How to Improve Safety in Construction Sites | 12th April 2019
There are already four preliminary worker deaths (year-to-date 2019) in the construction industry. Although this seems low (especially compared to other industries such as transport and agriculture), it’s still serious because human lives are at stake. Accidents are still inevitable but the ideal of zero incidents should always be our aim.
In addition, work-related injuries (wherein some are not reported) are still significant and alarming. Falls from a height, hitting an object or being hit by an object and lifting, pushing or pulling objects cause injuries that may permanently affect the workers’ capacities. After all, construction sites are busy places and there are risks and hazards that are normally absent in corporate offices. There are just a lot more things that could go wrong during a construction project.
How to improve safety in construction sites
More than 30 construction workers are injured each day in Australia (source: Safe Work Australia). Carpenters, joiners, plumbers, electricians, labourers, concreters, structural steel construction workers, plasterers, painting trades workers and earthmoving plant operators are always at risk during a busy day. Falls from a height cause serious injuries and fatalities. In addition, we also have to consider the musculoskeletal stress and harsh environmental conditions being encountered by the workers. These all add up that increase the risk of accidents and lead to gradual physical injuries.
As a result, it’s important to pay attention to both the one-time or occasional events and the daily experiences of the workers. This is a useful framework when formulating ways on how to improve workplace safety.
For example, occasional events include falling from a height (e.g. from 2 metres and above). These can be prevented by using strong harnesses and safety lines. On the other hand, daily work experiences can be much improved by wearing comfortable clothing and high quality footwear because improved comfort results to better focus to work and safety.
For effective assessments and results, it’s recommended to start with the worst accidents and outcomes such as falls from a height. To minimise or make those incidents impossible, it’s important to consider the following:
How likely are falls to happen and what are the outcomes if they indeed happen
What is the design and layout of the elevated work area (and what’s the height or distance of the potential fall)
How many are the people in the workplace and what are their movements
How near or far the people are from unsafe areas
The condition of the scaffolds (temporary structure that supports the crew and/or materials)
Is the work area well lit (either by sunlight or artificial lighting)
Weather conditions during work hours (extreme heat or cold, rain, wind)
Quality and suitability of clothing and footwear for the work conditions and environment
Where and how the ladders are being used and their conditions and suitability for the job application
Have the workers received adequate training and gained sufficient familiarity with the work and job site
During emergency situations, what are the response and evacuation procedures
Using fall prevention devices and fall arrest systems
Emergencies do happen but still they should be kept at a minimum. It’s still best to prevent the falls and other accidents in the first place.
Fall prevention devices are very useful in making certain incidents virtually impossible or very unlikely. For example, specifically designed scaffold working platforms with particular safe load limits improve safety and make falls very unlikely. There are also heavy duty work platforms that are appropriate for concreting and demolition work. The platforms can handle both heavy loads and heavy impact forces common to such applications.
Aside from preventing the falls, it’s also important to always prepare for the worst outcomes. The focus should still be on prevention but when the worst happens, it’s always good to have something that will keep the workers safe. For example, safety nets and catch platforms greatly reduce the impact of the fall and also allow the workers to better focus on the task at hand (fewer worries about the risk of falling). For this to be effective and successful, both the safety nets and catch platforms should be able to sustain a sudden heavy impact force and load. Aside from making the crew working at heights feel safe, the catch platforms and safety nets also create a safety zone where the area is off-limits to workers below (or the workers will be extra careful because materials, people and debris might fall off there).
Other hazards in construction sites
Construction workers are also exposed to other hazards such as:
Sites that are near chemical and fuel lines (risks of fires and explosions)
Areas that are contaminated or have gas leaks which pose serious health hazards
Sites near energised electrical installations
Areas with very limited visibility or the area is a confined space (e.g. tunnel)
There are many other risks and hazards that may or may not be unique to each site and type of work. In any case, the preparation should always be thorough because only one incident is needed to claim human lives. In addition, accidents are costly especially if we’re talking about potentially long downtimes.
Many business owners and managers have relied on us here at All Trades Group. We supply the necessary workgear that keep workers safe when working at heights, sites with poor visibility and other unfavourable conditions. Our practical and user-friendly equipment are now in use by many small businesses and multinational corporations. Contact us today and let’s discuss your requirements to better protect your crew.