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Safety in the Workplace: Construction Hazards to and How to Avoid Them

14 min read
construction hazards

Construction is one of the largest industries in the U.S. It has over seven million workers and generates almost $1.3 trillion in structures annually. However, according to OSHA, the construction industry also has the highest number of injuries and fatalities.

In the last calendar year, OSHA recorded over 1000 fatalities in this industry. Such numbers are mainly due to the various risks and different construction hazards that the workers face each day.

While this industry is not risk-free, several risks and hazards can be reduced. This is possible through proper training and the right safety procedures and systems. Every person in the construction industry from the site manager, to the workers, and the safety inspectors all have a significant role to play to ensure that all hazards are minimized.

Here are some of the most common hazards in construction sites:

1. Falls

Falls are the most dangerous hazards in the construction industry because construction work often involves working at height, whether inside or outside structures. To get the job done, construction workers have to use ladders, stairways, and scaffolds, all of which come with various risks.

Equipment failure, restricted mobility, harsh weather, and negligence all increase the probability of falls. To stay safe, workers need the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like safety boots, helmet, and lanyards. They should also practice fall protection measures whenever they are working at heights that are six feet or more.

How to Avoid Falls

Regardless of the distance that one has to work, employers should ensure that fall protection equipment is available. On the other hand, employees should always use the equipment provided and inspect it for any signs of weakness or damage before each use.

Some of this equipment includes:

  • Safety ropes
  • Scaffolds with guardrails along all open sides
  • Ladder
  • To avoid slips and falls, encourage a clean and orderly workplace
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All working surfaces should always be stable and employees trained on how to use safety equipment and practice safe practices.

2. Electrical Hazards

Electrical issues like blasts or shocks account for over 8% of all fatalities in construction sites. Because of this, it is crucial to identify all risks such as overhead power lines and underground cables. Employees must also work within the minimum safe distance required.

Overhead powerlines are a significant risk, especially when dealing with cranes, ladders, and scaffolds. Employees working on the foundation, yard, or basement should also watch out for underground electric cables.

How to Avoid Electrical Hazards

The first thing to do to avoid injuries is to identify the location of all live conductors in the site. Every employee working close to electrical lines should have double insulated or grounded portable tools and use ground-fault circuit interrupters if possible.

Having well-trained construction workers will also help reduce electrical hazards on the site.

3. Trenching

Caught in-between or trenching is also a significant hazard. This occurs when the sire trenches collapse while the workers are in the trenches. While it is absolutely impossible to stop digging trenches, there are several things that one can do to avoid this hazard.

How to Avoid It

One of the most important safety tips is to ensure that all the trenches that are five feet or more have sufficient wall support. All the utilities like gas pipes, water mains, and underground cables should also be marked.

Other safety measures include:

  • Providing an exit such as a ramp, stairway or ladder
  • Not entering an unprotected trench
  • Inspecting trenches before entry
  • Sloping the trench wall
  • Installing adequate supports to prevent soil movements
  • Using trench boxes to avoid cave-ins of soil

All these and any other additional measures should be practices to ensure safety.

4. Chemical Hazards

Construction sites are full of chemicals and other hazardous materials. These can range from toxic airborne substances that, when inhaled, may affect respiration to chemical spills that can burn a worker or release toxic fumes.

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Avoiding Hazardous Materials

To avoid being exposed to such chemicals, provide the employees with Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for every chemical available in the site. They should also have the right PPE, which includes respiratory protection.

Site workers should follow the MSDS, use the PPE, and learn about each chemical’s risk. They should store the chemicals in the right conditions to ensure safety. Employers should provide spill clean-up kits, spill control plans, and training.

5. Falling and Moving Objects

Construction sites are busy areas with cranes, forklifts, and other tools like hammers that can be dangerous. There are also building materials like wood, stones, and more that can cause serious injuries, especially when they accidentally fall from a height.

Falling objects can cause serious head injuries, which are often fatal. Employers should ensure that all workers and any other person on the site is well-protected at all times.

How to Avoid This Hazard

To avoid head injuries, construction workers should wear hard hats to help cushion the impact of any falling object. To reduce the risk of being struck by objects, cranes and forklifts should only carry the allowed maximum capacity.

Other safety measures include checking the balance of a crane and never moving loads over workers. Crane and forklift operators should be trained and not forgetting regular repair and maintenance of the equipment. Remember, all cranes should always be located 10 feet away from electrical lines.

While there are other injuries such as repetitive strain injury, these are fatal accidents that require proactive measures to help prevent injuries and reduce fatalities.

To Protect Your Employees Know and Learn How to Avoid Construction Hazards

Safety in any construction is a team effort. Employers and employees should take time to learn about all construction hazards and potential risks, train, have, and use the right PPE and safety procedures to ensure safety on the site. Knowing these hazards is the starting point towards having a safe work environment.

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