OSHA estimates that nearly 6.5 million people work at approximately 252,000 construction sites across the nation on any given day. Hazardous work conditions means that the fatal injury rate for the construction industry is higher than the national average for other industries. As a general contractor, there are many hazards you should be aware of and what sort of precautions you can take to ensure a safe work environment.
For construction, the 10 OSHA standards most frequently included in the agency’s citations include:
- Fall protection (scope, application, definitions)
- Excavations (general requirements)
- Head protection
- Excavations (requirements for protective systems)
- Hazard communication
- Fall protection (training requirements)
- Construction (general safety and health provisions)
- Electrical (wiring methods, design and protection)
To help reduce your risk of injury, illness, or fatalities there it’s important to identify the hazards and create checklists for preventative measures you can take.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Eye and Face Protection – Safety glasses or face shields should be used anytime work operations could result in foreign objects or hazardous materials getting in the eye or face.
- Foot Protection – Workers should wear boots with puncture and slip resistant soles and with safety toes.
- Hand Protection – Gloves should fit properly and be suited for the job.
- Head Protection – Workers should wear hard hats where there is a potential for objects falling from above, bumps to their heads from fixed objects, or of accidental head contact with electrical hazards. Helmets should be routinely inspected for any damage or defects.
Each year, falls consistently account for the greatest number of fatalities in the construction industry. These injuries are the result of a couple of different factors like unstable surfaces, misuse or failure to use fall protection, and human error. OSHA suggests that many of these injuries and fatalities are preventable by using the proper safety equipment and procedures like:
- Use sound scaffolding or ladders
- Ensure scaffolding and ladders are erected appropriately and don’t have any visible defects.
- The load rating must support the weight of the user, including materials and tools.
- Utilize safety systems like guardrails, aerial lifts, safety net systems, or harnesses.
- Make sure stairways are clear of objects and materials and when necessary provide handrails for support.
It is important when you are working with electrical equipment that you follow many precautions to ensure a safe work environment.
- Work on new and existing energized (hot) electrical circuits is prohibited until all power is shut off and grounds are attached.
- An effective Lockout/Tagout system is in place.
- Frayed, damaged or worn electrical cords or cables are promptly replaced.
- All extension cords have grounding prongs.
- Do not bypass any protective system or device designed to protect employees from contact with electrical energy.
- Ensure that ladders, scaffolds, equipment or materials never come within 10 feet of electrical power lines.
- All electrical tools must be properly grounded unless they are of the double insulated type.
Make sure there is a list of hazardous substances used in the workplace and that it is maintained and readily available at the work site. Proper employee training for hazardous substances is crucial.
Trench collapses cause dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year. It is important to never work in an unprotected trench, always use a protective system for trenches feet deep or greater, and employ a registered professional engineer to design a protective system for trenches 20 feet deep or greater.
Contractor safety makes good business sense. When employees and contractors know you care about their well-being, you are more likely to have increased retention and lower hiring costs. It also saves money in the long-run, because a better-than-average safety record will qualify your company for lower insurance rates and you’ll also avoid the expense of lost time, work and other potential costs resulting from work injuries.