Construction 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Safety Topics at The Work Site
There are thousands of moving parts to consider at a construction site. Here we open up our own quick toolbox talk, and briefly cover just a few of the hundreds of safety topics to be aware of at an active construction site.
The construction industry has the highest rate of fatal injury for all industries in the US.
Of the 4,693 work-related deaths in 2016, 21% were in the construction industry. Perhaps one of the most striking facts related to construction injuries is that many of them are considered preventable.
One of the most important factors in construction safety is education and training. Being aware of the common hazards on an active construction site can reduce the number of injuries that occur from them.
There are some hazards that are more common than others and this guide we’ll take you through what those are and how to avoid them.
Some construction site managers are more concerned with meeting deadlines and improving productivity on the site than actively training their employees about potential hazards and maintaining equipment.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, those workers have a right to a safe workplace, and that includes adequate training. Employers must provide training and continually ensure that the work site is safe.
Regardless of legal obligation, investing in training and hiring skilled project managers to enforce safety rules will result in less preventable injuries and reduce the number of hazards in your workplace.
Common Construction Safety Hazards
The following hazards are some of the more common on an active construction site.
Scaffold-related accidents most commonly involve preventable falls. Following these safety tips could prevent up to 4,500 injuries and 50 fatalities every year.
Scaffolding is for use on solid grounding. It should be able to carry at least 4 times the maximum load without sacrificing rigidity or displacements. That means that any braces, brackets, trusses and other parts get inspected for damage and structural integrity on a regular basis.
If scaffolding is being put up, moved or taken down, it’s done under competent supervision. That same supervisor should be the person who inspects the scaffolding on a regular maintenance schedule.
Guardrails, mid-rails, and toeboards decrease any risk of falling. And when working close to electric power lines, scaffolding should be a minimum of 10 feet away.
Falls are the number one cause of death on a construction site. Falls are the result of unstable working surfaces, misuse of equipment and failure to use protective equipment.
To circumvent preventable injuries and deaths caused by falls, use guardrails and toeboards, fall arrest systems like harnesses, safety nets, covers, and restraint systems. Install warning lines to alert workers that are working near edges and on roofs.
Aerial lifts and elevated platforms provide a safe alternative for elevated work surfaces. Cover all floor holes should before performing work.
Ladders and Stairways
There are approximately 36 deaths every year that result from stairways and ladders. About half of the slips and falls on these forms of equipment cause injuries that require time off of work.
Only a competent person should inspect ladders for potential defects. Inspect them on a regular maintenance schedule and, when they aren’t fit for continued use, mark them as such or thrown out.
Choose the correct ladder length for the job and be aware of the load that the ladder is able to carry safely.
Put stairways out of service when they are slippery. Leave them out of service until there is no longer a hazard. Stairways with four or more risers or higher than 30-inches need to have a handrail.
Cranes can be unsafe when they aren’t inspected before being used or when they are not used properly. Injury and death can occur when a crane load strikes a worker from above or when a worker is within the swing radius.
Cranes need to be checked to ensure that they’re functioning properly before each and every use. This includes checking the controls, wire rope, chains, hook, brake system and rigging system.
It’s also important that a crane is never overloaded. The balance should be verified before lifting a load to its full degree and a load should never be lifted above people who are working. Set up a barricade to block off the cranes swing radius and protect nearby workers.
Chemicals on a construction site can cause chemical burns, respiratory injuries as well as fires and explosions when not handled or stored correctly.
The work site should have a Material Safety Data Sheet that charts every single chemical being used on the site. All employees regardless of whether they work with the chemical or not should be trained on the chart,
Employees need to be aware of the risks of the materials they’re working with. They should know how to clean spills, dispose of materials and protect themselves against potential dangers.
Forklifts cause 34,900 serious injuries and 85 fatalities every year.
The only employees operating forklifts should be those over the age of 18 who are trained. Forklift operators should always wear a seatbelt and never drive over 5 mph. That speed should be reduced when driving in a slippery area or when other workers are present.
Forklifts need regular maintenance in order to be considered safe for use. They should be inspected on a regular maintenance schedule and taken out of service when they’re not fit for use. This includes their reverse signal alarm.
Don’t exceed the load limit on a forklift and never carry a load in an elevated position.
Personal Protection Equipment
With the proper personal protection equipment, injuries can be prevented.
Head protection is one of the most important forms of protective equipment. Hard hats protect workers from falling objects, bumps to the head and accidental contact with potential hazards.
Safety glasses and face shield should be worn when there is potential for foreign objects to get in the eye. They should also be worn around electrical hazards.
Protective food equipment such as steel-toes shoes that are puncture and slip resistant can prevent slips and falls as well as protect feet from falling objects and hazardous equipment.
When workers are working with concrete, welding or electrical hazards, the correct, well-fitting gloves should be used.
Other Tips for the Construction Site
Construction safety is the responsibility of everybody on the work site. For other tips on improving the conditions on the construction site, check out our blog.