomic risks for the user. Vibrations are another risk during use.

Heavy machinery

Heavy machinery can be excavators, forklift trucks, cranes, or drilling rigs. Common accidents with heavy machinery are due to loss of control, or that someone has been trapped when the machinery tips over, or starts to move.

Most machines require specific checks and maintenance. If these are not carried out, it can lead to accidents. For some machines, special inspections are required.

Use of forklift trucks, lifts and hoisting equipment are some examples of machines that demand special training, which must be documented by the employer. In addition, written permission from the employer is also required in order to use these machines.

Common causes for someone being injured are:

  • lack of knowledge about the machine
  • machine is incorrectly used
  • machine has not been inspected
  • machine has not been checked and maintained
  • machine protection has been taken away or safety equipment is not used.

Lifting devices and accessories

Lifting devices and accessories can be both an apparatus for the lifting of material or a device for the lifting of persons. Both are common on construction sites and are used often. Many different types of accidents and incidents occur in connection with lifting. Planning and knowledge is therefore required.

At the construction site, where there are often many different entrepreneurs in different places, lifting needs to be specially coordinated and risk assessed. In the most cases, this risk assessment can be part of the work environment plan. It is important to, as far as possible, avoid using lifting devices and accessories above unprotected persons.

When there are several lifting devices and accessories that can go into each other, special planning is needed. Special technical or organisational measures can be needed, which prevent one from going into another. Sometimes lifting devices and accessories at two near-lying construction sites need to be coordinated in similar ways.

The persons who carry out the lifting and those who couple the loads must have specialised training and need to be able to communicate.

In Sweden we have more requirements about inspections of lifting devices and accessories than other EU countries have. It can be good to know this when a foreign entrepreneur with their own equipment is hired.

Remember that the employer can receive a sanction fee if an employee uses a lifting device or accessory that has not been inspected.


Most construction work entails a risk of noise. It is therefore important that one always has access to hearing protection if it is not possible to separate the work in another way. Much of the noise comes randomly, without you knowing when. If you are going to be generating noise, think about informing others so that they are prepared.


There are two different types of vibrations – namely, hand-arm vibration, and whole body vibration. Work with hand-arm vibration is common, for example during chipping in connection with demolition in the construction sector. Other hand-held machines with high vibration levels are hole-making machines, grinding machines, and torque wrenches.

Risk of whole body vibration exists mainly for those who sit in heavy machinery and drive a lot on uneven terrain. The machines must clearly state what vibrations they can cause.

Those who are subjected to vibration can need to have special medical examinations. 

Sanction fees within construction

From 1 July 2014, sanction fees are imposed within building and civil engineering.

Sanction fees

Establish a work environment plan

Before the construction site is established, a work environment plan should be drawn up.

Work environment plan

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Last updated 2016-04-26