Construction Site Safety Tips
Please see below for some tips regarding the creation and maintaining of a safe construction site.
Many health and safety courses will cover fire risks from the perspective of actions taken by workers, such as carelessness with items like blowtorches or using faulty or damaged electrical equipment which causes a spark near flammable material. However, it may be the case that a fire on a construction site actually is started deliberately whilst nobody is present on site.
The effects of arson - the deliberate starting of a fire - can be devastating. If there is nobody present on site, although it means they cannot be injured or killed, it also means that there is nobody there to tackle the fire. Whilst a small fire started accidentally may be easily extinguished by a worker using equipment provided such as fire extinguishers, a small fire left untreated can quickly turn into a blazing inferno which destroys the whole project through burning from the flames or due to smoke damage. Not only can it destroy structures on site, but it can also put nearby buildings at risk if the fire spreads beyond the site boundaries or causes a large explosion.
Managers and the operatives of a construction site need to take steps to prevent arson, which basically comes down to preventing unauthorised access to the site when nobody is present, which is usually overnight. This can include putting up secure perimeter fencing around the site and possibly employing a security guard or guards to patrol the site. As well as preventing fires through arson, these steps can also help prevent the theft of expensive tools and equipment from the site when nobody is there.
Measures such as clearing away flammable material which is no longer required and introducing fire doors as soon as possible can help to limit the damage caused by a fire which is started deliberately as it will slow down the spread of the fire and give the emergency services more time to put out the fire and save as much of the building project as possible.
Cement mixers are a common piece of equipment on a construction site. These rotating drums are used to mix various aggregates and liquids together more easily and quickly than could be achieved by doing the process manually. As to be expected though, there are still many hazards and dangers to health and safety which need to be taken into consideration.
Whilst the process is designed to reduce the effort involved in mixing cement, there will still be a risk of manual handling injuries as the process of using the cement mixer still involves a lot of physical exertion as the mixer is loaded and unloaded. There will be a lot of stooping over, shovelling, twisting, lifting and other such actions involved, and it will be all too easy to suffer an injury such as a strain, sprain, pulled muscle or trapped nerve.
The rotating drum and associated mechanical mechanisms mean that there is a danger of entanglement with the moving parts from loose clothing, jewellery or long hair getting caught up in it and causing a serious injury.
The material used in the mixing process such as sand can give off a great deal of dust into the air which is a COSHH hazard. For this reason, construction site workers will benefit greatly from health and safety courses which include an element on COSHH (the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) so they are aware of the dangers that come with working where hazards such as dust are present.
Cement and wet concrete, along with the water used in the mixing process, poses a significant threat to safety if the mixer is powered by electricity. Whilst the electrical components and wires should be protected by casing and cabling, if these are damaged it may allow water to mix with the electricity which can produce a potentially lethal electric shock. Not only can this cause an electric shock for those near the mixer, but the spark produced could cause a fire or explosion if it were to hit flammable material or its containers such as petrol or gas canisters. Some cement mixers are powered by petrol or diesel rather than electricity. Again, there is a risk of fire if the fuel were to ignite through occurrences such as overheating/malfunctioning equipment, excessive friction or workers smoking nearby.
Compactors and Rollers
Construction activities may require material to be flattened and compacted to provide a smooth surface such as for a new permanent or temporary road. This machinery works by producing downward pressure onto the surface and comes in either hand operated form similar to a lawnmower, and larger duty form such as a ride on roller. Both of these types can pose risks to the health and safety of operators and others nearby.
The hand-manipulated equipment is quite heavy and requires some effort to move around, which means there is a significant chance of the operator suffering a manual handling injury from it such as a slipped disc, torn muscle or tendon damage. Many will be powered by an engine rather than electricity to allow for a range of movement which is not restricted by the length of the electricity cable. This means that there is a danger of fire from the fuel, particularly when refuelling takes place. Whilst the machine should be switched off completely before refuelling commences, parts of it will still be hot such as the exhaust which will easily cause a fire if petrol was to come into contact with it and combust. Workers can also get their own or another person's foot underneath the compactor if they are not careful.
As for ride on rollers, they have the potential to cause serious injuries or even death to the driver and any fellow workers or members of the public nearby. This large, heavy piece of equipment can easily crush a person or any part of their anatomy that gets caught under the roller. It can also trap and crush a person if the roller starts to move unintentionally if it is on a slope and collides with them. Like all pieces of equipment and tools on a construction site, this machinery should be secured to prevent unauthorised use by trespassers, and workers without suitable health and safety training in its correct operation should not be allowed to operate it at any time.
The health and safety dangers from drills are so varied, and their use so widespread, that they are often mentioned in NEBOSH General Certificate courses as well as construction-specific training courses such as the NEBOSH Construction Certificate and SMSTS.
Some of the many hazards that drills can pose include:
i) Noise - Drills are inherently noisy pieces of equipment, both from the motor and from the friction caused by the drill bit going into the material being drilled. Suitable ear protection needs to be worn whilst the drill is in operation to prevent damage to hearing. Not only does the operator of the drill require this, but also those working nearby can have their hearing damaged too without appropriate protection. With numerous drills and other such equipment being used in this environment, a construction site is likely to be a particularly noisy place.
ii) Dust - As the drill bores a hole into the material it will create a lot of dust. This dust will be a coshh (control of substances hazardous to health) risk and so coshh regulations will come into play. Whilst a small amount of dust may not always pose a danger to a person's health, over time the cumulative effects can cause severe damage, and so workers in industries such as the construction industry will be particularly at risk. It is for this reason that many construction workers will benefit from bespoke coshh training which can not only cover dust but also other hazardous substances that they are likely to encounter such as paint and cement.
iii) Electrocution - Electric drills will require electricity to run them, meaning that there is always a danger of electrocution if the equipment is damaged, inadequately maintained or comes into contact with water. There is also a risk of electrocution if the drill bit comes into contact with live electrical wiring.
iv) Vibration - Most drills will vibrate in the operator's hands as they drill a hole, and can lead to conditions such as hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
v) Eye Injury - Drilling holes can cause small fragments as well as dust to fly around which can cause an eye injury to the operator and those immediately nearby. The wearing of eye protection such as goggles will prevent such injury.
vi) Entanglement - Rotating drill bits can entangle hair or clothing which can cause severe injury to a person. Although nearly all drills will stop rotating by simply releasing the pressure on the trigger switch, they will take a few seconds to cease rotating, in which time an entanglement injury could occur.
vii) Trip Hazard - Some drills will be cordless and powered by a battery, but electric drills will require a cable between the drill and the power socket. This cable can create a trip hazard, especially if it is pulled tight and so is raised up off the ground.
viii) Manual Handling Risks - Having to move, carry and manipulate a drill will require an effort and physical exertion, particularly if the drill is heavy or cumbersome. A person is therefore at risk of suffering a manual handling injury from such equipment.
Just about every construction site in the world will create dust in its operations. Unlike many other hazards, dust is harder to contain as it can easily get past site perimeter fences and affect the area beyond where activity is taking place. It has the potential to cause problems for both the public, and for the local environment.
For people and other living creatures, dust can cause respiratory problems, as well as causing irritation and possible damage to eyes if the dust particles are of a material which is abrasive to the eye. Particularly hazardous material such as silica dust can cause irreversible long-term lung damage.
In sufficient quantities dust can also damage the local environment. If a lot settles on plants and trees, it can block sunlight from getting to the leaves which will prevent photosynthesis. Whilst it is likely to blow off naturally in the wind, it may cause problems if there for a long period of time. If there is really a lot of it, it can bury and kill young/small trees, plants or grass. Hazardous dust can also enter nearby rivers and streams with the potential to mix with the water and cause damage to fish and other aquatic creatures.
Suitable precautions should be but in place in order to minimise or prevent the negative consequences associated with excessive dust. For those on site, personal protective equipment such as breathing apparatus and goggles can be used to prevent damage to health along with using equipment which captures the dust created by cutting or drilling. To prevent dust causing problems for the public and the environment, the area can be dampened down with water to prevent dust from escaping into the air and beyond the site boundaries. Areas should also be swept regularly to prevent the build up of large quantities of dust, although those doing the sweeping need to take precautions as this sweeping will whip up the dust and could be inhaled.
The risks and hazards from dust are covered in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations, apart from lead and asbestos dust which have their own specific regulations. Site workers would benefit greatly from health and safety training such as COSHH training in order to become more aware of the short-term and long-term dangers posed by dust, and how to work safely in dusty places of work.
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When it comes to health and safety on a construction site, one type of activity which has the potential to cause serious injuries or death is excavations. The deep holes and unstable ground contribute to a variety of possible dangers and risks. As with most health and safety issues, a combination of common sense and knowledge gained on health and safety courses can reduce the risk of accidents occurring.
The most obvious hazard associated with excavations is the hole or cavity created by the works. On a construction site this is likely to be deep, and creates the risk of a person or vehicle falling down into it. This falling from height can lead to injuries such as broken bones, head injuries and possible death. If a vehicle falls into the hole it can also cause injuries or death, and even if the driver and occupants escape unhurt, there is still likely to be damage to the vehicle and a major headache in trying to extract it out of there. A person or vehicle can fall down into the hole at any time, but the chances are increased dramatically if there is poor visibility, or if the edge is not clearly identified.
Excavation work can make the ground unstable inside the hole and in the surrounding area. Those working down there can be buried and trapped by soil if a wall gives way, whilst those up top near the edge could fall in if the ground slips. Even when the excavations are complete and the area filled in, there is still a danger from the unstable ground. It is likely to be softer than the surrounding undisturbed soil, and could still give way, or cause a vehicle to sink or topple over.
A further risk comes from the digging itself, as people or equipment could come into contact with buried surfaces such as electrical cables which can produce an electric shock, or water/sewerage pipes which can lead to flooding in the hole if ruptured, which could cause workers to drown if they cannot escape in time.
Depending upon the scale of the works, performing excavations is likely to require a permit to work system to be put into place due to the high-risk nature of the activity. Please click here for more information regarding permit to work training.
The activities of a construction site are almost certain to at one time or another involve items or materials which need to be lifted up with either mobile or tower cranes. As with other activities, effective preparation and planning is key to working safely and keeping everyone else safe nearby. This will include factors such as risk assessments, permits to work if necessary, the assignment of competent persons to manage the lift, and controlling access to the area where the lifting is taking place to keep unauthorised or unwary persons out so that they do not become injured from falling objects or from the machinery itself.
The immediate area around the crane needs consideration. The ground upon which it is situated needs to be firm and level, with suitable load spreading decking beneath it in order to provide stability whilst lifting is taking place, otherwise the crane may topple over or slide. If this were to happen, the heavy load may begin to swing wildly and either hit nearby objects or come loose and fall to the ground. Neither of these outcomes is desirable, for if the load was to strike a scaffold it could cause injury or death to those working on it, especially if it were to collapse. There may also be overhead electricity or telephone cables in close proximity which could be damaged if the crane were to come in contact with them. Minimum safe distances need to be adhered to, as damaged live electricity cables would be extremely dangerous to everyone nearby.
Because of the many risks and dangers that lifting heavy loads entails, it is an operation which has numerous health and safety considerations. In fact, it has its own specific set of regulations in the form of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) 1998. These health and safety requirements with respect to lifting equipment are not industry specific and apply to nearly all lifting operations.
It is imperative that not only should operatives be trained in the use of the equipment, but that all those who will be involved in the lift or working nearby receive suitable health and safety training in order to work safely and reduce the chances of an accident as much as reasonably possible. There are numerous health and safety courses available for construction site workers including the NEBOSH Construction Certificate and the CITB SMSTS courses and SSSTS courses. There are also non-accredited courses which concentrate specifically on a certain issue such as manual handling training, coshh and hazardous substances, permit to work training and fire safety courses.
Maintenance of Construction Site Vehicles
An important aspect of managing and creating a safe construction site is to ensure that the vehicles and equipment that are present on site are maintained properly. Not only are poorly maintained vehicles more likely to break down, which costs time and money to repair and in lost working hours, but there is also a significant health and safety risk to drivers, passengers and people working nearby on the site who can be at risk if a component fails.
Some of the most important parts of any land vehicle when it comes to safety are the brakes. Even though the vehicles are likely to be travelling at a relatively low speed when compared with a car on the motorway for example, an inability to stop can lead to a collision which, bearing in mind the size of some construction vehicles, can result in death or serious injuries.
Just as a pilot does a walk-around of an aeroplane before a flight to check for problems, a driver just about to start a shift in a construction site vehicle should do a visual check to identify obvious hazards which may be present such as a deflated tyre or partially-extended hydraulic arm which should be fully retracted before the vehicle is driven.
This visual inspection will only identify issues which can easily be seen externally, meaning potentially more serious problems which cannot be seen such as worn brakes will go unnoticed. To find these problems and take remedial action before they become dangerous will require regular inspections and maintenance to ensure that the vehicles are safe and operating efficiently.
A good vehicle maintenance programme, combined with health and safety courses such as the NEBOSH Construction Certificate to make workers more aware of the dangers that are present on a construction site will equate to a safer place of work and reduce the likelihood of somebody being injured or killed on site.
All of the activity on a construction site can quickly make the whole area muddy, particularly if it rains. This mud can get onto the tyres and undercarriages of vehicles, which without intervention will be deposited all over the public highway if the vehicle has to leave the site and travel to another location. This mud will not only be a nuisance for other road users as it dirties their vehicles, but, more seriously, will create a danger of skidding as the mud brings about a loss of traction which affects steering and braking. This has the potential to cause serious road accidents as motorists lose control.
Construction site operators not only have a duty to look after the health and safety of their own workers, but also towards the general public who may be affected by their operations. This means that action needs to be taken to prevent mud or other debris from leaving the construction site and getting onto the highway. Often this will take the form of tyre and undercarriage cleaning systems to wash off mud and debris which vehicles leaving the site need to go through before they exit. The site may also employ road sweeper vehicles to clean the road of anything that gets onto it, although prevention is far more preferable than cleaning as an accident could happen in the intervals between the road being cleared.
Mud and the associated risks to motorists is not the only reason for ensuring vehicle tyres and undercarriages are clean. Depending upon the nature of the site and the substances being used, vehicles leaving the site may also have hazardous material or chemicals on them which could be deposited on the road and then be washed away into the drains or surrounding area, damaging the local environment and creating an environmental health and safety issue.
Whilst those casual do-it-yourselfers are likely to be quite content with an ordinary hammer, those with a great deal of nails to put in place such as construction site workers will usually use a nail gun to speed up the process and make it easier. Whilst they may avoid the usual nail-related danger of bashing their finger or thumb with the hammer, there are still numerous risks to health and safety associated with using a nail gun.
The most obvious danger of using a nail gun is firing the nail into a body part, usually a hand or a foot, instead of the material it was supposed to go into. This can not only be extremely painful and could cause conditions such as permanent nerve damage, but may also lead to infection if the wound is not cleaned and treated properly.
Nail guns can also be noisy, both from the equipment itself as it discharges the nail, and from the impact upon the material receiving the nail, particularly if the acoustics of the room make the sound even louder such as a room which has been emptied whilst the work takes place and is now prone to significant echoes. Even if the noise does not seem to be too bad this time, prolonged exposure may cause irreversible damage.
Each time the nail gun discharges it is likely to cause a significant jolt and vibration through the operator's hand. Over a long period of time this vibration may cause damage and associated vibration-related conditions.
Measures such as frequent rest breaks or job rotation, personal protective equipment in the form of gloves and ear protectors, and suitable health and safety training courses to enable workers to perform their duties more safely will all help to minimise these risks to health.
Overhead or Buried Cables and Pipes
On a construction site or demolition site, amongst the many dangers that are present, one of the most significant is the risk of accidentally coming into contact with a live electricity cable or pipe carrying water, sewage, gas etc. The result of this can be serious injury or death to the workers involved and those nearby, as well as damage from any resulting fire, explosion or flooding. A comprehensive site survey performed before work starts should highlight any live services that exist and this, combined with the information gained from attending safety training courses can help to ensure that the chances of an accident or incident occurring are minimised.
Big construction sites will have a number of large vehicles moving about, and involve the use of tall items of machinery such as cranes or tipper trucks. Where overhead electricity cables are present, the vehicle may catch the cable. In fact, the vehicle does not even need to touch the cable, as 'arcing' may occur where the gap is small enough for the electricity to jump. Not only does the driver/operator of the machinery risk electrocution but also those who are nearby, again through arcing or jumping. In some ways this is more of a risk than direct contact with the wire, as operators may calculate the height and think there is no danger because the vehicle is not high enough to be able to contact the cable. Not only can the electricity cause death or serious injury such as severe burns, but the spark can also trigger fires or explosions if it ignites combustible fuel. A large explosion or fire has the potential to take many lives, which is why workers need to receive training and be aware of dangers so that not only can they avoid harm to themselves, but also do not cause an incident which affects their colleagues or nearby members of the public.
Whilst overhead cables are easy to see providing that sufficient attention is paid, the existence of cables and pipes which are underground may not be known about until they are struck. Depending upon the material being conveyed by these pipes or cables, the results of this can vary from a minor inconvenience which needs a repair, right through to a major incident and fatalities. A site survey is imperative in order to identify the location of these services before work starts, and suitable control measures put in place to ensure that supply is turned off before work commences which could cause damage.
Not only do construction site managers need to ensure that their employees are working safely, but they also have a responsibility for the safety of the general public that may be affected by the site. A perimeter fence is vital to keeping unauthorised members of the public out of the area where activity is taking place. This access could be accidental, such as a person inadvertently wandering onto the site without realising it, or deliberate.
Deliberate entry, or trespassing, will usually be from thieves trying to steal equipment/material, or from children/youths who think it would be a good idea to sneak into the construction site and use it as a play area. So not only does a perimeter fence have a health and safety use, but it also acts as a preventative measure to stop equipment and material being stolen or tampered with.
Additionally, perimeter fencing provides a platform for the fixing of necessary signs, such as warnings and keep out notices. There may also be additional information like the name of the company, emergency phone numbers and instructions for site visitors and deliveries.
It is important that the fencing is at a suitable distance which enables unrestricted and easy movement for people and machinery. It is also likely that members of the public may come up to the fencing to see what is going on. Whilst they may be behind the fence, there could still be a danger from dust, fumes or debris which can get through the fencing. It may therefore be necessary to either move the perimeter fence further outwards, or erect a second one from which there is no danger to those stood right up to it.
There are many tools and pieces of equipment used by workers in the construction industry that can pose a danger to the health of the operator or those around them. One such piece of equipment is a pneumatic drill which is used to break up tough concrete and tarmac, with many associated dangers.
First off, the tool itself is usually heavy and cumbersome, and requires the operator to lean over slightly whilst drilling. This can have obvious manual handling consequences as it is used and moved around, meaning that as well as being suitably trained in its correct operation, workers should also receive manual handling training to reduce the chances of them causing themselves a manual handling injury.
Secondly, the hazard which most people will be familiar with when they think of a pneumatic drill is that of the noise it makes. Whilst it may just be an inconvenience for those members of the public walking past or people in nearby buildings, for the workers who are so close to the drill the noise is a real danger, as it can cause permanent hearing damage to them. Those working with or close to the drill should wear suitable ear protection.
Drilling into concrete and tarmac can create pieces of flying debris and dust which is a hazard that needs to be taken into consideration. This debris can strike a person in the eye and cause damage to it, whilst the dust can be breathed in and aggravate conditions such as asthma or cause damage to lungs. Certain precautions and preventative measures can be taken to minimise the risks to health including the wearing of goggles to protect eyes and the dampening down of surfaces to reduce the amount of dust that is released into the air from the drilling.
Pneumatic drills also create a lot of vibration for the operator as they hold and operate it. Certain actions such as wearing proper gloves, taking regular breaks and rotating the drilling task with others can reduce the risks of a person suffering vibration-related conditions such as hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
Plus, although it sounds obvious, those operating the drill need to make sure that they do not drill into their foot, as the position of their feet will be close to where the drill contacts the ground. Wearing boots with steel toe caps and paying attention to what they are doing at all times and not being distracted can contribute to a worker minimising the risk of injury in this way.
As with most tools and equipment, a combination of common sense, health and safety training, and training in the correct operation of the equipment can greatly reduce the chances of an accident or mishap which results in injury to one or more people.
As well as the dangers of a constantly changing site layout, the surfaces of the roads themselves on a site have a number of health and safety issues which need to be taken into consideration by those using them.
First of all, construction sites can become muddy, especially the roadways. Soil which is exposed to rain will quickly turn into mud, which will be further churned up by vehicles moving over the surface, particularly heavy ones. Unless the construction work is taking place in consistently hot temperatures, this mud is unlikely to become hard again as the constant churning from the vehicle tyres, combined with the likelihood of more rain, means that it never gets the opportunity to set. Apart from the time inconvenience of having to rescue vehicles which get stuck in the mud, the more serious problem from a health and safety perspective is the risk of the vehicle getting out of control on the slippery surface. If the vehicle cannot stop in time or slides when going around a corner, there is a danger of it coming into contact with people or buildings and causing an accident.
Even where a semi-permanent road surface of stones has been laid down there are still risks as the loose stones may not provide enough traction for stopping or cornering. They may also be squashed down to form bumps, hollows, potholes and gradients over time, sometimes severe ones, which again could cause a vehicle to either lose control or cause damage to it. A more permanent, harder surface such as tarmac can also cause problems if it becomes slippery from rain, mud or debris being deposited on it.
Not only can the actual surface of a road contribute to an increased risk (or decreased risk if it is made better) of a vehicle on site losing control and causing an accident, so too can a gradient or slope. Driving styles will need to be adjusted in order to take account of the gradient, with a failure to do so potentially leading to an accident occurring.
When going down a gradient, extra effort and stopping distances are required to bring the vehicle to a halt. If the driver does not allow for this, they may collide with a person or object in front of them, with possible serious consequences. If the roadway is wet, muddy or icy the vehicle may struggle to come to a stop at all until it hits something.
A vehicle may find itself sideways on a slope; either deliberately driven like that or by accident, for instance if a vehicle is sliding on a slippery top surface. Driving sideways on a gradient is extremely dangerous as there is a high chance of the vehicle toppling over. This is likely to be increased even further if it is a vehicle carrying a load such as a forklift truck or digger, as this may further offset the vehicle's usual centre of gravity and cause it to topple over. Depending upon the severity and length of the slope, the vehicle may either come to rest on its side or roll over and over. Whilst the second outcome is more dangerous, either way can still cause severe injuries or death to a driver, passengers or anyone working nearby who cannot get out of the way in time and is struck or crushed by the out of control vehicle.
Whether it be a large construction site with a fleet of vehicles operating upon it, or a tiny area with one small generator, virtually every construction site will require refuelling activities to take place in order to keep the vital equipment running. The flammable nature of fuel means there is a high risk of a serious incident occurring if suitable health and safety procedures and safeguards are not observed.
The act of refuelling can lead to fires and explosions if the fuel is somehow ignited. This has the potential to turn into a catastrophic event which can cause severe burns or death to people, not to mention damage to equipment, materials and buildings on site, which has financial consequences.
There are a number of precautions which need to be followed whenever refuelling is taking place. These include not having engines or motors running whilst putting fuel in, and not smoking when refuelling or wherever fuel is present. If the fuel were to come in contact with a flame, spark or hot surface it can instantaneously ignite and cause a major fire.
Those performing the refuelling should have been provided with health and safety training in order to understand the potential risks, as well as instruction on the correct operation of the machinery, such as the correct method of refuelling that particular piece of equipment and how to switch it off fully before commencing with the refuelling.
Storage of Fuel
Many construction sites will store fuel somewhere on the site so that equipment can be refuelled quickly and more conveniently. Storing a quantity of fuel is obviously a potential danger and requires certain health and safety considerations such as ensuring that storage facilities/tanks and pipework is properly maintained to prevent fuel from leaking out. Not only is this an environmental hazard as it will damage wildlife or pollute watercourses, but is also a fire danger if the leaked fuel comes into contact with a hot surface or spark generated from a cigarette or construction activities such as grinding or welding.
Along with proper maintenance, the location of fuel storage facilities is an important factor in site safety. The area should preferably be situated away from activities, and be clearly marked to reduce the likelihood of fuel tanks or pipes being damaged accidentally. There should also be sufficient room for vehicles to manoeuvre easily to reduce the chances of the vehicle hitting the storage tanks.
With fuel being an expensive commodity, it is often a target for thieves. It is therefore vital that refuelling areas and fuel storage tanks have sufficient security and measures in place such as perimeter fences in order to prevent unauthorised access.
Whilst prevention is the overriding aim, plans need to be pre-made and equipment needs to be available in the event of a fire or explosion happening, including appropriate fire extinguishers, sand buckets, alarm points, assembly areas and emergency shut-offs.
Sanding equipment is another tool which has risks to health associated with it. One of the primary sources of danger is the dust that will be produced from the act of sanding whatever material is being worked. Sanding equipment of various sizes and types are used on a range of different materials such as wood and stone, and the act of grinding down the surface will create dust which can cause damage to a person's respiratory system (throat, lungs etc.) either in the short-term or causing long-term damage.
Most types of dust health hazards come under COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulations unless they have their own particular regulations, for example asbestos and its associated dust. Even dust which is not comprised of hazardous particles can cause damage in sufficient quantities, and can aggravate existing medical conditions that a person may have such as asthma.
The risk to health from dust produced by the sanding can be reduced by certain control measures including using ventilation equipment to extract the dust and take it away before it has a chance to spread into the air and be inhaled by the operator or those working nearby. Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be provided if required to protect the wearer from dust.
However, dust is not the only risk presented through the use of sanding equipment. Sanding machinery is likely to be noisy, and long-term or even short-term exposure to this noise can cause permanent hearing damage to a worker. Again, suitable protective equipment such as ear defenders are a way of combating this risk.
Vibration is also an issue as the sanding process is likely to create vibrations to some extent no matter what size or type of sanding machine is being used for the job. A combination of gloves, frequent rest breaks and regular replacement of the sanding belt to prevent the need for avoidable exertion can all help to lower the danger to health from vibration whilst sanding.
Fire is another potential danger. Not only can faulty equipment or damaged electricity cables cause a fire just like it can in other power tools, but the friction created by sanding may in some circumstances cause any flammable material to ignite.
Finally, if the surface is requiring sanding, then it is probable that the surface is rough or sharp. These sharp surfaces present a sharps risk to those handling the object, and it may therefore be prudent to provide these workers with sharps training to prevent injury to themselves from cuts and abrasions.
Many structures which are being constructed will require a scaffold to be erected so that work can be undertaken higher up on the structure. This scaffolding needs to be able to support the weight of those persons working, as well as that of other items such as tools, bricks etc. There are a number of health and safety issues which require consideration when scaffolding needs to be used on a construction site, in order to prevent accidents and injuries.
Perhaps the most obvious danger is the risk of collapse. Scaffolding needs to be erected correctly to ensure that it can support the weight of the people and objects on it. If it collapses, it is likely to cause severe injury or death to those working on it and anybody who happens to be underneath at the time of collapse.
Another serious danger is the risk of falling from height. This can include both a person who falls from the scaffolding, or an item such as a tool or brick which falls below and strikes a person. Depending upon the weight of the object in question, this can cause severe head injuries or death.
The weather also poses a danger to those working on scaffolding. Being metal, the structure itself can attract lightning, particularly if it is a tall scaffolding which is high off the ground and acting as a conductor. This could kill or cause serious burns to anyone in contact with the metal when it is hit. Strong winds can blow people or objects off the scaffold, leading to the falling from height issues talked about in the paragraph above. Also, rain can make the scaffold wet and slippery which can lead to workers slipping and falling. Not only could they hurt themselves in the fall, if they are carrying a heavy load such as a power tool at the same time then this can cause injury.
By combining a mix of common sense and information learnt on health and safety courses, workers can stay safe during the construction, use of, and dismantling of scaffolding. They may also be able to make use of alternatives such as elevated work platforms.
Selection of Vehicle Drivers
Whilst they may not travel anywhere near as fast as an ordinary road car, the vehicles that move about on a construction site are likely to be much bigger and heavier, meaning that they pose just as much of a risk to the health and safety of both the driver and the other people on site. These vehicles include excavators, tipper trucks, bulldozers, and many other pieces of heavy plant equipment. Colliding directly with a person or with a structure such as scaffolding or a fuel storage tank can result in death or serious injuries being sustained. Similarly, reckless or inappropriate driving of the vehicles can pose a risk to the driver and any passengers of the vehicle itself if it is involved in a collision or it rolls/tips over for example through excessive speed when cornering.
The risks and potential serious consequences on safety and health mean that driving a vehicle on a construction site is a serious responsibility and should not be bestowed on just anyone. Whilst only those who have had suitable training on the safe operation of the vehicle should be allowed to drive/operate it, their must also be stringent selection criteria to ensure that people who are not suitable to be trusted with such equipment are not allowed to drive it.
This selection criteria will often vary slightly depending upon the particular vehicle and the nature of the site itself, but there are a number of common traits. One is the age of the worker. Whilst it is a large generalisation and certainly not always true, younger workers are likely to be less careful and more reckless when driving a vehicle. Whether this is due to inexperience or trying to show off or 'prove something' to others on the site, younger workers may take more risks such as driving too fast or showing off to their friends. It may also be the case that the vehicle may need to be driven on a public road, in which case driving legislation with minimum age regulations will apply so that only those over a certain age are legally allowed to drive the vehicle anyway.
Along with a person's age and their mentality/trustworthiness, their physical condition is also an important consideration when selecting or allowing someone to drive a vehicle on site. The driver needs to have good mobility to enable them to see properly when manoeuvring, as well as being able to easily get in/on the vehicle, or, perhaps more importantly, out/off it in the event of an accident. Just as it is a requirement for driving on a public road, good eyesight is essential for a site vehicle driver as they need to be able to see potential hazards ahead whilst they have enough space and time to take action such as making an emergency stop, not to mention being able to accurately gauge distances whilst driving and performing manoeuvres. Good hearing can also be crucial to enable drivers to hear warnings or instructions whilst they drive.
Avoiding Collisions with Structures
The drivers of vehicles on a construction site need to take particular care to avoid colliding with an object or structure, not to mention people! A collision could not only cause injury or death to the driver themselves, but also to any people that are hit by the moving vehicle. Construction health and safety training courses such as the CITB SMSTS cover the safe movement of vehicles around a site as this is an issue which affects the health and safety of workers on just about every construction site.
Until the day comes when robotic or automated vehicles are the norm on site to transport materials and supplies around, drivers will be humans who are prone to errors and mistakes. These mistakes will usually involve the accidental collision with something; either an inanimate structure/object or a person. Whilst the chances of an accident occurring can not be completely eliminated without banning vehicles on the site completely which is likely to be impractical, these chances can be significantly reduced through implementing certain safety features and ensuring that drivers and indeed all workers on site receive proper training in health and safety issues to enable them to work and move around the construction site in a safe manner and to be aware of potential hazards to health.
These measures to help avoid a collision with a structure or person include putting up barriers to prevent a vehicle accidentally reversing into something, improving the lighting on a site if work takes place when daylight is no longer present, and placing warning signs which are large enough to be seen easily near structures. As far as workers are concerned, an audible warning may also allow workers to get out of the way if they are in the path of a vehicle. This can take the form of the driver manually sounding the horn, or fitting the vehicle with an automated audible system which is activated when the vehicle is reversing and alerts those people nearby to get out of the way as it will be difficult for the driver to see everything behind them, particularly if the vehicle is large and/or long. A signalman or banksman may also be utilised to assist with the manoeuvring of the vehicle.
Slips, Trips and Falls
One of the most common forms of injury either on a construction site or indeed any place of work is one caused by a slip, trip or fall. However, on a construction site this can be particularly dangerous as there is a high chance of this occurring whilst a person is working at height or in close proximity to dangerous machinery and equipment. This can turn what may otherwise have been little more than a sprained ankle or a bruise if it occurred in a different place of work into something which could be a potential killer if the person falls from high up or in front of a large piece of machinery such as an excavator.
To reduce the chances of slips, trips and falls a number of precautions can be taken. These include wearing appropriate footwear, clearing walkways of mud and debris, putting temporary flooring down over bare earth, putting up covers to prevent rain getting surfaces wet, clearing obstructions and trip hazards such as cables and tools, not running around site, and, most importantly, paying full attention whilst moving around and not being distracted by another task such as using a mobile phone.
Whilst health and safety courses can contribute greatly in reducing the chances of accidents occurring on a construction site by making workers more aware of the hazards and dangers that they may encounter on site, one of the best ways to avoid an injury through slips, trips or a fall is to use common sense, not rush, and not be distracted by other things whilst moving around site.
Different construction sites will have differing levels of vehicle traffic moving about on site. This can range from one person driving a little forklift around, to a site which has a large number of vehicles and heavy machinery moving about constantly. It may also be the case that the same site can have varying levels of vehicle traffic depending upon the time of day.
With virtually no two construction sites being the same, the measures that need to be put into place to facilitate the safe movement of vehicles and people or, perhaps more pertinently, keeping them apart, will be slightly different for each site.
The importance of managing the safe movement of vehicles and people around a construction site is such that it is included in the syllabus of construction health and safety courses like the NEBOSH Construction Certificate, Site Managers SMSTS and Site Supervisors SSSTS courses. To find out more about these courses, please use the "Health & Safety" drop-down menu at the top of the page.
Where construction work is taking place close to where pedestrians are walking, if it is possible and practical then designated walkways with pre-determined crossing points should be introduced to avoid those on foot coming into contact with moving vehicles. Obviously a person would come off significantly worse if they were to be struck by a moving vehicle, and is likely to cause either serious injury or death to that person. Whilst workers should have received health and safety training and be knowledgeable as to the risks and potential dangers, members of the public who are walking nearby may not be, particularly if they are distracted by using a mobile phone or listening to music. This makes it especially important to keep them away from potential dangers by using measures such as barriers and crossing points to prevent them accidentally, or deliberately, wandering where they should not be.
In order to move around a construction site safely, drivers of vehicles and operators of machinery such as cranes need to be able to see clearly in order to identify potential hazards and obstacles. Visibility is likely to be insufficient either because of the individual having poor eyesight, adverse weather conditions and/or insufficient lighting.
The first issue, the eyesight of the individual, can play a significant part in many incidents, and is sometimes the easiest to remedy if it is just a case of a person not wearing their prescribed glasses or contact lenses. A driver or operator who cannot see clearly in the distance can cause collisions with an object or person, or drive into a hazard. They may also be so busy trying to strain their eyes to see up ahead that they do not concentrate on dangers from the side such as another vehicle approaching at a junction.
The weather and environment will also have an effect on how clearly and how far ahead a person can see. Work taking place in fog can be especially dangerous. Just as airports will close due to planes on the ground not being able to move around safely if they cannot see, it may be necessary to suspend activities involving moving vehicles until the fog lifts. As well as creating mud which can be dangerous on a construction site, heavy rain will also affect visibility, particularly if the vehicle does not have windscreen wipers to clear the water away. The cold can be a problem if it causes windows or windscreens to acquire a layer of frost on them, as this will need to be cleared before commencing work. If operating machinery in extremely cold temperatures, this frost layer may return whilst work is being carried out, causing visibility problems. Even good weather can be a problem. The glare from bright sunshine can make it difficult to see, as can driving between contrasting lighting such as going from a tunnel to bright outdoor sunshine before the driver's eyes can properly adjust.
Lighting on a Construction Site
A lot of construction work nowadays takes place at night, particularly work on or near a road as it will be done overnight whilst there is less traffic on the road to avoid disruption during the day. This means that lights not only allow the work to take place at all, but also has a vital role to play in the overall health and safety of the work as the quality of the lighting will affect how well workers can see.
There is an important distinction between being able to see to do the work, and being able to see properly so that not only can a worker complete the task safely, but also has enough light to be able to spot hazards as well. For example, a worker may have just enough light to attach a safety harness or secure a rope to something, but not enough to be able to say for certain that everything is clipped properly into place. And in the gloom it is extremely unlikely that they can see the out-of-control trailer careering towards them down the hill!
So in some ways it could be thought of that the more light that is provided on site the better. However, there are also certain negative impacts of light, and even too much light can be dangerous, as whilst too little light can make it hard for a worker to see clearly, too much light can dazzle them and also make it difficult to see.
Environmental considerations are playing an increasingly significant part of health, safety and welfare considerations and legislation, and the impact of the lighting on the surrounding environment needs to be taken into account. Light pollution can not only have an adverse effect of local wildlife, particularly birds, but can also be a nuisance to local residence who find it difficult to get to sleep if their bedrooms are lit up all night. The lighting on a construction site is also likely to be powered by generators which work by burning fuel and giving off harmful emissions, which can damage and pollute the local environment.
Site History and Previous/Current Use
Before starting any construction work, it is important that a site survey takes place to determine if any risks or hazards are present from the current condition, as well as finding out the history and any previous usage of the site which could have left behind hidden dangers. These two issues are discussed in more detail in the paragraphs below.
If the planned construction work is taking place on a site which is already used by other businesses or private dwellings in close proximity (as opposed to an abandoned or greenfield/undeveloped plot), then precautions will need to be taken to ensure the health and safety of the public, such as the erection of a secure perimeter fence to keep people from accidental or deliberately gaining access to where work is taking place (particularly children), and being aware of traffic and pedestrians moving about on the access roads to the area.
Even plots of land which have never been built on before will have potential hazards which need to be considered. The land may be prone to flooding, which could not only damage machinery, but will make the ground soft which will make it particularly difficult for construction vehicles to gain traction, and could lead to skids, slides and collisions which may injure the driver and those nearby.
Derelict or abandoned sites are usually more hazardous than sites that are currently in use, as many dangers may be hidden and not known about, which is why it is so important to perform a survey and obtain a good understanding of the site and any buildings currently there.
Not only could there be substances harmful to health present such as asbestos which needs to be taken into account before any demolition or renovation work on the building, but the abandoned premises may contain hazardous sharp items such as discarded drug needles or broken glass if people were able to gain access to the premises.
It is likely that the building was or still is connected to services such as electric and sewer systems, so pipes and cables need to be located to avoid accidental damage to these which would not only need to be repaired, but could cause serious illness, injury or death to workers. Uncovered manholes or drains may also be present on the site which a person could fall down.
Preparation and effective planning are key components of health and safety. Accident prevention is much more preferable to reacting to a situation when it is too late and a person has already been injured or killed, and a mixture of common sense and comprehensive health and safety training for workers can help to create a safe working environment.
When it comes to building sites, construction safety courses such as the SMSTS, SSSTS or NEBOSH Construction Certificate courses cover a variety of issues including COSHH substances, movement of people and vehicles around site, fire risks, working at height, excavation work, demolition, risk assessments and many more. To see exactly what is included on the syllabus of each, please use the "Health & Safety Training" tab at the top of the page to view the course outlines. Alternatively, please call us on 0844 800 3295 or contact us online to speak with one of our construction health and safety course advisors.
Construction Site Rules to Keep People Safe
Rules are important for many areas of life, and are particularly important when it comes to health and safety on a construction site. Rules are not made for the sake of it; they are made to prevent workplace incidents and accidents occurring which could cause injury or death to a worker, visitor or members of the public who are nearby. A construction site manager will have responsibility for the health and safety of all of these people, and so it is imperative that they not only introduce a comprehensive set of site rules, but also ensuring that these rules are followed and adhered to at all time as taking shortcuts or circumventing these rules is one of the primary causes of an accident occurring on site.
Thinking up the site rules is only one stage of the process though, as they will be of little use if nobody knows about them! This means that construction site managers and supervisors need to ensure that the site rules have been conveyed and understood by the workers on site. On a major construction job which is taking place over a long period of time, regular refresher courses may be required to prevent workers forgetting the rules. It will also be necessary to make any visitors to the site aware of the site rules too, and provide them with any items required in order to comply with them such as a high visibility jacket or protective hard hat when walking around the site. These site visitors also include delivery drivers who may have rules which are only relevant to them such as not manoeuvring without a designated signalman or keeping vehicles away from a certain area of the site.
The site rules may also be reinforced by signs which serve as reminders of information that workers should already have been made aware of but may have forgotten such as signing in and out when entering or leaving the site area or not smoking anywhere on site.
Why a Constantly Changing Construction Site is Dangerous
The very nature of a construction or demolition site means that things are constantly changing. The layout of the site may be different from one day to the next, with structures and hazards appearing and disappearing as the work progresses. This can create its own dangers as it can lead to disorientation and confusion; causing people and vehicles to not only enter areas where they should not be, but also meaning that they could be so busy trying to find where they need to go that they will not be paying full attention to the numerous other dangers present on site.
The temporary nature of a construction site means that more often than not roadways are not formally established and do not have defined edges and boundaries. Even if they are, these roads are likely to change frequently as the project progresses over time. This can be particularly hazardous for a driver who is used to driving on a particular route on site and is not aware of any changes. They may think they are on a straight and can drive fast, where actually it has now changed to a sharp bend around a new structure or pile of material. Having to brake suddenly or swerve to avoid a collision can lead to serious injury, death, or damage to equipment if the vehicle overturns collides with a person or structure.
Drivers who have to figure out the new road layout may be so busy looking for signs and the right way that they do not concentrate enough on looking out for people or equipment in the way. They may also have to back up large trucks where it is difficult to see what is behind, all of which increases the chances of an accident or incident occurring. Health and safety courses such as a workplace safe driving course can help to some extent, but it needs to be combined with other factors such as clear signage and good planning of the site layout.
Construction Workers Health and Safety Courses
A construction site is one of the most dangerous and hazardous places of work, with numerous dangers present. Having construction workers attend health and safety training courses such as the NEBOSH Construction Certificate or ConstructionSkills/CITB SMSTS or SSSTS Certificate courses will give them a much greater understanding and awareness of the risks that are present on a construction site, and how to work in a safe manner to avoid death or injury either to themselves or those around them.
The dangers facing construction workers on site are many and varied. Examples of such hazards include dangers from falling objects, being hit by moving vehicles, working with substances hazardous to health, electrical malfunctions causing electric shock or starting fires, manual handling issues, noise and many more. All of these risks to health mean that the health and safety training required needs to be comprehensive in order to cover all of the different topics. Along with the qualifications mentioned in the opening paragraph above, sometimes it may be particularly beneficial for site workers to attend a number of courses in health and safety, especially if a large part of their day is concerned with one specific task such as manual handling or the nature of the site means that one risk is much greater than all the others.
So as well as having a legal duty of care, health and safety courses for contsruction site workers can also provide other benefits for you as an employer, including a reduction in workers being off work through illness or injury, lower staff turnover as employees seek a safer working environment elsewhere (or demand higher wages because of the extra risk!), and avoiding costly compensation claims. If you are in breach of applicable health and safety regulations, you may also face a fine or even imprisonment in extreme cases.
If you would like more information regarding health and safety training for construction site workers, please call us on 0844 800 3295 or send us an online contact form by clicking on the "Contact" tab at the top of the page to discuss your requirements.