Construction Site Safety Tips to Avoid Everyday Construction Hazards
Every day, contractors and construction workers are surrounded by different health risks. Whether it be things like noise, working at heights, weather conditions, repetitive motion, or being hit by heavy equipment, construction hazards are everywhere on a job site. Being aware of these risks and prioritizing construction worker safety should be an important component of every owner's role and responsibilities.
That's why we've put together a list of construction site safety tips to avoid everyday occupation safety and health hazards.
Working From Heights
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the CDC, falls are the biggest risk to construction worker health as they are the most common way to die in construction, responsible for more than 33% of fatalities. As an average over the last six years, there have been about 350 deaths a year from falling. Common reasons for working from heights contributing so much to yearly deaths in construction are the use of unsecured ladders, lack of guardrails on equipment, unprotected edges, and materials or equipment that are loose and can cause people to trip.
To avoid these deaths in the future, many states and provinces across North America are implementing mandatory working-from-heights courses and classes to educate laborers and train them on safety. Beyond that, there are a significant number of other ways to avoid height-related deaths. They are:
- Use equipment that has extra safeguarding like higher guardrails or fall arrest systems for fall protection
- If possible, try using boom lifts or scissor lifts in replacement of ladders. Maintaining three points of contact on a ladder is extremely difficult and using aerial lifts removes this worry
- If you are using a ladder, make sure to know basic ladder safety practices and inspect it before use, always use three points of contact, never use the top two steps when working, and limit how much you have on you
- Keep pathways clear of any tripping hazards, especially when working at heights, by tidying up the job every day
- Provide extra training or guidance to your team to educate them on when falls can happen and how to avoid and strictly enforce these rules
Moving Objects and Equipment
No matter what project you're working on, people, heavy equipment, and materials will move around a lot. Risks here could include limited space to maneuver equipment, the amount of construction equipment on site, or limited areas to store equipment. Not to mention all the foot traffic that is constantly in flux.
Here are some ways to prevent safety hazards involving moving equipment and objects:
- Heavy equipment operators should know how to signal on a job site that they're coming - that could mean having them honk when turning corners or always having someone guide them around the site so that everyone is aware of what's happening
- Keeping only the necessary materials near you so as not to clog traffic or limit space
- Wearing high vis jackets, especially in low light, so that operators can always see you
- Wear steel-toe boots and shoes and always wear hard hats to protect them from falling objects
Construction job sites, especially ones with lots of heavy equipment, are extremely loud. This level of noise pollution can be extremely damaging to the human ear and cause things like hearing loss, hypertension, and more. And unfortunately, every piece of construction equipment is over the recommended level of 85 decibels. For this reason, taking necessary precautions to avoid any damage to your ears is important for anyone around loud machinery as noise is one of the biggest health hazards in construction.
This would include things like:
- Wearing appropriate ear protection equipment like soundproof headphones
- When on break, try to avoid extremely loud areas to give your ears a rest
- Having your employer run a noise risk assessment to have an accurate idea of what the potential damages may be
According to reports by Equipment World, 13 workers died from collapses or cave-ins by mid-2022 in the United States. Meanwhile, an average of 20 died between the years 2011 to 2022. As such, collapses are incredibly important to avoid.
There are many different types of cave-ins and collapses including trenches, roofs, structures, and even foundations. These can be caused by excavation processes that weaken a structure too quickly, a working area becoming unstable if loads are more than predicted, and any materials that might fall when the building comes down.
Ways to avoid risk or unsafe collapses include:
- Inspecting excavation sites before any work is done. On top of this, always be aware of any load limits that might impact the job and adjust accordingly
- Having frequent meetings about safety procedures around collapses, especially when working on demolition jobs
- Wearing the proper PPE to protect your body
- Having an on-site first aid attendant or kit that can help with any impacts or damages
Electrocution is another large contributor to accidents and safety risks in the construction and contracting industries. The way these injuries are seen is through direct contact with a power source or poorly connected wiring. The primary way these injuries happen is through contact with overhead power lines, damaged insulation, or damaged tools.
To avoid the risk of electrical hazards on a job site, you should:
- Ensure nothing is stored over power lines unnecessarily
- Avoid operating equipment around power lines
- Turn off the power before doing any electrical work
- Put restriction or warning signs in place of any live wires
With chainsaws going at any moment, equipment flying around, demolition, or anything else, dust is everywhere on a construction site. However, dust from construction can be a pretty big health hazard if not careful. For example, it can cause irritation to the eyes and skin and potentially worse conditions like respiratory issues or cancer. Any if any workers have asthma, it can also worsen their condition.
However, there are ways to prevent construction dust including:
- Increasing the ventilation on a job site, especially when working inside. Pairing any type of grinding, sawing, or chopping job with a ventilation fan is a good idea
- Cleaning up and sweeping the dust on your job daily. Even just dampening the dust to make it not fly around everywhere is a good preventative measure
- Using a rock truck fitted with a water tank to dampen dirt and dust so it doesn't move around a site
- Having an air quality monitor that will warn you if the air you're breathing is dusty or unsafe
Despite construction being a manual labor job, there really shouldn't be much manual lifting. However, pain from manual handling is one of the most common construction worker health risks. This is because the regular and repetitive lifting of materials or bulky items can lead to severe pain in the future, no matter how you feel now. This primarily includes joint or back pains, but can also cause unnecessary wear and tear on your muscles, especially when you have poor lifting technique.
To avoid these safety risks, you should:
- Avoid manually lifting materials when there is construction equipment or material handlers around that can get the job done quicker and more efficiently
- Train staff to lift things properly when a machine is not necessary
No matter how much you look at the weather forecast, unfortunately, you can never really plan accordingly. With hurricanes, tornadoes, snow, and rain, there are many forms of weather that can disrupt your work and increase the risk of hazards.
For example, snow and ice can make it slippery, increasing the risk of falling. There's also the risk of hypothermia in the cold. The wind that comes with rain, hurricanes, and tornadoes can make it dangerous to have loose materials around.
To avoid these safety hazards, here's what you can do:
- Teach your staff how to dress for the cold and layer their winter clothes
- Prepare your sites for hurricanes and tornadoes
- Keep your equipment clean and winter ready
Trips and Slips
Everyday hazards like trips and slips are some of the biggest contributors to injury on a construction site. These could be because of water spilled on the ground, ice on the ground or equipment, accidentally stepping on plastic, loose wires and cables, and countless other possibilities.
To avoid these construction safety risks, here's what you need to do:
- Create clear guidelines about putting anything not being used in its proper spots to avoid any tripping hazards
- Ensure any loose cables or cords are signified by high-vis tape or tied down to the ground to reduce the chance of tripping
- Clear the undercarriage of equipment of ice or debris every day to ensure you're not tripping or slipping the next day
Improving safety in construction should be taken seriously. By being aware of the different jobsite safety topics and utilizing these tips on how to minimize them, you should be able to reduce the number of accidents on any given job site and keep workers safe. It's even better if you plan to bring these up in standard safety meetings with your team.