Business Tips

Construction Safety Tips

10 Real-World Construction Safety Tips

Construction site safety is a high priority for all companies. Each year the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases a list of the top 10 workplace safety violations. Implementing some best practices—such as offering proper training for workers, creating a safety program, providing personal protective equipment and following OHSA safety recommendations—can reduce accidents and help prevent deaths on the job site.

The Top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for fiscal year 2019 were:

  1. Fall Protection – General Requirements
  2. Hazard Communication
  3. Scaffolding
  4. Lockout/Tagout
  5. Respiratory Protection
  6. Ladders
  7. Powered Industrial Trucks
  8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements
  9. Machine Guarding
  10. Eye and Face Protection

OSHA provides solutions for each of these violations in its OSHA Pocket Guide.

Fall Protection

Falls consistently appear at the top of the workplace hazards list, accounting for the greatest number of fatalities in the construction industry. Unstable working surfaces, misuse, failure to use fall protection equipment and simple human error all result in falls. To protect your workers, use guardrails, fall arrest systems, safety nets, covers and restraint systems. OSHA also recommends using elevated platforms or aerial lifts and covering floor holes to keep workers safe.

Hazard Communication

 Hazard communication, or lack thereof, is the lack of worker education on the hazards associated with chemical use. These hazards include chemical burns, respiratory problems, fires and explosions. Along with maintaining a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each chemical, OSHA advises training your employees on how to read them and the risks and follow the manufacturer’s MSDS on proper handling. Create a written spill control plan and provide PPE and training to clean up spills.

Scaffolding

According to OSHA, about 2.3 million construction workers worked on scaffolds and in 2019, about 2,800 companies were cited for scaffold violations. Erecting scaffolds properly is the key to using them safely. Make sure the scaffold is sound, rigid and can carry its own weight plus four times the maximum intended load. Erect it on solid footing and don’t support it with unstable objects like barrels, boxes or loose bricks. Other safety precautions include equipping scaffolds with guardrails, midrails and toeboards, erecting them at least 10 feet from power lines and making sure the scaffold’s accessories aren’t damaged.

Lockout/Tagout

Lockout/tagout procedures on machinery or equipment are essential due to the potential release of hazardous energy during maintenance. To work on them safely, follow these steps from OSHA:

  1. Prepare for shutdown;
  2. Shut down the machine;
  3. Disconnect or isolate the machine from the energy source(s);
  4. Apply the lockout or tagout device(s) to the energy-isolating device(s);
  5. Release, restrain, or otherwise render safe all potentially hazardous stored or residual energy. If a possibility exists for reaccumulation of hazardous energy, regularly verify during the service and maintenance that such energy has not reaccumulated to hazardous levels; and
  6. Verify the isolation and de-energization of the machine.

Respirator Protection

Dust, fog, smoke, mist, gases, vapors and sprays can turn into workplace hazards if inhaled by workers at harmful levels. To protect your employees from their damage, including cancer, lung impairment, disease or death, comply with the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard. Respirators remove contaminants from the air and can also supply clean respirable air from another source.

Ladders

 OSHA estimates there are 24,882 injuries and 36 fatalities per year due to falls on stairways and ladders used in construction. These injuries can be prevented by using the correct ladder for the task and making sure it is not damaged or defective. Don’t use ladders that are too short for the job and never load them beyond their maximum intended load, including supporting the weight of the worker and his or her materials and tools.

Powered Industrial Trucks

Accidents involving powered industrial trucks can be prevented if companies ensure each operator knows how to drive them safely; this includes successfully completing training and evaluation. OSHA also states the best way to protect workers from injury depends on the type of truck and the worksite where it is being used.

Fall Protection – Training

Fall protection shows up twice on the list due to the lack of training requirements employers enforced in 2019 to protect workers from falls. OSHA requires companies to train each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards. Your training program should ensure each of your employees can recognize fall hazards and knows the procedures that need to be followed to minimize those hazards.

Machine Guarding

In 2019, 1,743 companies were cited for machine guarding violations. This applies to the guarding that protects machine operators from hazards caused by the point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, and flying chips and sparks. To reduce injuries, employers need to put in place barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices and electronic safety devices on machines.

Eye and Face Protection

 PPE Safety glasses or face shields are key to preventing foreign objects from getting into your workers’ eyes when they are welding, cutting, grinding, nailing, working with concrete or otherwise exposed to flying particles. Always provide your workers with safety glasses or face shields when they’re on the job.

Create a Culture of Safety

Establishing a culture of safety, one that’s instilled within every employee, helps keep your workers free from harm. Continuously remind your employees that the safer way is always the smarter way, and that shortcuts are not worth the potential time saved. Safety is also a team effort. Encourage your employees to step up and say something if they feel a coworker is taking an action that appears unsafe. Construction site safety is everyone’s concern.

Another way to address construction safety topics is through Toolbox Talks.

Toolbox Talks

A toolbox talk is an informal group discussion that focuses on a specific safety issue. More for safety maintenance and specifics rather than a high-level overview, toolbox talks can be held monthly, weekly or even daily. Toolbox Talks are led by a supervisor or project manager and should stay brief if possible. They are most effective when broken out into small groups, and stay focused on a topic that is clearly applicable to the project at hand.

Toolbox Talks are essential to your company’s safety program. They provide the perfect opportunity to discuss occupational safety with your workers, provide training updates, or discuss safety measures that will help you stay compliant with state or federal OSHA regulations.

ExakTime can help you monitor safety by alerting you to which workers are on-site, giving workers the ability to communicate dangerous conditions through field notes and allowing you to schedule impromptu or recurring toolbox talks so that no one misses them. Contact us to learn more about monitoring your crews’ actions and activities effectively today.