Safety: An Undervalued Benefit Of Modular Construction

Since 2006, we’ve been loudly championing the sustainability, quality, efficiency, and end-cost saving benefits of modular. But there’s another important advantage that often goes unnoticed: safety.

Construction has consistently been among the top few industries with the highest number of serious workplace incident claims according to Safe Work Australia. Ranked fifth overall in terms of incidence rates among all industries, construction has been designated as a top priority in the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy.

The most common work-related injuries in the construction industry are cuts and open wounds (31%), sprains and strains (21%), and chronic joint or muscle conditions (16%), mainly due to hitting or being hit by an object (31%), lifting, pushing or pulling objects (30%) and falls from height (15%). Additionally, almost three quarters of employers felt that the worker being careless was the main cause of work-related injury.

Adhering to stringent Occupational Health and Safety practices can create a safer working environment. However, integrating more modular components and processes into projects has the potential to significantly lower the occurrence of injuries and fatalities in construction. Here’s how:

A controlled environment

A traditional construction site is a volatile environment, with inclement weather making the mitigation of hazards a constantly evolving task. However, at Modscape, our modules are all prefabricated offsite, which offers far greater control of climate and weather variables.

All too often, traditional construction sites experience weather events and extremes, where workers are challenged by wet, icy or slippery conditions on ladders, scaffolding and lifts, and while using vehicles and equipment. By building in a controlled setting, workplace conditions are far more predictable, and schedules are more likely to stay on track. Adding to this, a permanent facility enables additional training time for full-time and longer-term employees, further controlling potential construction safety variables.

Skilled workforce

Statistics indicate that a significant number of the injuries experienced in the construction industry (80%) are sustained by employees within their first six months on the job. This has driven the industry to move away from short-service employees (SSEs), with the demand for long-term, skilled workforces now higher than ever. The temporary and often remote locations associated with traditional construction projects makes developing skilled workers much more difficult.

By having a dedicated manufacturing facility, modular builders like Modscape are able to employ skilled team members, including a full-time OH&S manager. Additionally, once the modules are completed, a highly trained and experienced team can oversee all aspects of transport and installation.

Higher safety, literally

As previously mentioned, falls from height are one of the most common causes of construction injuries and fatalities. In fact, one-third of all on-the-job deaths in the United States are attributed to falls, making worker-safety at heights a serious consideration at any construction site.

In a modular prefabrication facility, work done at ground level can be maximised, mitigating the risk of serious falls from height, as well as the potential for falling objects. Tall vertical structures can also be built horizontally in a controlled environment, reducing the use of ladders and scaffolding, thus the chance for falls to occur.

Potential to improve 

Perhaps the most important safety benefit of modular over traditional construction is the continuous improvement focus a controlled environment can provide workers. Recurring processes and procedures create better workflows, making it simpler to analyse and identify potential safety hazards, as well as opportunities to improve procedures and schedules.

In a modular construction operation, it’s far more likely that workers will be proficient in their respective tasks, with a sound understanding of potential risks. The assembly-line-style processes that modular is renowned for are driven by skilled workers, who are less likely to be struck by machinery, equipment or other objects. Additionally, a permanent operation fosters an innate safety-first culture, which is instilled early in a worker’s journey with the team and builds over their long-term career.

While the various advantages of modular are now becoming common knowledge to those in the construction space, the conversations around safety and quality will undoubtedly continue to pique the interests of those considering a prefab approach for their next building project.

Read more about the benefits of modular construction in the Modscape news.