The ABCs of Construction Site Safety

Construction sites are dangerous places to work. According to Associated Builders and Contractors of Southeastern Michigan Safety Director Ed Hanshaw, if you follow these 10 simple construction site safety rules you should be able to keep yourself, and others, safe.

“Every year, thousands of people are unnecessarily injured at work on construction sites,” said Hanshaw. “If you work in construction, safety is not just something you do, it needs to be woven into everything, before you even bid a job you should already have considered the safety needed to complete the work to ensure that your team goes home safe and sound each night.”

  1. Always wear your PPE. When you enter the site, make sure you have the PPE you need. PPE is important, it’s your last line of defense should you encounter a hazard on site. Hi-Viz helps make sure you are seen. Safety boots give you grip and protect your feet. Hard hats are easily replaced, but your skull isn’t.
    It can’t protect you if you don’t wear it. Wear your hard hat, safety boots, safety goggles, and Hi-Viz vest as a minimum, along with any additional PPE required for the task being carried out.
  2. Do not start work without an induction. Each site has its unique hazards and work operations. No two sites are the same. Make sure you know what is happening so that you can work safely. Inductions are a legal requirement on every construction site you work on.
    Your induction is important. It tells you where to sign in, where to go, what to do, and what to avoid. Don’t start work without one.
  3. Keep a tidy site. Construction work is messy. Slips and trips might not seem like a major problem compared to other high-risk work happening on the site, but don’t be fooled. According to recent MIOSHA statistics, slips and trips accounted for 30% of specified major injuries on construction sites.
    Remember to keep your work area tidy throughout your shift to reduce the number of slip and trip hazards. Pay attention to areas such as access and escape routes.
  4. Do not put yourself or others at risk. Actions speak louder than words. Especially on construction sites where one wrong move could put you in harm’s way. Set a good example, think safe and act safely on site. You are responsible for your own behavior. Construction sites are dangerous places to work. Make sure you remain safety aware throughout your shift.
  5. Follow safety signs and procedures. Follow construction safety signs and procedures. These should be explained to you in your induction. Your employer should ensure a risk assessment is carried out for your activities. Make sure you read and understand it.
    Control measures are put in place for your safety. Make sure they are in place and working before you start.
  6. Never work in unsafe areas. Make sure your work area is safe. Know what is happening around you. Be aware. According to HSE statistics, 14% of fatalities in construction were caused by something collapsing or overturning, and 11% by being struck by a moving vehicle.
    Don’t work at height without suitable guard rails or other fall prevention. Don’t enter unsupported trenches. Make sure you have safe access. Don’t work below crane loads or other dangerous operations.
  7. Report defects and near misses. If you notice a problem, don’t ignore it, report it to your supervisor immediately. Fill out a near-miss report, an incident report, or simply tell your supervisor. Whatever the procedure in place on your site for reporting issues, use it.
    Action can only be taken quickly if the management has been made aware of the problem. The sooner problems are resolved the less chance for an accident to occur.
  8. Never tamper with equipment. If something’s not working, or doesn’t look right, follow rule number seven and report it. Don’t try and force something, or alter something, if you’re not trained to or supposed to.
    Never remove guard rails or scaffold ties. Do not remove machine guards. Do not attempt to fix defective equipment unless you are competent to do so. Do not ever tamper with equipment without authorization.
  9. Use the right equipment. One tool does not fit all. Using the correct tool for the job will get it done quicker, and most importantly, safer. Visually check equipment is in good condition and safe to use before you start.
    Only use 110v equipment on the site. 240v equipment is strictly prohibited without prior authorization from management and will only be used if no 110v alternative available and additional safety precautions are taken.
  10. If in doubt, ask. Unsure what to do? Or how to do something safely? Or you think something is wrong? Stop work and ask. It takes five minutes to check, but it might not be so easy to put things right if things go wrong. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Mistakes on construction sites can cost lives, don’t let it be yours. If you need help or further information, speak to your supervisor.

By following the 10 tips above, you can ensure that your construction site is a safe and efficient place to be. These are just a few suggestions for workplace safety; there are many more considerations that you should consider when trying to protect your workers. However, no matter what you do and what changes you make, safety should always be your priority.

Other safety issues to consider: From wearing your seatbelt and PPE, to following procedures, you can help make your site a safer place to work and prevent accidents.

  • Always wear your seatbelt when in a vehicle or heavy equipment. Seatbelts are critical to preventing serious injuries and death while driving or operating. Motor vehicle crashes are still the number one cause of fatalities on the job in the United States.
  • Always use fall protection when working at heights. OSHA reports that excluding highway motor collisions, falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. Guard rails or utilizing a full body harness with a self-retracting lanyard are two common safeguards to mitigate fall hazards.
  • Stay out of the blind spots of heavy equipment. Struck-by incidents, caught-in between incidents, and run over incidents occur too often when heavy equipment is operating near ground personnel. Always keep your distance, communicate, and use eye contact to ensure an operator sees you when around their equipment.
  • Never put yourself in the line of fire. Just like being in the blind spot of heavy equipment, there are many other ways you can find yourself in harm’s way at a construction site. Being underneath lifted loads, next to a pipe being cut that has stored energy or working underneath equipment that is not properly cribbed up are three other examples of being in the line of fire.
  • Make sure chemicals are properly labeled and stored. OSHA issues many citations regarding the hazard communication standard every year. Improper labeling and storage can lead to injuries or property loss due to fires, corrosive properties, etc.