We all know safety is important on a construction jobsite, but most of the safety content we see focuses on the big accidents. Those are obviously the most important accidents to prevent because they can cause the most injury — including fatalities. However, it's not just the big accidents — collapses, falls from roofs, vehicle/equipment accidents, etc. — that we need proactive prevention.
Construction business owners, foremen and laborers need to be aware of and working to prevent the kinds of accidents and safety fails that are not as likely to cause fatal injuries.
Best practices to prevent both major and minor safety hazards and injuries on the construction jobsite include:
- Daily safety meetings in the office and on the jobsite
- Ensuring all employees are wearing the proper protective gear in the proper manner during the entire job
- Allow — possibly even require — workers to take regular breaks throughout the day
Here are some of the safety concerns on a construction jobsite that may not generate big news headlines but are just as important to keep workers healthy and safe.
Cuts and lacerations
It may seem minor, but preventing cuts and lacerations are important on the construction jobsite. Your best lines of defense are to wear the proper personal protective equipment, inspect all tools and machinery before use, and to use all tools and machinery with care and exactly how they should be used. In addition, be aware of your surroundings including sharp objects such as exposed nails or other site hazards.
The potential for fires and explosions on construction sites is always a hazard. While large explosion can be potentially fatal, the risk of smaller fires or explosions can also cause burns. Be aware of exposed wires, dangerous chemicals, leaking pipes and other potential fire risks. If possible, eliminate these from the jobsite. If they cannot safely be removed or fixed make sure workers are aware of these dangers and either avoiding them or handling with care.
Broken/crushed bones & loss of limbs
Falling objects or unsecured equipment can lead to broken, fractured and crushed bones. More severe accidents could also result in loss of fingers, toes or larger limbs.
Trips and falls
Construction sites can have uneven terrain as well as a multitude of obstacles to work around. Trips and falls can occur from tripping hazards on the ground, from lower levels such as ladders and stairway, or higher levels such as scaffolding, roofs or unsecured edges of a building.
There's a reason construction workers need to wear hard hats. There are many culprits that could cause head injuries including falling objects, trips and falls, trench collapses and more. Head injuries can include cuts and lacerations, concussions, traumatic brain injuries and more.
Spinal cord injuries
Another possible injury due to falls on the construction site are spinal cord injuries. These can be severe enough to lead to lifelong disabilities, brain damage and partial or full paralysis.
Loss of hearing
Construction workers are accustomed to hearing the loud noises on a construction site including operating machinery. This may be one of the areas the construction industry doesn't spend as much time on as we should. Prolonged exposure to such loud noise levels can can partial and full hearing loss. Hearing loss is not reversible but it is preventable. Wear proper ear protection every day on the jobsite, and make sure it fits properly.
Construction laborers do a lot of repetitive movement on the jobsite. This constant lifting, bending or moving in a repetitive way can cause stress injuries over time. The most common area affected by stress injuries is the back. Remember to always lift objects correctly (with your knees and legs and not your back).
And take scheduled breaks during the day to give your body a rest and an opportunity to rejuvenate your brain. Repetitive movement can often lull us into a sense of security and cause us to overlook safety issues when we're not thinking as sharply.
A major safety issue during the warm months is heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The exposure to sun, heat and exhausting work can cause lightheadedness, nausea and even fainting. When working in the hot weather drink plenty of water, take breaks out of the sun and always stop if you feel any signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Untreated heat-related illness can lead to brain, heart and kidney damage or even death.
Aside from heat-related illness, construction workers can also suffer from exhaustion — even in cold weather.
Construction work is tough and requires long hours. Tired, exhausted workers can be more likely to make mistakes that lead to more serious jobsite injuries and accidents.
This safety issue is often related to crane and lifting near overhead power lines. However, electrocution can also occur with outdated or misuse of equipment, improper installation of extension or flexible cords, and a lack of ground-fault protection.
As a construction business owner or construction laborer are you taking the time to focus on these areas of safety?
What are you doing to make sure your construction jobsites are injury and accident free?