Working on a construction site comes with its fair share of risks. Paying attention to your surroundings so you can minimise risks on your site is essential to ensure no one is hurt. Below we discuss the five most important risks on construction sites and the easy steps you can take to avoid any injury or damage.
Working at Height
In Australia in 2017, almost half of worker fatalities were caused by workers falling from a height. This usually comes in the form of falling from roofs, ladders or scaffolding.
Preventing Falls from a Height
People working on scaffolding should only be authorised to complete work when conditions are suitable. This means that site supervisors should not allow work on scaffolding to go ahead if the scaffolding is wet or muddy. Workers should also wear the appropriate workwear, including shoes with good grip and a hard hat. Site supervisors should organise for the scaffolding to be inspected before each shift by a qualified person.
If working at height is not necessary, then it should be avoided where possible. A work-positioning system should be used as a precaution to lessen the potential injury to a worker if an accident did occur.
When working on ladders it is important to make sure it is placed on a flat and stable surface to prevent any sudden movements when elevated. Ladders should always be secured to a building when working as a precaution. Often ladders are overlooked when it comes to inspection but maintenance should occur regularly. If any fault is found, it should be removed from the worksite and immediately disposed of to ensure it is not used any further.
Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome
Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) occurs when a worker uses tools which vibrate heavily for long periods. HAVS can cause nerve damage in the arms as well as circulation issues with your fingers.
Preventing Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome
As technology improves, so should your tools to ensure you have the best equipment available to improve safety and efficiency. To prevent HAVS, you should upgrade your tools to those with lower vibration rates than your current set of tools.
Labourers should also work in shifts when operating tools with high vibration levels. Having breaks after each shift is an important step in the prevention of HAVS. Gripping high-vibration tools tightly should also be avoided as this is strongly linked with HAVS.
Extended exposure to noise is a significant risk on construction sites, with the construction industry responsible for 18% of all hearing-loss claims from the Australian workforce. It is important to monitor the sound levels at your construction site to make sure that workers are not exposed to potential hearing damage, which is irreversible.
Managing Worksite Noise
Firstly, and most obviously, workers should only ever operate loud machinery if they have the appropriate ear protection available. It is easy to walk around the worksite without ear protection but it is the simplest and most effective way to avoid significant hearing loss.
A common test to check whether noise levels are getting up to a damaging level is if you have to raise your voice to speak to someone one metre away then it is likely that the noise levels are hazardous.
A noise assessment should be undertaken on your worksite to ensure noise is within acceptable levels. Safework Australia suggests that noise should be kept under 50 decibels for work that requires high concentration levels and constant conversation and under 70 decibels for other basic work. To reduce noise, it is suggested that all machinery is reviewed to determine if less noisy models can be purchased. Also, check if you can plug your equipment into the mains electricity supply instead of using generators. Doing unavoidable noisy work at times where fewer workers are at the worksite is effective to limit noise exposure.
The risks related to any electrical related work are extremely high in the construction industry. The use of electrical equipment on outdoor worksites which can become wet is very dangerous, as well as the use of electrical tools on metal surfaces such as scaffolding. Electrical equipment like extension cords and sockets are especially prone to damage.
Preventing Electrical Risks at the Worksite
It is important to regularly inspect and examine any electrical equipment you are using to reduce the risks to workers. This inspection is usually performed by qualified professionals such as electricians.
Residual-current devices (RCDs) should also be used for any plugged-in electrical equipment. This device will automatically cut off the power supply to your tools if a potentially harmful power leak has been identified.
Having awareness of overhead and underground power lines is also important so you can carry out work away from these areas.
Fire is a huge risk in construction sites in Australia, especially because of our hot and dry climate. All it takes is one spark for there to be significant fire damages, so having the best fire risk prevention strategies in place is essential.
Preventing the Risk of Fire on Construction Sites
The simplest method to avoid fire risks on the worksite is to have a smoking ban on site. Properly maintaining electrical equipment and using as many non-flammable materials as possible are easy steps to significantly reduce fire risks. Hot work should be completed away from hazardous areas, such as areas with chemicals, and should follow all regulations.
Safety on the worksite is as important as the work being done so it deserves your full attention. There are many more risks that come with working on a construction site but these are just five we have chosen to highlight. Don’t let work get in the way of having the latest risk management procedures available, your workers will thank you for it.