The construction industry has changed dramatically in the last century. We’ve come a long way from the days of riveters hanging precariously hundreds of feet above the ground assembling the Empire State Building. Though that iconic photo was later revealed as staged, it still showcased just how high those construction workers were above the streets of New York. Despite decades of advances, the construction industry is still one of the most dangerous in the world. These safety hazards are especially important for Construction Business Owners. What are the most common safety hazards in construction, and what does it take to avoid them?
OSHA’s Fatal Four
Construction may be one of the most dangerous fields to work in, but there are positions that are more hazardous than others. These risks are so common that they’ve earned the collective moniker of OSHA’s “Fatal Four” and are responsible for the majority of construction worker fatalities every year.
Falls from 4-6 feet might not seem like much, but landing badly could result in a crippling or even fatal injury, earning this hazard a place among OSHA’s Fatal Four. The easiest way to prevent falls is to provide proper fall arrest equipment for anyone working above a certain height, and strictly enforce its use.
2. Electrical Exposure
Exposure to electricity is a risk whenever a live wire is present, and it’s essential to take precautions. This includes comprehensive lock-out/tag-out procedures for any equipment that needs repairs or maintenance.
Operators who may be working near live power lines need to take extra caution to prevent electrocution that could occur should they come in contact with those lines.
This particular hazard can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from workers struck by falling objects dropped from an excessive height, to those who find themselves running afoul of a vehicle in motion.
The particulars of each situation will vary. However, for the above two situations, one is easily addressed by ensuring that everyone on-site wears the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hard hats. The best solution for the other one is to take steps to keep pedestrians and operational vehicles separate whenever possible.
Caught-in and caught-between situations are often among the most devastating, causing injuries and death. These hazards can occur when a worker ends up trapped between a vehicle and a stationary object when a trench or tunnel collapses, or when a building or lose materials fall.
Regardless of the details of the situation, the best way to avoid these incidents is to take all necessary steps to keep pedestrians and vehicles apart and to reinforce any potential danger points against collapse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 14% of construction workers have hearing difficulty, often as a direct result of their time on the job. Regular exposure to noises louder than 85 decibels can damage your hearing. In fact, many pieces of equipment used on the average construction site exceed this noise threshold.
Like some other safety hazards mentioned on this list, providing proper hearing protection or related PPE and strictly enforcing its use can help protect construction workers from noise hazards in the workplace.
Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome
Hand-arm vibration syndrome, often abbreviated as HAVS, is a condition that can cause permanent nerve damage, muscle weakness, and other issues as a direct result of working with vibrating tools for a long period of time.
Preventing this hazard is often a question of how well a piece of equipment is maintained or how often it is used. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking frequent breaks while operating heavy equipment to prevent vibration from causing excessive damage.
From vehicle exhaust to fiberglass shards and respirable silicon dust, there are many variables that can negatively impact the air quality on a construction site, putting everyone in the vicinity at risk.
There are multiple ways to approach this situation and address these hazards. These include setting up ventilation in areas where the air is prone to becoming stagnant and providing respirators and other PPE to anyone who might be impacted by the poor air quality.
A Lack of Proper Protective Equipment
Think of a situation on a construction site, and there is probably a piece of PPE designed specifically to address that variable. You won’t need every type of PPE ever. However, it is essential to have the equipment that applies to your particular field.
This could mean respirators for poor air quality situations, gloves to prevent electrocution, or hard hats to prevent falling materials and tools from causing injury or death. Make sure everyone has the necessary PPE and strictly enforce its use across every department and workflow.
When you’re using caustic chemicals and working with flammable materials, fire and explosion is always a risk. Therefore, ensure all flammable chemicals or materials are stored properly, preferably in their original container or a compliant alternative. Besides, have a fire safety plan in place. You need this plan so that everyone understands what to do to prevent fire. They should also learn what their responsibilities are if a fire should occur.
Working in confined spaces isn’t always a risk on construction sites. But, it can create a dangerous situation when it does occur. In addition to creating a caught-in/between situation, there is a risk that poor air quality in these spaces could be fatal.
Monitor the air quality in enclosed spaces at all times to ensure it is safe for operations. Yous should also determine whether workers need to equip respirators or other rescue gear to continue their work.
Making Construction Sites Safe
Construction may be one of the most dangerous industries to work in. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have prevention methods at our disposal. As we learned, many of the steps you can take to prevent these common safety hazards can be very simple. Therefore, such steps should already be a part of your safety plans. All you need to do is ensure enforcing them. You can also add them to your safety plan if they aren’t already there.
In case you need any architectural and structural design requirements for your construction, feel free to contact us.
Rose is the managing editor of Renovated. She’s most interested in sharing home projects and inspiration for the most novice of DIY-ers, values she developed growing up in a family of contractors.