From heavy machinery and power tools, to working at heights, construction is a dangerous job. For those not aware of the risks, or for those who become complacent, chance of injury is even higher. In fact, according to OSHA roughly 20%, or over 1,000 of private industry worker fatalities happen in construction. At EDA, safety is at the forefront of everything we do, and we take pride in ensuring that our workers are well-trained and abide by life-saving safety protocols. To give a better sense of some ways you can stay safe on jobsites, we have compiled a list of twelve safety tips. By following these simple tips, you can help keep yourself and coworkers safe on jobsites.
1. Wear Appropriate PPE
This is one of the simplest ways to ensure safety when you are at work and should be the first thing you think about before stepping on a jobsite. Personal protective equipment (PPE), when worn properly, is meant to minimize exposure to hazards and prevent injury . Wearing proper shoes or boots, as well as proper head protection are other important steps to keep you safe. If you are looking for better head protection, consider a safety helmet. These have emerged in recent years and provide more protection than a traditional hardhat. Protective eyewear meeting ANSI Z308.1 standards should always be worn, especially when performing cutting or grinding operations. Cut level-4 gloves are provided by EDA and are a great at preventing many small lacerations that often occur. Wearing proper PPE should become a habit and is one of the simplest ways to stay safe at work.
2. Use Proper Safety Equipment
In addition to donning appropriate PPE, you should always ensure that you are using the appropriate safety equipment. Safety equipment is useless when not used properly, and the equipment can vary across fields. One important example of this is utilizing fall protection at elevations of more than six feet. Using this equipment properly is also a key step to ensuring that you stay safe on jobsites. Harnesses in particular can save your life, but only if wearing them properly. Remember that safety equipment is there for a reason, and you should always take the extra minute to make sure you are using it correctly.
3. Proper Housekeeping
Jobs can be chaotic – it’s easy for sites to get messy or cluttered, and this can lead to major problems. According to OSHA, slips, trips, and falls cause nearly 700 fatalities each year and lead to many more serious workplace injuries. Another part of keeping the site clean and free from clutter is limiting the number of people. This can mean limiting the number of workers in a certain area or minimizing the number of bystanders near equipment. When necessary, be sure to clear unneeded individuals from a jobsite to give workers the proper space to work effectively and efficiently. Always make sure to clean up debris and keep materials in an easily accessible area to minimize risk.
4. Follow Signs and Safety Procedures
Be sure to understand your site’s Site-Specific Safety Plan and Job Hazard Analysis before you start work. Safety signs should always be used and all workers should abide by the health and safety regulations presented. Some examples of signs you will see on jobsites include prohibition signs like “no entry” and “no smoking.” Mandatory signs like “hard hat required” or warning signs like “wet floor” should also be present. Further, safe condition and fire equipment signs which include “fire exit,” “first aid,” and “fire equipment” are important to understand before an emergency arises. Each of these signs present important information that is meant to keep you safe, so always be mindful when you see any of these signs on your next job.
5. Report Safety Issues and Near Misses
“Near misses” are a clear sign that there is a safety issue and are an important way to identify hazards or weaknesses on a jobsite. If you notice an issue or witness a near miss, be sure to report it to your supervisor immediately. Procedures may vary from site-to-site, but can include filling out a near miss report, incident report, or just reporting it. If you are unsure about how to approach this, always feel free to reach out to your Safety Director or Safety Coordinator. Everybody has a role in reporting safety issues and near misses, and supervisors must investigate and correct these issues in a timely manner. Near misses can help a company be proactive when it comes to identifying trends and helps them reduce workplace accidents.
6. Communicate Hazards and Stop Work to Address Them
Workers should always communicate hazards as soon as they see them. Failure to immediately report and fix safety issues can have potentially fatal consequences. If this issue is easily resolvable, for example getting a correct tool, you can fix the issue yourself, but if it is a larger issue like broken equipment, it should be brought to the attention of a superior. When a hazard is brought to a superior’s attention, work should stop until the hazard is mitigated and it is safe to resume. In some instances, you will need to involve another person to correct the issue. Two examples of when to involve another person are instances where you need help lifting a heavy object or when you are working near another company’s contractors and their work is affecting yours. Resolving hazards should always be in the front of your mind.
7. Understand Ladder Safety
Improper use of ladders is one of the leading causes of falls for construction workers. Once you determine it is necessary to use a ladder, it is imperative that you use it correctly. The most common reasons for ladder falls are incorrect ladder choice, failure to properly secure the ladder, and not maintaining three points of contact while climbing. To decrease your risk of falling, portable ladders should always be long enough to extend three feet above the work surface. In addition, you should always maintain three points of contact while ascending and descending from a ladder. You should not carry tools in your hands when climbing up or down, instead you should use a tool belt or a rope to pull equipment up once you have stopped climbing.
While workers play a major role in ladder safety, employers also play a role in keeping their workers safe. In addition to offering proper trainings on ladder safety and selecting an appropriate ladder, employers should always have a competent person inspect ladders before use and tag and remove defective ladders from service. Always make sure to consult OSHA ladder standards if you are unsure of a situation.
8. Use Proper Equipment
Just because a tool is available, doesn’t mean it is the correct tool for the job. It is important to use equipment that is designed for the job you are trying to do, as using the wrong tool creates a safety issue. Part of choosing the right tool also means checking that it is not broken or defective. If a tool is defective, you should remove it from service immediately and tag it so that nobody else tries to use it. Defective tools pose a safety hazard and should never be used, even if missing the tool will setback the job schedule. Of course, it goes without saying, but don’t ever use the wrong tool to replace a tool that has been taken out of service.
9. Don’t Take Shortcuts
Taking shortcuts on safety by not implementing proper safeguards or rushing certain tasks can lead to accidents. One of the first steps to avoiding shortcuts is holding yourself to a high standard. You should always take the time to perform tasks correctly and to the best of your abilities. Doing your work correctly and not taking shortcuts can also help inspire the same level of workmanship from your colleagues, especially if you are in a leadership position. Also remember that if you are in a leadership position, be mindful of putting undue time pressure on your employees that may lead to them taking shortcuts. Many individuals tend to put pressure on themselves to get work done fast, but it is important that they understand safety comes first.
10. Stay Updated on Safety Trainings
Ongoing safety training should be offered to keep employees refreshed on standard safety protocols and updated on new developments. Safety protocols should be reviewed with new hires since their previous experience and education can vary. Ongoing trainings should occur regularly to ensure that staff remain updated and refreshed on all safety protocol. Doing this will help mitigate risk and further drive home the importance of safety protocols. Don’t forget that if your workforce is made up of workers with limited English skills, you should offer in-language trainings to make sure they understand the contents of your trainings.
11. Trust Safety Managers
Safety managers help to oversee the fundamentals of jobsite safety. Their role helps prevent accidents through trainings and by inspecting jobsites for adequate safety procedures. Safety managers are trained to identify hazards and to stay up to date on new regulations. It is important to remember that their job is to help keep you safe. Embracing the importance of a safety manager in your job will help you learn and develop best-practices in safety.
12. Take Breaks and Stay Sober
Remaining fresh and in a clear mind is important for construction workers. The first step to making sure you are in proper mental and physical shape is by taking regular breaks and not overworking yourself. In addition to staying fresh in this way, it is also important to remain sober at work. Substance abuse disproportionately effects the construction industry, with approximately 15% of all construction workers having a substance abuse problem (compared to 8.6% of the general population). Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol will reduce the productivity of workers, but also creates an unsafe environment for those around you. For your safety and the safety of those around you, always be sure to stay sober on jobsites, and get help if you need it.