Construction sites are inherently risky places because of the type of activities occurring, equipment in use, and many people involved. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s not possible to stay safe and avoid injury during a construction project. The best way to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses is by eliminating or significantly reducing hazards at every opportunity. C1S Group ensures that resources are made available to support the a safe construction site for the safety of our people at all levels of the organization. Ongoing training, weekly safety updates, and onsite safety meetings are all a basic function to the way we operate.
The first step to preventing injuries on a construction job is to take preventive measures by examining the construction site with eye for potential risks. Conduct job hazard analysis (JHA), looking at every aspect of the site and take appropriate actions to mitigate potential accidents or injuries. Start by identifying the visible dangers, such as things that could cause puncture, fall or crush risks. These could be sharp objects, rebar or wires sticking out of walls, holes or utility trenches, for example. Identify overhead power lines that cross into the work area and turn them off where possible. Otherwise, mark the lines on the ground to alert equipment operators so they can avoid them.
Before anyone can perform certain potentially hazardous activities it may be necessary to obtain particular training and permits. For example, if the job site contains confined spaces, which are OSHA regulated, workers may need specific training to safely work there and a confined space permit will be required. When the construction activity produces a spark, special hot work permits may be necessary and some projects may even call for a master hot work permit that is issued by the fire department. Additional procedures, such as the duration of a safety watch after hot work is completed, must also be established.
Educate everyone who comes onto the jobsite, from construction personnel, to subcontractors, to engineers and architects, and even property owners, about safety on the job, emergency plans, required precautions, and potential hazards. Usually the temporary construction office is the best place to conduct training and keep safety information. There should also be maps locating everything from site parking areas, to first aid stations, to the nearest hospital. Keep extra personal protective equipment (PPE) here as well for those who do not have it.
The correct use of appropriate PPE is the first step workers can take to be safe in a construction site. The most common PPE are hard hats, gloves, shoes and eye wear and OSHA recommends that construction workers should remember to:
- Wear hard hats when there is risk of objects falling from above, fixed objects threaten to cause head bumps, or electrical hazards may accidentally make head contact. Hard hats must always be maintained in good condition and should be inspected regularly for dents, cracks or deterioration. They must be replaced after a receiving a heavy blow or electrical shock.
- Select the right gloves to wear based on the particular job. This means choosing heavy-duty rubber gloves for concrete work, welding gloves for welding, and wearing insulated gloves and sleeves to protect against electrical hazards. Whatever type of glove is used, it should fit snugly.
- Always wear work shoes or boots with slip-resistant and puncture-resistant soles. Additional precautions include wearing footwear with safety-toes to prevent crushed toes when working around heavy equipment or falling objects.
- Select eye and face protectors based on the anticipated hazards at the jobsite. Workers wear safety glasses or face shields anytime working conditions may cause foreign objects to get into the eye, for example during welding, cutting, grinding and nailing, or when working with concrete, harmful chemicals, energized electrical systems or when exposed to flying particles.
According to OSHA, falls consistently account for the largest number of fatalities in the construction industry each year. But falls can be prevented by using guardrails, fall arrest systems, safety nets, covers and restraint systems. Scaffolds and ladders present potential fall hazards if they are not erected or used properly. Following are tips from OSHA for staying safe working with them:
- Make sure that all scaffolds are erected under the supervision of a competent person, on solid footing, are sound and rigid. A scaffold should be strong enough to carry its own weight plus four times the maximum intended load without settling or displacement. Never use unstable objects, such as barrels, boxes, loose bricks or concrete blocks, to support scaffolds. Equip them with guardrails, midrails and toeboards.
- To be safe, always use the correct ladder for the task. Before using the ladder, inspect it for defects such as structural damage, split or bent side rails, broken or missing rungs, and missing or damaged safety devices. Keep the ladder clean and free of grease and dirt that could cause a user to slip and remove paint or stickers (besides warning labels) that could obscure defects.
Safety begins at the level of the company culture, when an organization commits to operating safely. Next, the worksite must be maintained as safely as possible and employees must receive effective training on proper use of PPE and know how to conduct themselves on the job to prevent injuries. When the whole team recognizes the importance of a safe job site and is committed to safety, it’s possible mitigate the inherent risks of construction and maintain a safe environment.