As with any job that requires physical labor and heavy machinery, the construction industry carries certain safety risks. Construction worksites are complex due to the type of work processes, the technology used, the interaction between workers and equipment, and the varying degrees of safety awareness and training of workers.
In recent years, more regulations have been put in place to ensure the safety of construction workers. The adoption of best practices in the industry is showing results. Health Safety Authority data shows a 40% drop in the number of accidents in construction in 2019. Here are some ways in which companies are working on improving health and safety.
Training and Education
Workers are being trained in the safest way to work and on the latest rules and regulations. Construction workers are better able to hold their employers responsible if they violate any safety codes.
Focusing on employee behavior is a critical element in achieving better safety as this has been found to be one of the main reasons for accidents.
Simple measures, such as proper tightening of bolts, can prevent accidents. It’s also very important to select the right tools, equipment, and materials for a specific job. For example, untreated bolts cannot resist corrosion as well as galvanized carriage bolts or zinc carriage bolts. Overlooking this factor can lead to structural wear and weakening, which may pose safety hazards, even while a structure is under construction.
Worker safety advocacy groups and regulatory agencies study accidents and fatalities to determine where worker safety can be improved. There are also many programs and resources to drive home the importance of safety in this industry. Increased training, inspections, and regular safety meetings with supervisors, workers, and regulatory professionals can go a long way when it comes to reducing accidents.
Sometimes improving safety can be as simple as relying on the right protective equipment. Hard hats, highly-visible reflective clothing, and steel-toed boots are just a few examples of practical equipment that can prevent serious injury on job sites. Safety glasses, on-ear sound protection, goggles, respirators, and face-shields remain a necessity. And as buildings get taller in major cities, scaffolding is not enough; anchorage systems, body harnesses, and similar fall prevention equipment have become essential.
Training workers how to use and rely on this equipment not only contributes to their safety but ensures they can do the job with efficiency and confidence. It’s much easier to operate heavy machinery when there’s no fear of slipping or being injured in the process.
Companies are using advanced technology to help ensure safety. Drones are being used to assess dangerous, unfinished areas on sites. Workers are being equipped with safety monitors to provide detailed information about where they are and whether they’re safe. The monitors are connected to apps that alert the site supervisor if an accident occurs.
Prevention Through Design
A number of fatal accidents in the construction industry are caused by decisions made prior to actual construction. Safety considerations are now being incorporated in the design process from the very beginning.
For example, perimeter holes for guardrail attachments are included in roof design, so there’s no difficulty in accounting for safety equipment once ground is broken. In this way, architects and engineers are in a position to better accommodate workers’ safety needs and reduce certain risks before construction even begins.
Industry advocacy groups are finding new ways to get the sector more focused on safety. Set for this coming October, 47,000 construction companies in the U.S. have been invited to participate in a construction safety week. Organized by the Construction Industry Federation, events will focus on safety and injury prevention on the job.
With the inherent dangers involved in construction work, safety must be taken seriously by all parties. Many construction companies have been using the same safety equipment for years instead of updating to more advanced, safer options. That will need to change.
Simple items like hard hats and vests are now safer and more functional. Hundreds of new mobile apps and software solutions are available to increase safety. Lastly, making sure that construction workers are thoroughly educated and trained is a priority.