Safety Best Practices

Top 5 Construction Site Hazards and How to Control Them

Caitlin Liboiron @Caitlin
Safety & Compliance
5 min read
May 18, 2022

A staggering 20% of on-the-job deaths are concentrated in the construction industry. The truth of the matter makes this especially difficult to bear: these fatalities are largely preventable, and they likely would have been had thorough compliance management been in place. It is your responsibility to ensure your construction workers—the very backbone of your company—get home safely. Here are five of the most common construction site hazards and how to mitigate them.

5) Chemical and Material Exposure

In 2020, there were more than 190,000 illnesses related to chemical exposure in the workplace—killing nearly 50,000 workers. Construction workers face increased exposure to airborne chemicals (in paint, stains, and primers), as well as fuel, exhaust fumes, mechanical lubricants, and other harmful substances.

Workers may not even know they have been exposed until after symptoms appear later on. This is especially problematic for temporary workers and workers who frequently move between job sites. Those workers may not know that they were exposed, by what chemical, or even at which job site—all critical information for treatment.

How To Reduce Exposure To Chemical Hazards

OSHA safety standards compliance management can limit chemical hazard exposure. Training should include proper handling of the materials and procedures to minimize the risk of long-term exposure. It should also emphasize the need for increased awareness, road mapping possible dangers/their solutions, and prioritizing due diligence.

OSHA requires proper labeling of all chemicals. Only what is on the label should be in the container it’s affixed to. Workers should report any damaged containers or illegible labels. Workers should read the safety data sheet for each chemical before use, especially if it’s a new or unfamiliar brand.

Finally, having proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for each type of chemical or material is crucial. Safety goggles, gloves, protective clothing, and/or respiratory protection must be in good working order. If necessary, rotate workers to minimize long-term exposure.

A staggering 20% of on-the-job deaths are concentrated in the construction industry.

4) “Struck-By” Accidents

Struck-by accidents occur when an object forcibly hits a worker. Workers often have caught-between or caught-in accidents, in which they become pinned between walls or vehicles, caught in the gears of a machine, or even struck by a swinging arm of a crane. Falling objects and flying objects are other types of struck-by incidents. OSHA reports that one in four struck-by deaths happens to construction workers, with 75% of them involving heavy equipment.

How To Prevent Struck-By Accidents

Supreme awareness is the key to preventing struck-by accidents. Your workers should know where any potential dangers are and act accordingly.

PPE, like hard hats and steel-toed boots, plays a big role here. Face shields and goggles can prevent injury from small flying objects. Brightly-visible safety vests help others to see them.

All heavy equipment and hand tools must be inspected and maintained. Proper training in the operation of machinery and safety procedures is essential. Equipment and vehicle operators should wear seatbelts, and ensure the surface being driven over is sound and empty. Use guards, screens, and debris nets on scaffolds to keep tools from falling off. Workers should tether small tools to work belts to prevent them from falling.

At the end of the day, stack materials properly to prevent sliding or falling. Simple housekeeping can prevent grave accidents.

3) Scaffolding Injuries

OSHA reports that 2.3 million construction workers use scaffolds—with many being injured due to dropped objects, falling off of them, or scaffold collapse. Accidents can occur due to improper placement of scaffolding, especially when near overhead power lines.

How to Reduce Scaffolding Accidents

OSHA provides standards for safety compliance management of scaffolds, from how they should be built to who is certified to build and dismantle them. Capacity requirements should be strictly heeded to avoid overloading. Thorough scaffold inspections should occur before each shift. All workers should wear safety harnesses secured to solid structures, as well as a hard hat and nonslip footwear. Proper training on the use of each type of scaffold at a job site and corresponding safety precautions should be given as risk and compliance management.

2) Electrical Accidents

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that 77% of all 2012-2016 electrocutions happened to construction workers, with 60% caused by direct contact. Three main types of electrical accidents occur at constructions sites: electrocution from direct contact with electricity, severe burns/death from explosions triggered by electrical equipment, and falls after experiencing a shock.

How to Reduce Electrical Accidents

Both safety and proper equipment use training are vital when working with/around electricity. Wearing electrical gloves and footwear provide a layer of protection between the worker and live electricity. Other protective equipment, such as fire-resistant helmets, ear protection, goggles, and face shields, protects workers.

Equally important is conducting a risk assessment before construction begins and periodically checking for potential dangers. Additionally, all electrical equipment should be tested before each use.

1) Falls

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. They can occur because of faulty equipment, poor footing, or slipping.

How to Reduce Falls

Proper compliance management—through fall prevention planning—can prevent falls and fatalities. These plans entail providing specialized equipment and safety gear. Each fall protection plan is unique to each job site; it requires a walk-through at the job site for locations of scaffolding and other equipment. Daily inspections ensure that all safety precautions are in place and all potential risks are mitigated before becoming live dangers. This includes checking that stairs, ladders, and scaffolding are free of substances and debris.

Providing the right equipment can involve new ladders, extra guardrails, and more secure scaffolds. Personal fall arrest systems (safety harnesses and safety nets) can be the difference between life and death.

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