Work-related injuries and deaths are a major concern among many industries that expose workers to dangers, but this is particularly true for construction workers who are constantly at risk of physical injury. In the United States, approximately 6.5 million people work on construction sites in one day, and construction is at the top of the list of dangerous jobs.
Fortunately, many companies ensure their workers are rightly equipped and working in safe conditions. However, safety at the construction site equally lies in your hands. Daily, you are likely to work at great heights, on unstable terrain, near heavy machinery, and using dangerous power tools. Some construction sites also pose a risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals.
This doesn’t have to mean that if you work on a construction site, you are inevitably at risk of harm. There are ways you can keep yourself protected, and the following are some tips you should not forget:
- Never leave your personal protective equipment (PPE)
Regardless of the type of work you do, PPE is an indispensable element. Personal protective gear includes proper construction site shoes, protective eyewear, construction hats, ear plugs, back braces, other more specific equipment for different tasks, and above all, a mask or respirator.
On construction sites, you are constantly exposed to airborne chemicals that you might inhale. One major threat is asbestos; construction materials like paint, roof shingles, spackling, and drywall all contain asbestos.
Workers exposed to asbestos are at serious risk of developing mesothelioma later in life. If you suspect your cancer is because of exposure to asbestos at your construction site, you can submit a claim to your company’s asbestos trust fund. You can access the asbestos trust fund list and find a relevant body to consult.
- Be prepared to deal with an emergency
Hazards can range from minor risks like getting paint in your eyes or inhaling dangerous fumes to getting injured by a falling metal piece. Either way, you should be prepared to deal with it with the best plan of action.
Employers equip their workers with knowledge of all possible hazards on their specific construction site and routinely make them practice safety protocols. Keep up-to-date with all this information, regularly review your manual, and participate in training sessions so that when you do encounter some problem, you know how to respond without fumbling.
Most construction accidents occur because of a lack of training, poor safety precautions, negligence, and defective equipment. If your injury is not your fault – for instance, if you get injured because of improperly maintained machines or defective equipment – you are in a position to seek legal compensation. It is best to be prepared in advance for the process of filing a legal claim and seeking compensation.
- Steer clear of heavy machinery and debris
Unless necessary, stay out of the way of heavy machinery. At most construction sites, work near heavy machinery is carefully monitored, and not everyone is allowed in the vicinity; don’t go to any such place without permission and knowledge about the safety protocols. Never work under crane loads or where dangerous operations are being carried out. Be vigilant. In places littered with debris, be careful about uneven terrain and always be on the lookout for hazards.
- Know your safety signs
Knowing construction site signs and symbols is a must for all employees. It is a legal requirement. These safety signs warn workers about potential hazards and instruct them to stay away or wear the necessary safety equipment.
Some common safety signs include the following; ‘mandatory signs’ appear in blue and indicate what safety protocols need to be followed in the area, like the sign that indicates the need for a safety helmet. ‘Prohibition signs’ are red-bordered with a red line cutting across a black pictogram. No-smoking signs are common prohibition signs you also see elsewhere. ‘Warning signs’ are yellow signs that indicate potential dangers in the area. There are many more that you would have learned during training. Make sure you know all these signs and follow them.
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- Never wear headphones when at work
It sure is appealing to listen to your favorite playlist on your buffer headphones to cancel out the noise but don’t fall into this trap. It can have terrible consequences. Wearing headphones will make you oblivious to workplace hazards by blocking out all sounds.
On construction sites, there is a risk of falling objects or materials intentionally dropped from lifts or scaffolds. You might not hear any incoming danger or your colleagues calling you to move out of the way.
On the other hand, if you are wearing your headphones, you may not hear if a co-worker has been in an accident and calls out to you. It is important that you are alert and aware at all times.
- Keep the construction site clean
Construction and cleanliness don’t usually go side-by-side; you cannot expect a dust and dirt-free construction area. However, you must tidy up your place as you go because potentially harmful tools and machinery lying around can pose a serious threat to the workers. If you use any hazardous material, immediately store them away. Designate a place to keep things like stray lumber pieces and nails. Keeping a dumpster on site is also a good idea for throwing away debris.
- Use equipment the right way
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to construction equipment. Using the right tool is not only important to do the job faster but also to do it safely. One rule you must not neglect is that you should only use 110v equipment on site, never a 240v tool, unless you have proper authorization.
Also, ensure that any equipment you use is in top-notch condition, and any defect, no matter how small, should be taken very seriously. Make sure that your managers inspect tools regularly, and you should immediately report any faults you detect. Any malfunction in a construction tool can pose a very serious threat of injury or even death.
Construction work is surely no walk in the park; construction sites are dangerous places to be in if you are unaware or negligent of the dangers. Your safety on a work site is as much in your management’s hands as it is in yours. On a personal level, always use personal protective equipment, be prepared to deal with emergencies, stay away from heavy machinery, avoid headphones at all costs, tidy up the place as soon as you are done, and use the right equipment. Ensuring safety for construction workers is a joint effort and requires your contribution.