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There are some hazards that are more common to construction workers than others and some that claim dozens of lives each year. In this post we will look at some of them and how they can be overcome with a bit of planning and dedication to safety on site.
The first step in combatting the inevitable hazards on site is to consider the hazards and the risk they pose to workers. Once it has been established what the risks are then it is possible to identify solutions and implement them.
Almost daily we hear of some or the other construction workers being injured on site and in extreme cases we even hear of their deaths. Workers are faced with these hazards each day and need to be aware of the most common ones and how they cause injuries so that they can avoid becoming a statistic.
The most common cause of death on construction sites is from falling. Working from a height is a dangerous task and should only be undertaken if absolutely necessary. If the risk cannot be eliminated they must be controlled and managed to prevent worker injury. The most basic protection against falls includes, wearing the appropriate PPE and using personal fall arrest equipment. Use of a safety harness can save a worker from death in the event of a fall but only if it is correctly used and properly anchored. Employers and contractors should install and maintain perimeter protection. Workers whose job tasks do not require working from a height should not do so. Also any openings in the floor should be covered and clearly labelled so that workers are aware of it. Ladder and scaffolding safety is also important and workers should be trained on how to safely make use of them.
Another common hazard that occurs in construction is objects falling from a height and hitting workers, sometimes even crushing them. Not long ago a worker’s skull was crushed when an excavator bucket fell onto him from above. Wearing a hard hat is important to protect your head from this and many other hazards. Good housekeeping will also ensure tools, debris and other equipment do not fall and injure workers below.
The second most common cause of death on a construction site is workers being hit by moving vehicles or machinery and sometimes being crushed. Workers should never position themselves between moving and fixed objects as they may be caught in-between the two and crushed. Workers must be provided with and trained on the correct use of high-visibility clothing to worn near equipment and vehicles. The site planners should attempt to separate pedestrians from the hazard of moving vehicles and equipment and if that is not possible only workers whose skills are necessary in the area should be allowed access. Designated pedestrian and separate vehicle paths should be established and maintained. Training of drivers and operators of machinery is vital in this regard. It is also important that inexperienced workers be supervised until they are capable of avoiding an incident.
Workers also often become injured when they are caught in a trench or excavation. Workers should never enter an unprotected trench or excavation 5 feet or deeper without the appropriate protective system in place. Sloping, shoring, benching or trench shield systems are important because trenches are notoriously unstable and may cave in at any time. Weather conditions such as heavy rain may cause instability of the ground and precautions should be taken in these instances.
The final hazard that we will discuss is the possibility of electrocution in construction. Not only are electricians at risk but ordinary construction workers may also be at risk from exposed wires etc. In order to prevent being electrocuted workers should locate and identify electrical components beforehand, especially when undertaking renovation work. When operating heavy machinery and cranes check for overhead power lines before you begin working and maintain a safe distance from them. When working with electrical tools ensure they are grounded and double insulated to avoid being electrocuted. Also be extra cautious when working from a ladder or scaffold.
Being more aware of your work environment and cautious will safeguard you from injuring other workers by your actions and ensure that you too return home safely at the end of the day.