While not always considered high-risk work, bricklaying still comes with a high potential for workplace injury.
For this reason a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) that outlines all risks and control measures should be prepared prior to commencing work. This way all potential hazards and risks can be identified and eliminated as far as possible.
It is also important that all relevant workers are involved in the development of the SWMS.
Here are just some of the risks faced by bricklayers, along with the hazards, and possible control measures to reduce the risk of injury to bricklayers.
Manual handling is a leading form of workplace injury for bricklayers. Manual handling encompasses a wide range of actions including lifting, lowering, pulling, pushing, and carrying awkward and heavy objects.
Both laying bricks and moving bricks around the worksite are likely causes for workers to experience manual handling injuries such as:
- back injuries
- wrist strain
- shoulder strain
- long-term pain
Some possible steps taken to reduce manual handling injuries include:
- using other methods to transport bricks and mortar (e.g. trolley, telehandler)
- covering bricks with a tarp to prevent soaking up water
- spot boards raised to a comfortable working height
- making arrangements for any blocks or lintels over 20kg
Tools and plant
The use of tools and plant for bricklayers also presents the risk for workplace injury. Brick saws and cement mixers can be dangerous if proper safety precautions are not taken.
- Instability of machine
- Flying blade fragments
- Cuts, crush injuries, eye injuries
- Over-exertion/strain injury
- Amputations / lacerations
- Wet from water spray off saw
All serious threats to worker health posed by machines can usually be mitigated with safety precautions like:
- Appropriate training for equipment
- Use of proper PPE
- All equipment is tagged and tested / properly maintained
Falls from height
Bricklayers are often required to work at heights. Falls from height are a major risk when working on ladders and scaffolds, and a leading cause of death and injury among those working at heights.
Falls typically involve uncontrolled hazards like:
- Unprotected edges
- Weather conditions (wind and rain)
- Trip hazards
All of these hazards pose significant threat to workers, but can be controlled with measures such as:
- Avoiding or reducing time spent working at heights
- Fall prevention devices (scaffolding, guard rails, Elevated Working Platforms)
- Work positioning systems (travel restraints)
- Fall arrest systems (harnesses, anchor points)
Along with SWMS and High-Risk Work Licenses, other ways of ensuring that workers have adequate understanding of safety on the worksite include:
- Toolbox talks
- Safety checklists
- Daily Safety notices
Maintaining a safe work environment is important, particularly in the high-risk work environment faced by bricklayers.
It is important that every hazard is met with elimination or at the minimum, a control measure to mitigate any potential risk.
Bricklayers can use a mobile app to assist with the preparation of their SWMS while they are on-site.
More information here.