Construction is an industry renowned for its high-risk environment due to a high quantity of heavy materials, electrical machinery, and unfinished structures all being handled and used at the same time in the same place. Staying safe on a construction site can seem like a difficult task but is more than possible if the correct steps and precautions are taken.
The Risks of Working in Construction
Whether it be tripping or falling from a height, be aware of your surroundings and remove any trip and slip hazards as part of standard protocol.
Strain and Injury from Heavy Lifting
If lifting items incorrectly you can cause permanent or temporary damage to your body such as your back. Heavy lifting also increases the risk of dropping such items when attempting to lift or carry them which can be both damaging to the item/material and anyone in the nearby vicinity.
Deafness and other noise-related injuries, such as migraines
If not wearing the correct noise-cancelling equipment while working with or near loud machinery for prolonged periods of time it will cause permanent damage to your hearing as well as increasing the risk of raised blood pressure and headaches.
Lung damage and other respiratory illnesses from dust
It is no secret that construction sites can kick up a lot of dust with a lot of it being invisible to the naked eye. This dust is made up of fibres, particles and materials that are hazardous to human health.
Be Prepared for Danger on a Construction Site
It is extremely important to have risk assessments that cover all possible conditions of the site you will be working on, whether that be in a labouring or managerial role. This should include (if relevant) conditions such as:
- The length of time on the job
- Condition of the ground
- Any fragile or weak surfaces and structures
- Possible weather conditions
- Electricity sources
- Any other special conditions relevant to the site such as heights or water
Staying Safe While Working at a Height
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recorded that the biggest cause of injury and fatalities on a building site was from falling from a height. Safety can never be compromised when working in such a high-risk environment. Once a risk assessment has been made, the correct precautions can be taken, examples of such precautions are as follows:
- Making sure your employees have received relevant health and safety training covering everything they need to know about working at a height. If you are a construction worker and have not received any such training, then ensure that your employers are aware that it is far more beneficial for everyone involved in the build to be aware of these risks and how to deal with them.
- Secure all loose equipment to avoid it dropping and injuring either yourself or anyone below
- Wear (make sure your employees wear) appropriate clothing for the job, especially if working at a height the right clothing and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is vital as it can reduce both the risk and the possible damage of a fall.
Staying Safe While Working Near Electricity
Electric can have both direct and indirect dangers to those working with or near it on a construction site. Coming directly into contact with electricity b receiving a shock or a burn (or in severe cases, electrocution) can have both short and long term damage such as scarring, pain, muscle weakness and cataracts. In addition to this, there are the indirect risks of electricity such as fires and explosions which both come with whole range of other risks. However, danger can be avoided if the site you work on has and continues to take the right precautions. These are listed below:
- Electrical points on site should be identified and should all be recorded before work on the construction site begins. The record produced can then be used as a point of reference when building in or near a location with an electrical point, and care can be taken to not damage the point while working, for example.
- Those that work with any electrical equipment on-site should be trained to use that specific equipment. This will decrease the danger of an inexperienced worker making a mistake.
- Equipment needs to be regularly tested – especially if it is electrical. The person that tests it must be appropriately trained to do so and the equipment should also be checked for signs of damage consistently.
Staying Safe While Working on a Construction Site
Regularly Check Tools and Equipment
As mentioned earlier, equipment should be consistently tested by a trained individual. If there are any signs of an issue with the equipment, then it is the responsibility of anyone who notices these signs to notify their employer who should then deal with the potentially faulty equipment immediately. Without properly working tools and equipment, a construction site becomes considerably more dangerous as well as its efficiency considerably decreases.
Never Cut Corners on a Construction Site
Scaffolding is arguably the most important tool/material on a construction site. Without it, workers cannot safely reach every part of the building with their equipment safely. There should be no cutting corners when it comes to scaffolding, it must be completely secure, and level so should be checked regularly, and any damaged sections or pieces should be immediately replaced or fixed.
Communication Between Workers and Employers Alike is Key
Without communication, those working on a construction site would be at far greater risk of danger. For example, if there is ever anything wrong, or someone has a suspicion that it might be, the only way that this can be dealt with is through communication with those that can assess whether something needs changing or replacing.
Keeping Employees Safe on a Construction Site
Health & Safety Training – Vital for Any Project
Health and Safety Training should be provided to all workers on a construction site. All your employees must be made aware of the dangers of the environment they are in and the dangers that could arise. This is also a good opportunity for them to be taught how to deal with situations safely and calmly as well as behaving appropriately in a high-risk environment. As an extra note, you should implement some first aid training within the health and safety training in order for all of your workers to be capable of helping their colleagues if possible and safe for them to do so. This kind of training can be life-saving in many cases, if not at least to help prevent any accidents happening on your construction site and keep everyone safe.
Having an accident on-site can be demotivating in the smallest and least severe cases. It can lead to extra costs, someone no longer being able to work on the site (which can also slow a project down and lower morale), as well as affecting your reputation as an employer or project manager.
Put Up Hazard Signs to Keep Your Workers Safe
Hazard signs can be one of the cheapest and easiest ways to keep safe on a construction site as they act as a visual reminder of the dangers of certain areas and equipment to anyone that is exposed to one. By having a constant reminder of the dangers and hazards of being in a particular part of the construction site, all workers are in turn reminded to always be mindful of them and will therefore take more precautions more regularly when at work.
Get the Right Security for Your Construction Site
Aside from all of the things you can control to a degree on your site, there are other external factors that pose a continuous threat. Whether it be during the day, overnight, or when the site is occupied by workers or not, criminal behaviour such as theft and vandalism can occur. Having materials lost by theft or damaged by vandals can be incredibly detrimental to any project or build, as it increases costs as well as the length of time your project could take. Having the right construction security presence on-site can deter criminals from even attempting to damage your site in any way. By providing you with:
You could feel relaxed in knowing that any potential problems that could arise will be dealt with immediately, your materials and employers are safe, and you can focus on your build.
Everyone Must Wear PPE
PPE, also known as Personal Protective Equipment, is not a step that can be missed during a build in order to keep your workers safe. Without PPE the likelihood and severity of damage, injury and fatality is greatly increased. Types of Personal Protective Equipment that could be worn are helmets, high-visibility jackets, gloves, and protection for ears. However, there are many more examples highly dependent on the type of work that is being carried out and the risks that are included with it. Deciding PPE can be done during, or as a result of, the risk assessment that is produced for the project.
The Main Points
In summary, it is extremely important to take the correct precautions when working on or managing a construction site or project in order to keep everyone safe. All equipment and materials should be inspected and checked consistently to ensure they are safe for use, as well as all staff needing to be aware of all the potential risks of the site and how to avoid them and stay safe on the construction site. The damage that can be caused in such a high-risk environment can be life-threatening so it will always be in everyone’s best interests to ensure this is not something that occurs.
For more information about staying safe on construction sites visit HSE.GOV.