Construction can be hard, grueling work—and on top of all that, it’s one of the most dangerous industries, too! About one in ten construction workers are injured every year. According to construction ERP providers Viewpoint, between 2002 to 2012, almost 20% of all work-related deaths were in the construction field.
Nothing in the world is going to make our work as hazard-free as say, an office in a bank somewhere. But you can reduce the danger of risks on the jobsite, particularly if you follow safety regulations to a tee. Here are six frequently ignored dangers—and how you and your team can sidestep them.
Fall protection regulations
We all know that OSHA requires construction workers to take certain precautions any time they work at elevations over six feet. But just because you know you should be doing it doesn’t mean that you are. However, teams that regularly ignore safety regulations—such as not requiring workers to wear full fall arrest systems—are subject to extensive fines. Just look at this one case where a roofer was fined over $60,000 for failing to comply with fall risk regulations. That’s a pretty hefty price to pay for a missed safety harness!
Phones and heavy machinery don’t mix
Running an overbooked construction business is tough. You often have to juggle phone calls and administrative work and do the hands-on work of every construction project. With all of that going on, it can be tempting to take calls in the car or while operating worksite vehicles and machinery. But texting and driving on the road makes you 23 times more likely to have a collision—and that kind of distraction leads to accidents on the jobsite, as well. If you oversee contractors, you need to explicitly forbid texting on the clock. Employers who condone or even encourage texting could be subject to OSHA citations under the ‘general duty’ clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. And the fines for a general duty citation can be steep—in some cases, as high as $124,000! Keep your cell in your pocket while driving or drilling—or hire outside help to answer the phones and schedule appointments for you.
Dangers resulting from extreme weather
Contractors are a pretty tough lot. But no one can resist the effects of extreme heat and cold all the time. Heatstroke is a pretty common affliction for residential contractors working in hot weather, while in winter construction, ice and snow have their own sets of hazards as well. Heatstroke can be fatal if ignored—as can a fall from a slippery roof. Be sure to monitor the weather during the summer and winter and schedule shorter shifts or call off work as appropriate. If you do have your team out during a heat wave or cold snap, encourage your workers to take frequent breaks so they can warm up or cool off as needed. No one is going to drop of heatstroke on your watch!
Necessity and financial circumstances often push workers out on the jobsite alone. Or perhaps you own your own small business and exclusively work by yourself. Either way, it’s risky, and you should take proper precautions to keep yourself safe. For one thing, make sure that someone—a significant other, a family member, a neighbor—always knows where you are and when you can be expected back. Additionally, keep a first aid kit with you on the jobsite and learn how to self-administer self care—particularly for cuts, puncture wounds, and burns. Always make sure you have a fully charged cell phone or radio so you can call for help if you need it. It may seem unlikely, but if something does happen, you’ll be glad you have it.
Failure to develop an emergency response plan
Hopefully you’ll never have to deal with a serious injury on the job. But if you do, it’s absolutely crucial that you have an established emergency action plan to trigger immediate and direct action. OSHA has a sample emergency response plan that can answer critical questions, such as “can workers move or assist injured workers or should they wait for paramedics?” “What are the jobsite evacuation procedures? Who should be contacted in the event of an emergency?” “Where is the process for accounting for workers at the end of the day?” You don’t want to be second-guessing or fumbling around on your phone in the event of an emergency.
PPE for head, face, eyes, and hands
Much like fall protection systems, it’s not difficult to learn the rules for proper safety gear. The trouble comes when you try to get workers to actually wear the equipment. In particular, workers may resist using safety glasses, even in the face of statistics like this one from the Vision Council, which found that three out every five industrial eye injuries occur from improper eye protection. The issue is that a lot of eye gear is bulky and becomes easily fogged or scratched. Investing in high-quality equipment, like glasses with anti-scratch and anti-fog coatings, attachable ear plugs, UV protection and ergonomic designs, will help your team feel more amicable toward protective equipment. It may not prevent every accident, but at least you’ll know you’ve done your due diligence!