Construction Site Safety Tips
It goes without saying that construction sites are a dangerous place to work. From heavy equipment and hazardous materials to confined spaces and overhead work, there are simply too many elements that can lead to injuries or death even in just a single, small site.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), New Zealand businesses have the primary responsibility of ensuring the health and safety of their employees in the workplace. Admittedly, however, even the most conscientious business owner can find it difficult to navigate all the fine details of labour legislation and best practices in safety.
To help minimise risks and ensure everyone’s well-being in a construction site, here are some key points to focus on:
Develop a Safety Plan
When accidents happen in a construction site, it can be panic-inducing if no one knows what to do. This can result in more injuries and an overall worse situation. To prevent this from happening, make sure to develop a safety plan. Include all the rules and arrangements for likely scenarios, including evacuation procedures.
Of course, your safety plan will be useless if no one knows about them. Thus, before the work begins, conduct an orientation with the team so that everyone is on the same page.
Make Sure Everyone Has the Right Qualifications
There’s a variety of work to be done on a construction site, depending on the projects. As such, you need to check the competency of every worker coming to your site. They need to be trained and properly certified for what they’re going to do.
Simply put, if someone is going to work at heights, they need working at heights training. Ideally, it should cover NZQA Unit Standard 15757, 17600, and 23229. There are also various training options available to receive the corresponding unit standards for working in confined spaces and operating mobile elevating work platforms or MEWPs.
Aside from verifying that everyone has necessary unit standards and other requirements for specific types of jobs, it’s also important to provide supervision. This way, someone is always there to enforce the rules in the safety plan and keep an eye on things overall.
Secure the Site
The only people who should be present in a construction site are the workers. Anyone who is not directly involved should not be there at all. If there are guests to be received, do it somewhere separate from the actual work site. Make sure to also establish the appropriate barricades to prevent incidences of trespassing.
It’s also important to direct the flow of vehicles to prevent collisions. Delineate dedicated pedestrian walkways all around the site so workers can safely cross from one area to another.
Provide the Appropriate PPE and Safety Equipment
Personal protective equipment or PPE like the ones listed below are an absolute must at any construction site.
- Hard hats to protect the head from falling debris (remember to check the expiry date)
- Safety glasses to shield the eyes from splashes of debris or liquids
- Safety earmuffs, particularly for construction sites with loud machines
- Dust masks of the correct type and filtration rating to prevent inhalation of harmful particles and fumes
- Gloves for those who are handling or working with heavy and hazardous materials
- Protective footwear for better stability and protection against impact
- High-visibility clothing so workers are easier to spot (they can be colour-coded depending on designation)
There should also be other protective and safety equipment around the site, based on the work being done. For example, working at height requires side railings, toe boards, and harnesses to prevent falls.
Inspect the Vehicles and Machines
There are various kinds of construction vehicles and machines, ranging from handheld tools to heavy equipment. These should all be inspected thoroughly to ensure that they’re in proper working order to minimise the risk of malfunctions.
For those who are renting machines, check with the provider when the latest inspection was. The ideal schedule is once a year for all equipment, except for those used for lifting as these should be inspected every 6 months.
Of course, it’s crucial to know how all these vehicles and machines are operated properly. Follow the instructions to the letter to prevent any unwanted incidents. This is especially important for vehicles that are used to lift, suspend, or lower objects. Follow the safe working load indicated on the machine not only to keep the workers out of harm’s way but also to prevent damage to the machine.
Check for Hazardous Materials
As previously mentioned, there are plenty of hazardous materials in a construction site. Most of them are easily visible or identifiable, such as chemicals in their marked containers. Some, however, are mostly invisible or undetectable. Asbestos is a good example, the fibres of which can cause serious medical issues when inhaled.
Thus, before working on any construction site, make sure to have it inspected thoroughly for the presence of asbestos and other harmful substances. If there are, these should be removed by licenced professionals.
There are plenty of other considerations for construction site safety, which are mostly dependent on variable factors (e.g., multiple-storey structures, construction sites near or surrounded by water). With these tips as a guide, you can develop more specific guidelines that are tailor-fit for your own construction site.