We all know how important safety is on any job. Accidents can result in injuries or death for an employee. It affects their whole life. They may be unable to work for a long period of time. They are not only devastated physically but also financially and emotionally. The company suffers loss productivity and will have to find a temporary or even permanent replacement for that valuable employee. The company can also be subject to OSHA fines for non-compliance.
So, while there are dangers in every occupation, construction deserves special recognition for the hazards inherent in this kind of work. There are many categories of construction but this article will list some of the most common hazards of site work construction and explain ways to mitigate accidents.
Performing site work such as clearing and grading requires the use of heavy equipment. This can include bulldozers, excavators, tractors and trucks. Equipment requires fuel and lubricants which can be tough on your hands. Hands also need to be protected from severe abrasions and lacerations. A good general-purpose glove (Ironclad General Utility Gloves GUG-05-XL, Extra Large ) will help prevent those injuries and give some level of protection from the materials used in site work.
Just as your hands must be protected from hazards on the job so do your eyes. Clearing and grading not only requires use of machinery but also hand tools. The use of saws or trimmers pose a hazard from flying objects. Fuel being poured into equipment or a container can splash into your eyes. Wearing safety glasses with side protection will protect you from these hazards. A good pair such the 3M Tour-Guard III, clear meets the American National Standards Institute certification for protective eyewear (ANSI Z87.1).
Naturally everyone wants to wear comfortable shoes as they work, but a construction site is no place for your tennis shoes or favorite pair of loafers. Generally, a site contractor is one of the first to begin work on a project so the land might be heavily forested or muddy. There could be fallen tree limbs, ant beds, vines, holes and many other hazards on the site. You don’t know what you might step on so it is best to wear closed in shoes such as work boots. There are many brands of work boots out there and it is important for you to find not only the most comfortable but also the one that affords you the best protection against the work hazards you will face. One of our favorite brands is Wolverine (Men’s Floorhand 6 inch waterproof soft toe work shoe).
For even more protection you can purchase steel-toe boots. They have protective reinforcement in the toe to protect your foot from being punctured or compressed by a falling or protruding object (Wolverine Floorhand 6 inch waterproof steel toe work shoe).
Even if the work being performed does not require respirators to be worn it is a good idea to have dust masks available. Site work can get quite dusty (AMSTON N99 Dust Mask).
Working on a construction job site obviously requires you to be outside. You must protect yourself from the hazards from the environment, equipment and required work techniques. The right clothing can give you the best possible chance of avoiding injury. Wearing light-colored shirts with long sleeves during the summer months can help protect you from sunburn along with sunscreen. Even if it is not a requirement on the particular jobsite that you wear high visibility clothing it is a good idea. (Key Apparel Men’s Short Sleeve Enhanced Visibility Waffle Weave Pocket Tee Shirt). Working around heavy equipment while it is operating you not only want to see but to be seen. A hi-vis safety vest will also work (Safety Depot class 2 ANSI approved safety vest). Coveralls are also a good choice to protect your clothing and to stay warm during the cooler months (Dickies basic blended coverall).
Your particular job may require you to wear a hard hat. Be sure it meets OSHA’s standards. We recommend the Amston adjustable construction helmet with “keep cool” vents and the V-Gard construction hard hat for men and women-safety engineering ABS helmet. Although a hard hat will give you the best protection from injury at least wear a cap with a brim that will give you some protection from the heat during summer.
First Aid Kit
Access to a first aid kit on the job is a must. Most kits will have a good supply of items needed for minor injuries that can occur on any job (Be Smart Be Prepared first aid kit hard teal case 326 pieces). An even better choice would be a first aid kit specifically geared toward injuries that occur on construction sites and one that serves a larger number of persons (North by Honeywell 019744-0031L construction 50-person bulk kit).
Create and Maintain a Safety Plan
Some clients (especially governmental agencies) will require a company to turn in a safety plan before work can begin on a contract. We believe it is important for a construction company to set safety guidelines and have them written down whether or not it is required by the client. It should be disseminated to all current company employees and subcontractors and to each new hire. It does not have to be complicated. You can start off with your safety policy which can read something like this:
“The safety of the employees of (insert company name) is a primary concern
to us. It is our policy to perform all work in compliance with all Federal, State
and local regulations. Good construction practices will be used at all times.
We will provide the necessary training and equipment to fulfill the safety goal
of this policy. These safety procedures and policies will be applied uniformly
and all employees, representatives, subcontractors, and suppliers will be
required to abide by the policy.”
Next you could include a brief discussion on several topics that explains the safety procedures of each one. Some suggested topics are listed below:
Drug Free Workplace
First Aid and Medical Treatment
Accident Investigation Procedure
Skill Specific Operations & Equipment
Emergency Action Plan
Assignment of Responsibilities
Hazard Communication Program
Personal Protection Equipment
This list is by no means exhaustive. You are encouraged to visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website (OSHA.gov) for more information.
Finally, all the plans and safety equipment will not amount to anything if employees are not properly trained. There should be an emphasis on safety every day on the job. Weekly training can consist of what is called “toolbox training”. Basically, one or two topics are selected for a short discussion. Possible topics include personal protection equipment (PPE) and working safely with tools. You can narrow each training session by picking a particular PPE and a particular tool to discuss. A good time for a toolbox training session is at the start of a workday, perhaps the first 10-15 minutes. Some longer sessions should also be scheduled and include showing a safety video (National Safety orientation for construction video training kit) or a PowerPoint presentation. There should be a question and answer session afterward so any concerns can be addressed. Be sure to have each employee sign a form attesting to the training. Include on the form the training topic, company name, date of training and the name of the person leading the training.
Hopefully this will help you get started on establishing or improving safety in your organization. It is well worth the effort.