Pointers to make working conditions safe for builders including safety at height, safe use of scaffolding, aerial lifts and use of hazardous materials.
Observing basic safety principles for accident free construction working
Construction work inevitably has various potential hazards ranging from working at height, using certain tools and materials, and possible dangers from vehicular onsite traffic. Observing some basic safety procedures should ensure a particular construction site provides a safe working environment.
General safety training through health and safety awareness courses is worthwhile for employees, especially those responsible for maintaining onsite safety.
Working at height
Working at height is unquestionably one of the most hazardous aspects of construction and an area where great care needs to be taken.
It’s incumbent on the constriction workers themselves to ensure adequate provisions have been made for their safety and to observe good, safe working practices. Firstly, they should be aware of all fall hazards on the site and not undertake any at height work if suitable fall protection provisions haven’t been put in place or aren’t in full working order.
So lifelines and lanyards should be in good condition and adjusted properly so as to prevent the worker from striking a hard surface in the event of a fall (due to an over-long lifeline or lanyard, for example).
Employers should ensure full fall protection systems are in place when their employers or contractors are working near unprotected edges or on surfaces six feet or above a lower level. Fall protection equipment would include guardrails, safety nets and personal systems such as lanyards and harnesses.
Other safety provisions include protection from falling objects, so clear identification and provisions for hard hat areas should be put in place such as the adequate provision of health and safety signs.
Ladders and stairways
Improper ladder use is a common cause of accidents, often through cutting corners and not adhering properly to safety procedures.
For construction workers a basic safety procedure of ensuring the ladder is long enough to protrude at least three feet above the work surface and deploying a principle of ‘three point contact’ (both feet and at least one hand) on the ladder at any one time.
Workers shouldn’t try to carry too many items up a ladder with them without the use of a tool belt or rope to raise items up once they’ve finished climbing. They should also observe the maximum load limits of the ladder they’re using.
Employers should ensure all ladders are fit and safe for use, preferably with daily inspections and taking defective ladders out of use. Workers should be trained in proper ladder use and shown how to choose the right ladder for the job in hand.
Protective clothing and equipment
Workers should ensure face and eye protection is used when there’s a threat from flying particles, hazardous liquids, gasses, vapours and light radiation. Various activities can require this type of protection such as grinding, masonry work, sanding, drilling and welding to name a handful.
Workers should ensure the protection they’re given fits properly, is in sound condition and ask for replacements if it isn’t.
Employers should provide face and eye protection to workers based on a proper assessment of the hazards present. Workers using prescription lenses should be catered for either with protective eyewear equipped with their prescription or with enough room for it to be worn over existing glasses.
Hazardous and toxic substances
Various potentially dangerous substances can be present in construction environments such as lead, asbestos, treated wood along with chemicals such as mercury, beryllium and zinc.
Workers should be able to access safety data sheets and understand if the substance they’re working with is potentially hazardous. If so proper safety equipment such as gloves and goggles should be worn, and any spillages should be promptly cleared up.
Employers should draw up a hazard communication document that includes a listing of all hazardous chemicals used on the site with a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) available for each substance. All containers of hazardous substances should be clearly labelled, and employers trained in how to handle hazardous substances.
Aerial lifts are usually wheel or vehicle mounted structures that can be raised and lowered to enable workers to access higher levels. These can be hazardous as tip overs, structural failures and electric shocks can occur along with the striking of overhead objects.
Workers should be fully trained in the aerial lift’s operation and take responsibility to check it regularly to ensure its fitness for use. Safety principles such as using harnesses and safety belts should be adhered to along with standing securely on the floor of the platform; not trying to extend its height by using a ladder; and not exceeding its load capacity or reach limits.
Employers should ensure staff are fully trained in the lift’s operation and organise retraining in the event of accidents and mishaps.
Along with ensuring the lifts are in good condition, work areas should be regularly inspected for unstable surfaces, holes, slopes and gullies.
Over 60% of construction workers will spend some of their work time on scaffolding, so high safety standards are paramount.
Workers should ensure they wear hard hats and non slip work boots at all times when working on, under or around scaffolding. At no time should they use items such as boxes or ladders to increase their height – and shouldn’t work on scaffolding boards covered in water, ice or mud.
It’s important not to cut corners or such as trying to climb the scaffolding using other than via the proper access points, and tools and materials should be hoisted properly to the working area rather than being carried up by a worker climbing.
Employers should ensure scaffolding is erected and taken down by competent people, and an expert should inspect the scaffolding each day and after any adverse weather such as high winds.