Construction safety doesn’t happen by itself. Here are some safety tips for construction workers and companies that might help reduce jobsite accidents.
Construction can be a dangerous occupation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the year 2020, more than one in five workers who lost their lives in work-related accidents were construction workers. But the simple fact is that most construction accidents are preventable. With the right training, equipment and precautions, companies and workers can boost construction safety so crews are more likely to go home at the end of the shift healthy and ready to work another day.
Increasing jobsite safety may seem like a tall order. It requires a range of proactive approaches, and an effective safety program is a must. But five basic measures can help you avert the most common accidents and avoid some of the safety oversights. Here are some construction site safety tips to consider for a safer, more productive jobsite..
Prioritize safety training
Ongoing worker training is the cornerstone of construction jobsite safety. Regular toolbox talks, in-depth safety orientations for new employees and construction site inductions that introduce workers to site-specific safety plans all play an important role in increasing safety in the construction industry. But formal training is also essential.
Companies that offer access to classroom training or blended training (online classes with an in-person practical evaluation) give them a leg up on staying safe. Here are four types of formal training your workers may need.
Equipment operator training
Construction projects wouldn’t happen without heavy equipment, but these machines can potentially cause serious injuries. That’s why, in most cases, operator certification is necessary.
Equipment operator training courses help to ensure operators are familiar with the equipment and understand how to operate it safely. Courses devoted to operating equipment from backhoes and excavators to rough terrain forklifts include a skills evaluation at the end.
Aerial lift training is especially important also known as mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs). Companies should be sure to follow the latest American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A92 suite of standards, which are designed to increase MEWP safety.
Fall protection training
Year after year, falls remain on of the leading causes of construction deaths..
One simple but effective way to protect your workers from falls is to provide fall protection training. This training helps workers recognize the risks of falls and understand the equipment to use and other steps to reduce those risks. Fall protection training isn’t just a smart idea; it’s also required by OSHA.
RELATED: What Effective Fall Protection Training Looks Like
Confined space training
Millions of workers enter confined spaces each year. These spaces, which include manholes, pipelines, tunnels and wells, pose unique hazards, such as asphyxiation.
Confined space training helps ensure that workers know how to recognize these hazards and take appropriate precautions so they can avoid becoming a grim statistic.
Ladder safety training
Using ladders safely seems simple enough, but in 2021, OSHA’s ladder standard was the number three cited standard based on worksite inspections, meaning that companies frequently violated the rules of safe ladder use. It’s no wonder ladder accidents and injuries happen so often. Brushing up on ladder safety takes just 15 minutes in this online ladder safety training course.
Put fall prevention measures in place
Considering that falls are one of the top causes of fatal jobsite injuries, fall prevention measures are important safety measures in construction work. It’s no surprise, then, that OSHA is on the lookout for violations of its fall protection rules. 2021, OSHA’s fall protection standard (1926.501) was the number one most frequently cited standard of all OSHA standards. That tells you that companies regularly fail to comply with one or more of the standard’s parts.
Want to stay in compliance and keep workers protected from falls? Pay special attention to these three parts of the OSHA fall protection standard:
- Standard 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(1). Any working/walking surface that's 6 feet or more above a lower level must be protected by guardrail systems, safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems.
- Standard 29 CFR 1926.453(b)(2)v. When working from an aerial lift, employees must wear a body belt attached to either the boom or basket.
- Standard 29 CFR 1926.501(b) (10). An employer must provide fall protection to any employee working on a low-slope roof with unprotected edges that are 6 feet or more above lower levels.
Use the right PPE
Appropriate PPE helps protect workers against a wide range of common hazards, from falls to falling objects to electrocution. It’s often the last line of defense against an injury.
Workers today know they need to wear hard hats and work boots. Gloves, face protection and hearing protection round out the five PPE items workers should have. Knowing the right PPE for the task and choosing to wear it can make the difference between a regular workday and one that involves a trip to the ER.
Don’t overlook respiratory protection when dust, fumes, harmful gases or vapors are present or may be present. OSHA’s respiratory protection standard was the number two most cited OSHA standard in 2021. Remember that employers are required to provide respirators when they are needed.
Workers should also know the PPE they need for working with chemicals.
Be sure to inspect PPE before use. A cracked hardhat or a harness with a torn strap or corroded D ring may not do its job in the moment of truth.
Wear and tear on machines increases the risk of mechanical failures that can lead to accidents. Even a tire blow-out from underinflated tires can cause a machine tip-over.
Well-maintained equipment is safer equipment. It also lasts longer and breaks down less often, which makes regular preventive and seasonal equipment maintenance a wise investment on multiple fronts, no matter how big or small your fleet. If you find that fleet maintenance is too complicated or time-consuming, consider outsourcing it to a one-stop equipment shop that can make sure it gets done properly.
If your company owns boom lifts or scissor lifts, remember to have them inspected. Regular inspections by qualified mechanics or technicians, which OSHA and ANSI require, can identify mechanical issues before an accident happens. If you don’t have someone qualified to work on your aerial lift's specific make and model, outsource the inspections to a qualified vendor.
A final note about equipment: If your fleet is aging, consider renting equipment for your next project. Renting provides you with well-maintained, newer equipment that’s more likely to have the latest safety features.
Designate a competent person
Construction work is complex. Sometimes it takes someone with specialized experience to see the dangers or potential dangers in the surroundings or the working conditions. That’s exactly the idea behind designating a competent person.
A competent person, according to OSHA, is someone who has the knowledge to recognize hazards and the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.
You may need more than one competent person on site depending on the work that’s taking place. If you’re using scaffolds, for example, you need a competent person who understands all the factors that could affect the scaffold's structural integrity. If you’re building a trench, you need a competent person who can classify the soil, choose an appropriate trench protective system and inspect the trench at the beginning of each shift and whenever conditions change.
Safety in the construction industry is improving as individual companies make it a higher priority. By taking these five steps — offering training, putting fall prevention measures in place, using appropriate PPE, properly maintaining equipment and designating competent persons on jobsites — your company can do its part to ensure that the trend continues.