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February 15, 2011

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Focus on high-consequence events in construction

The HSE has funded research into incidents in the construction sector that result in a high number of casualties and/or a significant damage to property or infrastructure.

While the hazardous nature of construction is well known – evident from the high toll of accidents and ill health that workers in the sector suffer compared with other industries – the industry may be less well aware of the potential for it to experience major, or catastrophic events.

Larger construction organisations have been applying holistic risk-management techniques to manage project risk, and ‘low-probability, high-consequence’ issues have often been included in their planning, say the report’s authors. Most of the issues addressed have had purely commercial consequences – for example, the sudden loss of a major contract, or customer – but some issues also have significant health and safety implications.

A project undertaken to examine these ‘low probability, high-consequence’ safety hazards by looking at:

  • the types of catastrophic event that have occurred, or which might occur, during construction;
  • the reasons for occurrence when there have been, or could have been, catastrophic events during construction, including examination of the underlying factors;
  • the controls that can help deter a catastrophic event; and
  • areas where the UK construction industry could improve.

The report, RR834 – Preventing catastrophic events in construction, is at


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