Millions of people work at tens of thousands of construction sites across the nation daily. The fatal injury rate for the construction industry is higher than the national average for all industries. Here are the few safety precautions to be taken on construction site.
Main potential hazards for construction workers are:
- Fall from height
- Trench collapse
- Scaffold collapse
- Improper ladders
Fall from height
Fall from height is one of the leading causes of worker deaths in construction. Employers need to implement fall protection systems to protect workers, For example, by providing adequate number of safety harnesses, employing safety officers for regular inspections etc. Workers should familiarize themselves with all potential fall hazards on a job site. They should never work in an area where fall protection systems are not there. Workers using personal fall arrest systems should inspect them before each use to ensure that they are free of damage. The lanyard or lifeline should not be too long.
Employers are required to provide fall protection systems to protect their workers on walking or working surfaces, without guard rails, that can result in a fall of over 6 feet. Fall protection can include guardrails, safety net systems and personal fall arrest systems. Guardrails are the only method approved that actually prevents occurrence of falls. Safety nets and personal fall arrest systems prevent workers from falling a great distance.
Fall protection includes protecting workers/ visitors from falling into pits such as elevator shafts, trenches and excavations for foundations. Employers are also required to protect workers from falling objects by requiring safety hats to be worn by workers and by installing toe-boards, screens or guardrails or by erecting canopies or barricading the area in a safe manner.
Unsupported trench walls are often accompanied by rains, if they are not adequately protected by shoring/ strutting after excavation. Loose cohesionless soils must be protected by struts unless they are at safe angle with the horizontal ground. Whether or not the trench walls need shoring depends on the geological properties of the soil and involves geotechnical engineering.
Construction often requires workers to work at heights on scaffolds. Employees performing work on and around scaffolding are exposed to fall, falling object and electrocution hazards. Hard hats should be worn at construction sites. Workers should also wear sturdy, non-skid work boots with steel toes. Workers are prohibited from using movable boxes, mobile ladders or other such objects to increase their working height when on a scaffold.
Workers should never exceed the permissible safe load when working on scaffolds. Scaffold should be safe for the design loads. Lifting a load such as for hoist, crane etc. should follow structural engineers recommendations/ design. Tools, equipment or materials should never be left on the scaffold at the end of a shift. Workers should not climb scaffolding anywhere except for the access points designed for reaching the working platform. Tools and materials should be hoisted to the working platform once the worker has climbed the scaffold.
If personal fall arrest systems are required for the scaffold, the equipment should be thoroughly inspected for damage and wear. Anchoring of the system should be to a safe point that won’t allow a fall of more than six feet. All scaffolding should be designed, erected and disassembled by a competent person. A competent person should also inspect scaffolding before the start of work each day to ensure its safety. Scaffolding should be erected on level ground, fully planked and adequately away from power lines. Scaffolding should be erected with guardrails, knee rails and toe-boards to protect employees working on, under and around the scaffolding.
Use of improper ladders is one of the leading causes of falls for constructions workers resulting in injury or death. Reasons for ladder falls include incorrect ladders, improperly secured ladders, incomplete ladders, greasy/ oily rungs, user attempting to carry tools by hand while climbing.
Workers should maintain three points of contact while ascending and descending a ladder. This means, both feet and at least one hand should be in contact with the ladder at any point of time during the use of a ladder. Portable ladders should be long enough to be placed at a stable angle and extend three feet above the working platform. Mobile ladders should be tied to a secure point at their top and bottom to avoid sliding or falling. Tools and materials should be carried up using a tool belt or a rope to pull things up. Ladders should never be loaded beyond their design capacity including all the weights on it.
Defective ladders should be marked and taken out of service until repaired and fit for use. Workers should be trained on ladder safety. All ladders on a construction site should conform to OSHA standards. This includes job-made ladders, fixed ladders and portable ladders, both self supporting and otherwise.