Construction is one of the most dangerous jobs today. Better safety practices combined with an improvement in technology have improved worker safety significantly. Still, 2016 saw 991 worker fatalities in the construction field in the U.S. By far, the most common cause of fatalities was deaths from falls. For every fatality, many more workers are injured or become ill from work-related incidents. Construction is inherently dangerous work, but as recent history demonstrates, concrete steps can make is much safer. Every general contractor is responsible for learning how to keep construction workers safe on the job. Here are some tips that, when followed, can significantly increase worker safety and reduce injuries and deaths.
1. Always wear appropriate clothing
It would seem to go without saying that construction workers should always wear protective clothing. However, keeping in mind what types of clothing and safety equipment is necessary can be difficult. At the very least, every worker should be wearing a hard hat, high visibility clothing, and safety boots. However, there are many other types of clothing that can help to reduce injury and illness. The type of clothing you need is dependent on the nature of the job your workers are performing.
When working with dust or chemicals, all workers should be provided with appropriate respiratory gear and masks. For many types of work, safety goggles are highly recommended. High grip gloves can also reduce falls by providing better grip for climbing, mounting, and dismounting from large equipment. When working higher than 6 feet off the ground, workers should use harnesses to avoid falls. Workers who work in close proximity to loud machines should be issued noise canceling earmuffs.
2. Teach workers to lift properly
If falls are the most common cause of fatalities, the most common type of non-fatal injuries are back injuries. To help reduce painful back injuries and reduce the number of injury-related days off, workers should be trained how to lift correctly. Always make sure to bend the knees. Avoid shifting side to side as you lift. Increase balance by placing one foot forward and one back, to increase ground space.
In addition to proper lifting technique, added equipment such as back braces can reduce injuries. If heavy items need to be lifted, consider a forklift, crane, or another machine to take the load of workers.
3. Avoid overcrowding
Often, a construction site is a bust place. Workers are constantly coming and going. But overcrowding can lead to falls and accidental collisions of workers and equipment. If workers are using scaffolding, ensure that they don’t exceed weight limits. Whenever heavy machinery is active, make sure to clear the surrounding area before work begins.
4. Maintain tools and equipment
Your workers rely on their tools for everything they do. So it is crucial that all of their tools are in proper working condition at all times. Portable power tools like drills should be checked regularly to make sure that the batteries are safe and the bits being used are sharp and secure. For devices that will be plugged in, make sure that the tools are plugged into an outlet with an earth ground wire and a working circuit breaker. Also, avoid water and ensure that electrical cords don’t lay in puddles or wet areas.
Heavy machinery should be inspected regularly to make sure that all controls work as intended. Also, make sure that the reverse gear warning sound is functional, so all nearby workers know to stand clear.
5. Keep work areas tidy
A work area that is crowded with unnecessary items is an accident waiting to happy. Areas where workers are active should be clear of electrical cords, unused tools, loose equipment, and construction debris. In many cases, trips, falls, and injuries from falling equipment could have been prevented in the work area was kept clear.
As workers move from one area to the next, make sure that they bring all of their equipment with them. If a tool is not being used, it should be safely stored in a designated place. Heavy equipment and machinery should be kept out of the work site when not in use. Also, make sure that all large machinery and vehicles are completely turned off and safely parked when not in use. Personal property, like lunches and other gear, should be stored in a separate designated area.
6. Get on and off of heavy machinery carefully
Sometimes you will have to use large machinery on your work sites. Many large vehicles and construction equipment have cabs that are high off the ground. Just getting on and off the equipment can be a hazard. Make sure that workers have proper footwear and high-grip gloves to climb into equipment. Many large construction machines have ladders of foot and hand holds. Always use the provided hand and foot holds, especially when descending.
7. Workers should be trained to work at height
Many construction jobs require workers to do their jobs at some height. As soon as you have gotten higher than a medium-sized step ladder, you run the risk of severe injury or death from falls. Before a worker climbs up to a height, he or she must be trained in proper safety procedures. Whenever possible, workers should use safety harnesses to protect from falls inf a worker loses their footing. If a worker is inexperienced and has not received specific training, they should not be allowed to work at any height that could cause injury if the worker fell.
8. Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit
Some injuries are emergencies that require professional intervention. But many smaller injuries can be dealt with using just a standard first-aid kit. Make sure that you have a kit that can be used on minor cuts, scrapes, or burns. Of course, a first aid kit is only helpful if you can get to it. Site managers should ensure that a first aid kit is always easily accessible and that all workers know where it is located. It is also critical to ensure that the first aid kit is kept well stocked. Schedule weekly checks to make sure that all of the supplies are in the first aid kit. After an injury, check the supply levels and replace whatever was used to treat the injury.
In addition to maintaining a first aid kit, make sure that workers are trained to use the kit to treat minor injuries. Site managers should be certified in first aid and CPR.
9. Use personal safety devices
Technology has helped to greatly reduce serious accidents on construction sites. One piece of technology that every worker should be equipped with is a personal safety device. There are different brands, but all of them include an SOS button that can be pressed in case of a real emergency. Similar to vehicle SOS services, a personal device alerts a central monitoring agency. It will give them your location and allow them to communicate with the worker. The central monitoring site can send the appropriate emergency services.
Other Great Job Site Technology
In addition to keeping workers safe, job site technology can make a construction crew work more smoothly. Needo technology allows contractors to manage every aspect of their business in a single place. You can keep track of workers, vendors, materials, and invoices. Contact Needo to learn more about how our technology can help you.