What kinds of injuries can construction workers experience?

Construction businesses work on projects involving manual handling, working at height, tripping hazards, and various tools and materials, all of which can carry an injury risk. Injuries can result from slips, trips, falls, or falling objects. They can include cuts, muscle strains, or electrocutions. Some injuries may be minor, whilst others can be fatal.

Around 42,000 construction workers experience musculoskeletal problems each year. Exposure to hazardous materials can also cause respiratory disorders or skin problems. Construction work accounts for over 40% of occupational cancer treatments and related deaths.

It means construction businesses have a broad range of issues to consider.

What steps can construction firms take to protect their workers?

The HSE offers valuable guidance to help construction firms reduce their employees' injury risk. Dynamic risk assessments that consider the changing dangers on a construction site and training to ensure workers and contractors are aware of health and safety measures are essential. If a task requires registration or licensing, request appropriate contractor documentation and ensure your employees are appropriately trained.

Regular equipment checks and maintenance and a company culture prioritising clear communication around health and safety issues are also vital.

How health insurance can help

Health insurance is a valued employee perk and can benefit your business and employees by providing staff with fast access to private medical care. It can reduce absenteeism by providing wellbeing advice, health monitoring and mental health support to prevent illness or help staff return to work more quickly when they fall ill.

Private medical treatment can reduce employees' time on NHS waiting lists, which are currently at record highs. Private medical care can also offer access to cutting-edge treatments and drugs not presently approved for NHS use.

What does health insurance cover?

Private medical insurance covers acute conditions that arise after your employee joined your company health insurance plan. When you buy a group medical insurance policy, you'll pay an annual or monthly premium to cover all your employees. Every plan includes core coverage, and you can add optional extras to get a tailored health insurance policy.

Core coverage

Inpatient and day-patient treatment

All private medical insurance includes inpatient and day-patient care. Suppose your employee needs to spend a night in hospital, be admitted for surgery or receive treatment in a day-patient unit. In that case, your policy will pay for their treatment and accommodation costs.

They'll typically stay in a private room, which may provide hotel-style facilities such as an ensuite bathroom and chef-prepared meals. There's often more flexibility around visiting hours too.

Cancer treatment

One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime, so all health insurers provide cancer care in their core coverage. Most policies include cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Some also offer treatments such as stem cell or gene therapy and support services, including advice on nutrition and wigs or prostheses.

Some health insurers include additional services in their core coverage, while others offer it at an extra cost. Construction work can carry an increased risk of occupational cancer, so ensuring your private health insurance plan provides the best possible cancer support can be a valuable benefit.

Virtual GP services

Most NHS GPs work office hours, making it challenging for anyone working full-time to find a convenient appointment. Each health insurance plan includes remote GP services, enabling employees to speak to a GP by telephone or video call 24/7.

Many policies also provide telephone helplines staffed by nurses or mental health specialists and a health and wellbeing helpline.

Membership perks and discounts

During a cost of living crisis, your staff will likely appreciate any perks that let them save money. Health insurance plans offer various member perks and discounts, including discounted gym memberships, cheaper holidays and free coffee.

Many discounts are available to all members but some insurers give enhanced rewards to members who hit their health and wellbeing goals.

Optional extras

The following optional extras are typically only available at an additional cost. However, many insurers now include limited out-patient coverage within their standard policies, so it's worth speaking to a broker and checking the small print before purchasing health insurance.

Out-patient cover

If your employees need to see a consultant or have diagnostic tests or scans, your health insurance plan will only cover it if you have out-patient coverage. There are exceptions. Some policies include consultant appointments up to a specified financial limit, tests or complex scans. Otherwise, they'll need to get their diagnosis from the NHS before using their insurance to access inpatient treatment.

Some policies include physiotherapy in their out-patient cover, but others only provide it as part of separate therapy cover.

Additional treatment

As mentioned, you may need to add therapy cover to enable your employees to access out-patient physiotherapy. Construction work carries a significant risk of musculoskeletal issues and repetitive strain injury. Access to appropriate physical therapy will benefit your employees' health and reduce sickness absences. Flexible health coverage can allow you to tailor the financial limits on your policy to maximise the number of treatment sessions employees can access.

You can also add alternative therapies such as osteopathy or acupuncture if appropriate.

Dental and optical cover

Dental and optical cover typically comes in a single package covering regular check-ups, routine and emergency dental treatment, glasses and contact lenses.

Employers have a legal duty to pay for eye tests if their employees use display screen equipment. This may only apply to a small minority of your staff, but regular eye tests and dental check-ups can be an early warning system for other health conditions.

Untreated sight loss can also cause safety issues on a construction site, so regular checks will help to prevent this.

Mental health treatment

Most private health insurance plans include limited access to counselling or CBT and allow employees to self-refer. However, you can enhance your coverage and provide more sessions or a more comprehensive range of treatments. This can be valuable if your staff work in high-stress environments or spend extended periods away from home.

An extended hospital list

Health insurance plans list which hospitals and treatment centres your employees can use for their private healthcare. A standard list typically includes hospitals nationwide but not those in major cities or central London, where private healthcare costs more. However, you can pay extra to give employees access to more hospitals. An extended list includes everything on the standard list plus hospitals in city centres, while the central London option adds hospitals in the capital.

An extended list is worthwhile if your employees live and work in London or another city or regularly travel within the UK for work.

Other services

Business health insurance provides various services to support employee health. Some are included as standard, while others come at an additional cost. Many insurers offer health screening, enabling employees to set health goals and giving your business anonymised data on workplace health issues. Construction work carries an increased risk of some occupational cancers, so workplace screening can help to achieve early diagnosis and treatment.

Other services include employee assistance programs, with health and wellbeing helplines and legal and financial support. You can also provide private flu vaccinations in your workplace or fund them using a voucher scheme.

Corporate health insurance policies for businesses with more than 250 employees offer additional business services if required. These can include occupational health services, crisis management and change management support.

Health insurance exclusions

Health insurers limit the coverage their policies provide by adding exclusions. Some are standard exclusions which apply to every employee, whilst others depend on their medical history.

Chronic conditions

Chronic conditions need long-term management as they can't be cured. Health insurance is set up to treat acute conditions, meaning employees will need NHS care for chronic illnesses like asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Pre-existing conditions

A pre-existing condition is an illness for which your employee sought advice or treatment in the five years before joining the policy. Your insurers can remove the exclusion if they stay symptom-free for the first two years of coverage.

Standard exclusions

Standard exclusions typically include treatments needed because of a lifestyle choice rather than illness. Common exclusions include straightforward pregnancy and birth, cosmetic surgery or addiction treatment.

Who does business health insurance cover?

Construction work often involves projects led by a main contractor working with subcontractors and self-employed tradespeople. Your employee health insurance can only cover your employees. Contractor health insurance plans can provide coverage for self-employed contractors who work independently for multiple clients.

However, if you have contractors who fall within IR35, you may wish to include them in the policy. Seeking professional advice about their employment status and your health insurance terms and conditions is wise before proceeding.

Getting professional advice

Globacare is a regulated broker providing specialist advice to help you choose a tailored health insurance policy that works for your construction business. Contact us for a comparison quote today.

Tobias Britton

Tobias Britton

With over 15 years of experience, Tobias leads the expert team at Globacare. A CII IF7 qualified adviser himself, with a Diploma of Insurance to his name too, he's our resident expert in health, life, income and business protection insurance.

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