Construction site safety

For the safety of a construction site, every detail counts. Applying the measures correctly can make the difference between a successful project and a costly failure. Here are the key things you need to know to protect not only your employees, but also the reputation and financial viability of your business.

Franck Sousa
Posted on
Last updated on
Construction site safety

For the safety of a construction site, every detail counts. Applying the measures correctly can make the difference between a successful project and a costly failure. Here are the key things you need to know to protect not only your employees, but also the reputation and financial viability of your business.

The need for safety on construction sites

Optimizing safety on construction sites is fundamental for several reasons:

  • First of all, it allows you to preserve the health of your employees. Despite an increase in activity and the number of employees in the construction industry between 2019 and 2021, the accident frequency index has decreased, going from 51 to 47.7 (source: CTN B AT-MP 2021 disaster statistics booklet, building and public works industries, quoted by This shows that the security efforts made over the last few decades are bearing fruit.
  • Good security management then limits the possible legal and financial consequences. An accident on construction site may result in legal proceedings and high costs for the business.

In 2021, the construction sector recorded around 89,000 accidents at work. This is slightly more than in 2019, but well below the average for other sectors.

Who is responsible for site safety?

Safety on construction sites is a shared responsibility. Here is an overview of legal roles and obligations.

The obligations of the employer

The main responsibility of the employer is to ensure a safe working environment for all its employees, by implementing effective preventive measures to prevent accidents at work and occupational diseases. It can designate officials to oversee the implementation of measures.

Some examples of employer actions to ensure safety:

  • Awareness-raising training: organize regular training courses on occupational risks.
  • Information and prevention: actively disseminate preventive information and submit the Single Occupational Risk Assessment Document (DUERP) from the first day of work.
  • Viewing security rules: install clearly visible signs to communicate safety instructions to all workers.
  • Monitoring of preventive measures: establish a system for monitoring compliance with security rules, which employees validate by signature.

Security measures concern all employees, whether they are on fixed-term contracts, permanent contracts, interns or temporary workers.

Legal liability of the employer

The employer is bound by an obligation of result. It is directly responsible in case of failure.

However, his liability may be reduced. if it shows that all necessary preventive measures have been taken, or if the incident is due to an external cause not attributable to its management, such as an unexpected meteorological event.

In the event of proven non-compliance with safety obligations, the employer may face severe sanctions.

The employee

Employees also play an important role in the safety of construction sites. Their obligations are as follows:

  • They must follow the employer's safety instructions,
  • They are required to properly use the protective equipment provided,
  • They must report any failure or wear of this equipment.

Failure to comply with these rules may lead to disciplinary sanctions and, in the event of an accident, to criminal liability for putting their own safety and that of their employees at risk. The legislation is clear: every employee must ensure your safety and that of others, in accordance with article L.4122-12 of the Labour Code.

The Safety and Health Protection Coordinator (SPS)

The appointment of a Safety and Health Protection Coordinator (CSPS) is also necessary if several companies are involved on the construction site. Its main missions are:

  • The coordination and planning of interventions, simultaneous or successive, to reduce the risks associated with co-activity between the various actors,
  • The sharing of prevention resources for better efficiency,
  • The incorporation of safety measures in the design of structures, in order to facilitate and secure future work.

The responsibilities of the CSPS include:

  • Establishing general safety measures in collaboration with the project manager,
  • The management and updating of the log book, which documents important activities and information related to SPS coordination,
  • The creation and updating of the General Plan for Coordination on Safety and Health Protection (PGCSPS),
  • The organization of joint inspections with each company, including subcontractors, prior to their intervention on the site,
  • The preparation and updating of the Subsequent Work Intervention File (DIUO) throughout the project,
  • The presidency of the Intercompany College for Safety, Health and Working Conditions (CISSCT), an entity dedicated to large-scale operations (category 1).

The documents necessary for the safety of the construction site

Ensuring safety on a construction site requires rigorous organization. Here are the three mandatory documents that ensure the protection of all actors.

The Construction Site Prevention Plan

The construction site prevention plan, imposed by the Labor Code, aims to reduce risks on construction sites involving several companies. It is the result of a careful analysis of the locations and practices of the various companies present.

The plan should include:

  • Preventive measures identified as necessary,
  • The contact details of the companies involved,
  • The dates of the planned work,
  • The precise nature of the work.

The specific safety and health protection plan

The Special Safety and Health Protection Plan (PPSPS) is necessary for construction sites where several companies are involved. This document details:

  • Information relating to the various companies involved in the construction site,
  • The risk prevention strategies adopted,
  • The specific arrangements of the construction site.

This plan plays an important role in ensuring effective coordination between all actors in the project, in order to secure the working environment.

The safety data sheet

The Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is mandatory on sites where chemical risks are present. It aims to provide comprehensive information on the chemicals used. Any employee who handles these substances must receive an SDS, which is essential for the safety and protection of the environment. It includes sixteen mandatory sections covering:

  • The details of the product,
  • Its potential dangers,
  • Precautions to be observed,
  • First aid instructions in case of emergency.

For each hazardous chemical substance, an appropriate SDS must be available on site. It is the manufacturer of the product who must provide it.

The equipment necessary for safety on site

Legislation requires the supply of protective equipment on construction sites to prevent accidents. The employer must check that this equipment, which complies with current standards, is maintained in good condition. He is also responsible for renewing them when necessary and must ensure that they are used correctly, for example by training workers.

Safety equipment falls into two categories : Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Collective Protective Equipment (EPC).

Personal Protective Equipment

PPE is an essential device for safety on construction sites, imposed by regulations to minimize the risk of workplace accidents. They are classified in three categories according to the level of risk : class I for minor risks, class II for moderate risks, and class III for serious or fatal risks.

The main types of PPE:

  • Head protection: helmets that comply with the NF EN 397/A1 standard, with options such as visors or hoods for certain jobs.
  • Eye protection: glasses or overglasses specific to the profession to protect against projections.
  • Hearing protectors: devices that reduce noise to safe levels, with disposable or molded options.
  • Respiratory protection: masks ranging from disposable models to those with assisted ventilation for confined environments.
  • Work clothes: adapted to protect against cold, bad weather, or fire, in accordance with the ISO 13688 standard.
  • Fall protection: systems including harnesses, lanyards, and anchor points to prevent accidents at height.
  • Protective gloves: variety ranging from basic models to specialized gloves for protection against mechanical or chemical injuries.
  • Safety shoes: designed to protect against punctures, cuts and impacts, complying with the NF ISO 201345 standard.

The equipment provided by the employer must match to the specific needs of each position. Workers are required to wear them and to report any wear and tear or obsolescence of the equipment.

Collective Protection Equipment

EPCs are designed to secure the entire work environment. They protect everyone present on a construction site.

Here are the main types of EPCs used in construction:

  • Guardrail: they are installed to prevent falls from heights and form a physical barrier around risk areas.
  • Construction stairs: they provide secure access between the different levels of a construction site.
  • Fall protection nets: they complement the railings by providing additional safety against falls from heights.
  • ANTI-SLIP MATS: they help prevent slips and falls by providing a secure surface.
  • Marking and signalling: they are important for the delimitation of danger zones and for informing workers about the risks present.
  • Noise protection panels: they contribute to the reduction of noise pollution on construction sites and protect the hearing health of workers.

Other elements necessary for the safety of construction sites

In addition to Individual and Collective Protective Equipment, the employer must ensure several other aspects for safety:

  • Maintaining cleanliness on the construction site to avoid accidents related to obstacles and debris.
  • Adaptation of schedules to avoid periods of extreme temperatures, whether very hot or very cold.
  • Setting up a break room so that employees can rest in a comfortable environment.
  • Organization of rotating teams to optimize productivity without overwork. It can be beneficial to use a site planning tool (Learn more).
  • Site monitoring by electronic security systems to prevent intrusions and monitor activities.
  • Fencing the perimeter of the construction site to secure the entire work area.

Safety on construction sites remains fundamental to the health of workers and the success of construction projects. Rigorous implementation of protective equipment and strict compliance with standards are essential. All actors must collaborate and remain vigilant to maintain a safe environment. Each of them contributes to the fact that the number of accidents is gradually decreasing in construction.

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