It’s well-known that construction sites are hazardous places to work. While most employers manage their sites effectively via risk assessments and accident-prevention measures, accidents and fatalities continue to occur. There are recognised prime hazards and these are compounded by risk factors, including lack of supervision, lack of training, working alone, workers being unaware of their rights, temporary employment, and trying to impress the employer, supervisor or co-workers.
The following 10 key steps address the top hazards.
- Protect from dust
As many tasks on site generate significant amounts of dust, workers are at risk of serious ill health, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), increased respiratory symptoms, and asbestosis. Use vacuum extraction/filtration systems on tools and, in a large internal area, set up a containment tent with an extraction/filtration unit. In addition, ensure that the workplace is properly ventilated and respiratory protective equipment is used.
- Ensure safe manual handling
The demands of lifting and pushing heavy or awkward-sized objects involves the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and repetitive strain injuries. Workers who need to do manual handling – lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying – need to be adequately trained. Consider the use of a lifting aid, such as a forklift truck, electric or hand-powered hoist, and whether heavy items could be delivered directly, or closer, to the storage area.
- Prevent slips and trips
Thousands of construction workers are injured annually by tripping or slipping. Key causes include uneven surfaces, obstacles, trailing cables, wet or slippery surfaces, and changes in level. This can be avoided by effectively managing work areas and access routes, such as stairwells, corridors, footpaths and site cabins.
- Insulate against noise
Excessive noise causes Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), raised blood pressure, headaches and stress, hypertension and gastric ulcers. Workers need to be protected from noise levels over 85 decibels. After adjusting equipment and processes where possible, controls including screens, acoustic barriers, enclosures or absorbent materials should be used to protect workers and the public.
- Maintain hand tools
The construction sector rates the highest for power tool injuries. The hazard of both powered and non-powered hand tools results from misuse, mechanical failure and improper maintenance, including the ad hoc repair of damaged equipment. It is vital to maintain portable tools to prevent or eliminate hazards.
- Manage exhaust fumes
Fumes from diesel vehicles and equipment irritate the respiratory system and eyes, cause chronic respiratory ill health, and ultimately lung and bladder cancer. Firstly, switch to low-sulphur fuel or gas or electric power if possible. Fit particulate and catalytic filters on exhausts, use local exhaust ventilation, and filter air in vehicle cabs. Consult a specialist in order to force fresh air into the workspace.
- Maintain positive air quality
The need for a constant supply of fresh air in confined areas is key. The health risks of air compromised by dust and fume are significant, as listed above. Forcing fresh air into a workspace manages the control of contaminants and ensures the required air exchange rate for effective ventilation. Specialists can advise on the type of equipment needed, from a wide range of fans which are typically used together with ducting.
- Ensure a safe climate
High moisture levels can pose a problem in the winter months. If gas heaters are used to attempt to dry out a confined space, there is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Dehumidifiers are designed to collect excess humidity and then heat the cooled, dehumidified air, keeping workers healthy and comfortable.
- Guard against falls
Falling from height is one of the biggest causes of workplace fatalities and major injuries. Scaffolding should be erected with guardrails, midrails and toeboards. Guardrails prevent falls while safety nets and personal fall-arrest systems protect workers from falling a great distance. Workers should wear hard hats and sturdy, non-skid work boots, and use tool lanyards when working on scaffolds to protect workers below.
- Counter the cold
While there is no legal minimum temperature for working outdoors, there are requirements to support health and safety. Workers experiencing cold temperatures and wet conditions experience numbness, shivering and dehydration, and are more susceptible to winter illnesses and even heart attacks. Safe work practices, personal protective equipment and specialist heating equipment – oil-fired heaters and electric fan heaters – should be used.
This post was provided by RVT GROUP.