Few work environments are quite as hazardous as the construction site. Every day, builders are faced with dangerous activities that could be potentially fatal. While construction companies do their best to ensure safety precautions and procedures are in place, this doesn’t guarantee that all accidents will be prevented. A momentary loss of concentration can result in injury.
Lack of awareness on the part of a builder is a huge factor in construction site injuries. Many of these accidents can be prevented if proper care is taken. It is important that all builders are thoroughly trained and tested on the equipment they use on a daily basis. They also need to be aware of safety procedures and regulations.
Once builders are aware of the risks they face, incidents of injury are greatly reduced. Here are some of the most common hazards associated with being a builder.
Working with Electricity
Electricity is one of the most dangerous elements to work with, whether wiring an appliance at home or dealing with electricity on a large scale at work. Every day, electricians, electrical engineers and workers on power lines are exposed to this hazard.
Many precautionary steps can be taken when working with electricity. Most of us will have experienced a minor electric shock at some stage, resulting perhaps in a small jolt of pain or shock. However, a major shock from an electric circuit capable of delivering high power can result in a heart attack and severe nerve damage.
When an electrical current is passed through a conductor, the material heats up considerably. The body tissues act as a conductor, resulting in damage due to overheating and fraying of the nerves. When working on machinery or with components that are electrically charged, you’ll need to have a plan in place before beginning the job. Identify the source of the energy and neutralise it, making sure that no electrical current can be re-introduced suddenly to the equipment while you are working on it. For example, if you fail to switch off the electrical circuit breakers when working on a piece of equipment that is connected to the circuit – such as a cooker or fridge – a sudden shorting of the wires can result in a sharp electric shock.
People working with electricity should be adequately qualified to do so, and keep their skills up to date. A good rule of thumb is to work with equipment that is non-conductive. For example, you don’t want to use a pliers that is completely metal as it could pass an electric shock into your body, so make sure the pliers has a rubber grip.
All electric equipment should be maintained in good condition and if any wiring is exposed, it will need to be safely replaced. An exposed or frayed wire could lead to a massive circuit break, and may even cause a fire.
Working on Heights
One of the most common hazards builders face on the job is working on heights. Falling from high places is a huge factor in many construction-related accidents. Working on ladders, scaffolding and roofs can be extremely dangerous when weather is poor, and any loss of concentration for even a second or two can be fatal.
Many people slip, trip, or use ladders that are unstable, resulting in a fall. For this reason, the base of a ladder must always be held securely by another builder. When working at a height, builders should use the relevant protective gear to help break their fall in the worst case scenario. Builders must take courses on the safe use of equipment.
It is easy to become disorientated when working at a height, all but forgetting that you are not on the ground. This is why constant vigilance is needed, as well as training in the identification, evaluation and prevention of potential fall hazards.
Scaffolding should be regularly checked to ensure it is stable and safe. The parts may be sound when first used to erect the scaffolding, but over time – due to weather or physical damage – they can deteriorate. There are other reasons why people fall off scaffolds, such as being hit by suspended materials or losing balance. All such accidents can be avoided if the safety regulations are followed to a tee and constant checks are made.
Many accidents occur when machinery or a load of goods topples over, crushing a builder. Construction machinery is extremely large and bulky, making it difficult to see all of the necessary angles when driving. Accidents often occur as a result of accidently reversing the vehicle into a builder due to such a blind spot.
Equipment falling from a height can cause severe damage to those working at on lower levels. Extreme care must be taken when lifting and lowering equipment and materials so nobody accidently gets in the way while the load is being moved.
Workers are required to be extremely skilled with the equipment they use; every piece of equipment can become dangerous if used incorrectly. When working at a height, all materials and equipment must be monitored to ensure that they’re in a safe place and not in danger of falling. Such safety requirements may seem like common sense but the majority of accidents on construction sites result from the failure to follow proper protocols.
When working on a construction site day in, day out, it is normal to be exposed to these types of hazards, but the vast majority of accidents can be prevented with proper planning and attention, and being super-aware. If you are working on a site where proper protocols are not being followed, you’ll need to raise the issue with the foreman and ensure it is rectified.
Safety measures are not designed to add to builders’ workload but to prevent accidents that result in injury, disability or death. All is not doom, gloom and hyper-vigilance, however. Building is a rewarding trade and once the necessary health and safety regulations are followed, you can relax and get on with the job.