Work environment plan and its risks

Here you will find information about the risks that must be described in the work environment plan.

Work environment plan

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

Work environment plan

Work environment plan and its risks

Excavation work with a risk of collapse

The stability of a slope is governed by, for example, the height, the gradient and the earth layer’s resistant qualities and weight, but the subsoil water level and other factors also have an effect. If the excavation is deep, or if the earth layer is loose, a geo-technician should assess the risk of collapse and give suggestions about measures that can prevent collapse.

Quick changes of weather with a lot of rain or rapid temperature fluctuations can change the condition of the ground, and can mean that one must carry out new assessments.

Shaking, vibrations and new loads on the ground can affect excavation work. These can come from nearby buildings, roads or railways, loads from material stock, excavation masses, or passing vehicles.

Supportive structures, for example tongues, should be used if there is a risk of collapse. Alternately, the excavation may be carried out with a slope gradient. It is important that the excavation mass is not placed to close to the edge, and that vehicular traffic does not drive too close.

When the groundwork entails tipping of material or passing vehicular traffic beside where the work is on going, it is important that there are barriers preventing vehicles from driving or falling down into the working area. A rule of thumb about appropriate height for a stop device during tipping is a height corresponding to half the wheel diameter of the vehicle.

Work must be conducted under the direction of a competent person

Excavation work must be started and carried on under the direction of a competent person if supportive structures need to be used or if the excavation is carried out with a slope gradient. The same applies if there are materialsor substances dangerous to health, or installations or cables, present in the ground.

Other work environment risks during excavation

Other work environment risks in connection with excavation can be quartz dust, hazardous substances in the soil, the digging up of installation cables for electricity, water and drainage or gas, musculoskeletal risks, heavy lifting of equipment, as well as vibrations for those who work in and with machinery.

Leased machines that carry out excavation and earth moving need to be equipped with an air conditioning system and cabin filter that are adapted for the risks with quartz, in order to provide a good driver environment.

In areas where one carries out excavation work, one can need to water or combat dust with other methods.

Do not forget that employees who work with water, drainage pipes and other contaminated earth can need vaccinations against certain communicable illnesses. 

Work near high voltage power lines

Work with a risk of coming in contact with high voltage power exists in civil engineering work with cables in the ground and in the air, but also inside buildings, as well as in distribution boards and signal boxes.

It is important to, in the early planning and projection phase, find out where the risks with high voltage power lines are, in order to be able to prevent problems and plan suitable working methods.

It can require several different practical measures to prevent risks, such as:

  • contact with the electricity grid supplier
  • staff with the right competence for certain work near power lines
  • detailed drawings with the cable layout and other circuit diagrams
  • planning for the disconnecting and redirection of power lines
  • planning of the space to carry out the work
  • planning of material transport
  • suitable sites for new excavation
  • the placement of transport roads with regard to overhead and underground power cables.
  • the planning of a safety distance for certain risky work such as hoist work, blasting work, and crushing, in relation to high voltage power lines
  • grounding (earthing) of certain machines that carry out work near power cables
  • technical measures that limit the risk of machines coming into the risk areas
  • appropriate parking place for machines and for refuelling
  • suitable area for the establishment of construction
  • taking care of persons after electrical accident.

Above are examples of measures that can need to be described in the work environment plan, together with drawings and other documentation where risks and measures are clearly described.

During interior installation work in distribution boards and signal boxes, work with the pulling of cables often takes place in too-small spaces. This can entail crawling over and under different types of raised access and cavity floors where workers must both make their way to and carry out the work. There can be cables that need to be pulled during the work, flooring slabs that need to be lifted, and other heavy equipment that needs to be installed. These working methods need to be specially analysed before the work begins.

Distribution boards and signal boxes are examples of installations that need future maintenance, and they must therefore fulfil the requirements that are in our provisions about the design and ergonomics of the workplace.

It is primarily the Swedish National Electrical Safety Board’s stipulations that regulate work near high voltage power cables. There are also different standards and other regulations, for example, beside roads and railways, that one should follow.

Swedish National Electrical Safety Board’s website, opens in new window

Work near high voltage power lines often requires contact and coordination with the current power supplier.

For some persons it can be inappropriate to carry out work near high voltage for medical reasons, for example if one has a pacemaker. 

Work with risks of drowning

Certain building and civil engineering work is carried out close to water. Such work requires specific planning.

Common work with a risk of drowning can be the installation of bridges, dams, jetties or work from workboats. With this type of work it is important to specifically think about guardrails to protect against falling, safe access routes and work platforms, slip prevention measures etcetera.

It is also important that there is a plan to prevent risks of drowning, and also for how one should be able to save a person who falls in the water. Hypothermia is also an important risk to take into consideration. Personal safety equipment as well as lifejackets should be worn when there is a risk of drowning.

Underground work – tunnels, wells, pipes

Work under ground can be tunnel work or other foundation-laying work with pipes, wells, earth reinforcement and so on.

The work often entails many different types of risks, for example:

  • risk of collapse
  • confinement
  • oxygen deficiency
  • air contaminants
  • machines
  • blasting
  • limited working space
  • working with health-endangering substances.

This therefore demands planning of ventilation, stabilising measures, evacuation and rescue of those in distress, emergency lighting, need for special personal safety equipment, firefighting, working hours and working rotation in limited working area, or risks around machines.

Reinforcement of tunnels and rock clearing

When tunnel and rockwork is carried out, there is a risk of collapse. To counteract collapse, regular checks and clearing of rock are carried out. The checks and clearing of rock should be carried out by staff with specific competence. In many cases, the rock needs to be reinforced.

During rockwork, one reinforces with, for example, special rock bolts or through spraying some type of shotcrete into the rock. It is important that the shotcrete has time to dry, and that special inspections are carried before staff is allowed into newly reinforced working areas. Those who carry out reinforcement work, or others who are in an area with risk of collapse, should use a machine with a specially reinforced safety roof that protects against a collapse. In the usage stage, the reinforcements need to be able to be regularly inspected.

Air contaminants underground

During blasting or the use of work vehicles, machines and chemical substances underground, one should specifically think about the risks of different types of air contaminants in a confined space.

Regular checks of air quality should be made, for instance with the help of direct-reading instruments and/or with stationary measuring instruments that warn about air contamination by, for example, quartz and carbon monoxide.

Only diesel-driven engines may be used underground. The vehicles’ emissions should be regularly checked. During stationary work, the first choice should be electric machines. If a truck has a crane that is regularly used, this should be able to be converted to operate on electricity when it is used in a stationary state. Special so-called cabin filters can also be required for certain vehicles, in order to minimise the risks from quartz.

Radon – risk during work underground

Radon is a further risk that exists during underground work. At underground workplaces, the radon level must be measured. Radon is counted as ionising radiation and should be described in the work environment plan.

Fire and evacuation during tunnel work

Fire is one of the most serious risks during tunnel work. A plan for evacuation is required. Existing equipment should be escape masks, fire-extinguishing equipment in vehicles and in different places in the tunnel, as well as access to a rescue chamber if the evacuation path is long.

Preventive work is especially important during the introduction of new employees, evacuation drills, inspection of the storage of flammable material, checks of vehicle fuel-lines and much more. During most underground work, special coordination is demanded with the local rescue services in order to ensure possible firefighting and evacuation of those in distress.

For safe evacuation and localising of those in distress, a system that notifies as to who is in the tunnel and where is required. Today there are electronic systems with specific positioning systems that can be a support for this, and which we at the Swedish Work Environment Authority often make demands about.

Laying pipes – partly or completely underground

There is other work that is carried out completely or partially underground. It can be work with water and drainage pipes, district heating pipes, installation pipes, or earth reinforcement, among others.

Pipe laying can mean that people completely or partly carry out the work in or around pipes, which can be very dangerous. It can be cramped, there can be a risk of collapse, there can be a risk of not having air in order to breathe, or that the air is contaminated. The work often means that one uses different machines that can entail risks during hoisting, drilling, with leakage of chemicals or compressed air, and with other technical equipment.

The work requires very thorough planning with the types of risks that the working methods can entail, both individually and together, for the employees.

Today, material and technical aids have developed within this working area. Eventually it could minimise manual work in and around pipes. It is therefore important to very early investigate and work from that which the Work Environment Act says ’to take into consideration the nature of the work and the technical and social development in society.’

The designer’s choice of method and technique is a clear example of which prerequisites are given for the work. In recent years, unacceptable working conditions have been declared in connection with the replacement of old water pipes and death has occurred in connection with work in district heating pipes. In both these areas, different development work is ongoing in order to improve the work environment.

Laying of foundations

The laying of foundations entails many different types of work. It can be piling, earth reinforcement, sheet piling and other types of support structures.

Piling

Means that a pile of concrete, steel or other material is driven into the earth as a reinforcement for a house or other construction.

Soil reinforcement

Entails that one drills a hole where one creates a type of pillar by adding reinforcing material in the earth. Lime is a common material used for reinforcing.

Sheet piling and other support structures

Entails that one creates a temporary structure in connection with excavation, so that one can begin to build, for example a foundation.

Sheet piling means that one sets down a type of support, often an iron structure, so that mud, earth and water does not seep down. The sheet piling becomes a type of wall around where one needs to carry out construction.

Secant pile walls are another method where one drills holes and casts a type of concrete reinforcing wall in an excavation in order to reinforce it before construction.

Piling, sheet piling, and earth reinforcement entail work with large machines that must lift the large structures of, for example, iron and concrete beams that will be set down into the ground, or machines that will spray chemicals into the ground under pressure. The work demands planning of the working area with regard to stability for heavy machines to move forward, safety during lifting, and risks with chemicals such as lime that can leak out under great pressure. The cutting of piling is also risk-filled work where accidents can occur.

Work with diving equipment

Working with diving is risky, and may only be carried out according to the special regulations about diving work.

There is a requirement that the diver should have a diving certificate corresponding to the Swedish professional diving certificate, and there should be a dive team consisting of at least three persons, the dive leader, diver, and reserve diver. Further demands are placed on the dive plan, risk assessment and equipment.

Common risks during diving are deficient equipment, that one is lacking the correct training, that communication does not work, problems with access devices, bad weather conditions, the lack of an emergency plan, bad coordination, and that access to hyperbaric chambers is not assured.

Those who dive regularly should undergo special medical checks.

Work in caisson

Certain building and civil engineering work is carried out by submerging a type of construction under water, where one carries out the work in, for example, caisson or underground tunnels. The work is carried out under increased air pressure.

Underground tunnels and caisson are examples of specific constructions where one can create a water-free working space in order to carry out foundation work.

This work is risky because water can find its way in, and also because it is carried out under pressure, over-pressurisation. The latter entails risks of decompression sickness in the same way as for divers. 

Work with heavy construction components and prefabricated elements

Many buildings and facilities are erected today with the help of prefabricated elements in concrete, steel or wood.

The construction often goes more quickly than building on site, but entails a number of other risks during installation. The work therefore demands thorough planning of all stages, everything from the execution of each individual element in the factory to the completed building.

At the building site, preparation of the installation is required, among other things, by establishing an installation plan where the different parts of the work must be described.

The installation plan can include the following information:

  1. a) A description of the projectwith information about who has overall responsibility and who is responsible for different parts in the installation. There should also be information about different suppliers and contact persons.
  2. b) A description of the installation plan with a description of areas to be cordoned off, storage facilities, transport and so on.
  3. c) A description of the element’sassembly order, markings on the element, and its weight.
  4. d) Description of hoisting. Everything from embedding, how the element may be lifted, to the choice of hoisting equipment for the different elements
  5. e) Description of how hoisting equipmentmust be inspected, who may carry out the coupling, and who has documented training.
  6. f) Detailed description of how the installation must be carried out with:
  • instructions about how the fixed fall protection should be mounted, and which type of fall protection guard rails should be used
  • information about how a possible net should be mounted, where it should be mounted, and the type of physical load these points can tolerate
  • use of work equipment such as scaffolding, aerial work platform, or another type of work basket etcetera, as well as that this work equipment should be inspected, and may only be used/built by staff with documented training
  • how/which personal fall protection equipment should be used and applied when no other choice is possible
  • which attachment points should be used for personal fall protection equipment and what physical strain this is able to handle
  • a plan for the evacuation of someone in distress during falls from height.
  1. g) Stabilising measures of the temporary construction with where and which type of support the construction demands as well as how long this support should be in place.
  2. h) How intermediate storageof the element may be done and where it is possible.
  3. i) Who has establishedand approved the installation plan, such as responsible constructors and responsible assembly managers, as well as their contact details. The plan should be dated and signed.
  4. j) Current assembly execution in, for the employees, understandable language so that no misunderstanding arises between different employers. Observe that the respective employers always have responsibility for just their staff.

The installation must always be led by a person with specific competence. This means that the person must have customised experience and training about the actual construction of steel/concrete/wood as well as relevant work environment training for the task. Several companies in the sector have, in recent years, trained their staff according to a training model that is called certified supervisor within load bearing structures.

During recent years, several very serious accidents have occurred in connection with the assembly of prefabricated structures. One cause can be deficient coordination of this work. It is not unusual that there is a long chain with different constructors, suppliers, and entrepreneurs who are involved. There can be one who constructs steel, another concrete, one who assembles steel, another who assembles concrete and so on.

The many different players have, in some cases, created an unclear structure regarding who is responsible for what. It is necessary that one takes overall responsibility for the different structures and assembly, from beginning to end, so that a safe installation can be carried out. It is the developer who has the utmost responsibility for the coordination working.

Work beside roads and railways

There are rules for how work with building and maintaining roads and tracks should occur.

For example, there should be a work environment plan with risk assessments, responsible building work environment coordinators, and different demands that should be fulfilled according to the provisions (AFS 1999:3Eng).

Building and Civil Engineering work (AFS 1999:3Eng), provisions

Work with roads and railways is covered by the demands of several different authorities. There are, in addition to the regulations of the Swedish Work Environment Authority, also regulations issued by the Swedish Transport Agency and the Swedish Transport Administration, which stipulate how the work may be carried out. The regulations apply in parallel and this means that all should be followed.

In our regulations there are specific demands regarding passing vehicular traffic during work with roads and railways. This entails that one should choose working methods from the action steps below and that one should strive to:

  1. Reroute the traffic so that work is not affected.
  2. Vehicles should pass at a satisfactory distance.
  3. Traffic is separated by means of traffic devices that prevent or divert traffic from coming into the workplace.
  4. If 2 or 3 are used, it should even be considered whether there is a need for reduced speed or the directing of traffic past the construction site by a specially designated person.

Read more in 81-86 §§ in the provisions about building and civil engineering work (AFS 1999:3Eng).

Traffic control devices and safety distance

When special traffic control devices are used to prevent or divert traffic, they should be designed and placed so that they effectively protect the employees. The safety barriers should be strong and anchored.

With most roadwork, demands are made for a special traffic control plan, a so-called TA plan, that describes the workplace with safety barriers, traffic signs and stated distance. The TA plan does not replace the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s requirements for a work environment plan.

Speed and safe distance past the workplace should be adapted to the work and the needs of the employees.

Led by a person with specific knowledge

All work beside tracks and roads should, during repair and maintenance, be started and led by a person with specific knowledge.

Our regulations do not state exactly which competence the person should have, but in summary this entails specific knowledge about work beside roads or railways, adapted to the type of work, as well as fundamental work environment knowledge about the work environment regulations that apply to the work, as well as, for example AFS 1999:3 and AFS 2001:1, about systematic work environment management.

Requirements for training and controls

The Swedish Transport Agency and the Swedish Transport Administration place certain demands upon training and checks that those who work besides roads and tracks should have. The municipalities and county councils can also have specific demands about knowledge and training. Certain work requires documented health checks.

The design of streets and roads is governed by VGU (Roads and streets design), regulations that have been drawn up by the Swedish Transport Administration and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions. VGU is applied by the Swedish Transport Administration, but is voluntary for the country’s municipalities.

There is no standard today that includes temporary safety devices as well as guard rails during roadwork, and therefore there is no demand for CE marking from the supplier. There are, on the other hand, demands regarding other lasting building products in the Construction Product Directive, which the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning is responsible for.

Transport Administration website VGU, opens in new window

Transport Administration website (Work on Roads), opens in new window

National Board of Housing, Building and Planning website, opens in new window

Demolition of load-bearing structures and health-endangering materials

Demolition is common before rebuilding, but also when one is going to construct completely new buildings and facilities. Sometimes an entire building is demolished, or just a part of it. Both require good planning so that it is not dangerous.

From a work environment perspective, it is important to know about the construction of a building in order to know how it can safely be demolished. Background documents are needed which show that the stability and load capacity is sufficient during all stages of the demolition. Often one needs to produce technical drawings and carry out different tests beforehand, in order to be able to do a reliable risk assessment of, for example, stability and whether there is health-endangering material in the structure.

It can also be important to know what type of activity occurred at the place beforehand. In addition there can be contaminated land. Inventory and investigation must therefore be carried out by experienced consultants.

Description of the demolition

From the investigations and the tests, a specific description of the demolition must be made. The description becomes both background material for the instructions to the employees, and a part of the work environment plan. The description should, for example, contain information about:

  • the construction of the object
  • material inventory of the object
  • in which order the demolition will take place
  • specific safety and stabilising measures in the different demolition stages
  • specific descriptions regarding health-endangering material, with how the work must be carried out and how the material should safely be dealt with from a work environment perspective
  • work that can entail risks of infection and hazardous exposure
  • which personal safety equipment should be used for the different work
  • description of how the work should be carried out in order to prevent risks regarding musculoskeletal ergonomics, noise and vibrations.

During demolitions, there must also be planning for unknown risks that could occur. Demolitions must always be led by an experienced and competent person. Demolitions may not be carried out alone. Employers, developers and building work environment coordinators have a responsibility to investigate whether there can be risks in connection with a demolition.

Asbestos and quartz (dust) are the most commonly occurring risks during demolitions. Several accidents caused by collapse and falls from height during demolitions have also occurred. In general, the work is often carried out with deficient planning regarding musculoskeletal ergonomics, noise and vibrations.

Building and civil engineering work, (AFS1999:3Eng), provisions

Omslagsbild: AFS
The provisions are aimed towards all who have responsibility for building and civil engineering work, including developers. They contain, among other things, regulations about the transport of material at construction sites, roof work, roadwork and safety nets.
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Last updated 2022-08-04