Safety Tips For Construction Workers

Jan 3, 2016

Everyone involved in construction should follow best practices for construction safety.

On any given day in the United States, some 6.5 million people spend a significant amount of their time at a construction site, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These numbers underscore the risk of injury. Therefore, everyone — from front-line tradesmen and hands-on workers to the foremen, CEOs and vendors — must follow certain construction safety tips and protocols to avoid accidents.

However, accidents do happen at those construction sites. OSHA reports that on the more than 250,000 construction sites operating at any one time in the country, more fatal injuries occur than at any other type of workplace location.

Hazards Abound

Construction safety tips are for every individual who walks through a site, and that includes you, regardless of your role in the project. Construction sites are rife with potential hazards. Take heed of these common safety mistakes:

  • Improper safety gear

  • Falling objects

  • Scaffolding collapses

  • Falls and trips

  • Electric shocks

Workers are prone to repetitive motion injuries in addition to facing falls and equipment mismanagement. The most common citations handed out by OHSA for construction safety violations typically are for:

  • Improper scaffolding

  • Ladder misuse

  • Lack of proper head protection

  • Excavation violations

  • Inadequate fall protection

  • Insufficient communication about safety tips for construction workers

  • Improper wiring

  • General safety and health issues

Training Is the Key

While skilled workers have extensive training on the best practices for the equipment they use, visitors, superintendents and other tradesmen need to understand basic safety measures and why the rules are so important. Yet equipment training rarely extends to those of other related fields. That’s why communication between all those on a construction site can keep you safe.

For example, let’s say you’re a company auditor. You may have a very good reason for visiting a job site to determine how your company’s resources are being used. But without sufficient construction safety training, you may not pay as much attention to your surroundings as necessary, one of the very first lessons you need to learn before stepping onto a construction site.

Training Only Part of the Story

It happens. You’re so intent on counting equipment that you make a mistake. You may think that because you’re wearing the requisite hard hat, you’re in good shape, protected against any kind of injury. Then you fall in a hole covered by a tarp that has not been properly roped off.

While each tradesman and superintendent is responsible to keep his own area clean and free from debris and clutter, attention lapses and distractions occur, too often leaving areas open and ripe for accidents. It behooves you, or anyone entering a construction site, to maintain constant vigilance as long as you’re on the site — whether you’re an accountant, a vendor, a reporter or the CEO.

Avoidable Deaths

In 2013, more than 20 percent of all workplace fatalities occurred on construction sites. The causes were avoidable in most cases. OSHA cites the “fatal four” calamities for more than half of those deaths:

  • 36.5 percent of fatalities were from falls

  • 10.1 percent were from persons being struck in the head

  • 8.6 percent were caused by electrocutions

  • 2.5 percent were from persons caught in-between moving objects

Every year, manufacturers make their construction equipment and machinery safer than the year before. They also do a better job of training tradesmen to use their equipment safely. Unfortunately, a majority of workplace accidents on construction sites occurs because people don’t pay attention to their surroundings or simply take it for granted that someone else is watching out for their well-being.

Basic Construction Safety Tips

The owners of construction companies are ultimately responsible for ensuring a safe work environment for their employees and visitors. However, you should also be responsible for your own safety on a construction site. By following these basic steps every time you step foot on a construction site, you reduce the odds that you will be the next statistic:

  • Undergo extensive training for any equipment you use on the job.

  • Watch your every step and do not step on loose boards, unsecured roofing shingles, unsteady scaffolding, off-kilter ladders or anything that appears even slightly unsafe or askew.

  • Wear all required safety gear for each site. While hardhats are common, you should also wear goggles to protect your eyes from dust and flying debris, ear protection on noisy sites, gloves if you plan on touching any construction materials, steel-toed boots and a respirator if chemicals are prevalent onsite.

  • Practice ergonomic lifting techniques by using your legs to lift heavy objects.

  • Use handrails whenever present to prevent unnecessary falls.

  • Avoid darkened areas until proper lighting is installed.

  • Stay dry, particularly when walking through “hot zones” where electricity is being installed.

  • Maintain constant vigilance of your surroundings.

Be Vigilant

Be aware of what’s going on around you at a construction site. While you may not want to shut down a worksite that does not follow basic construction safety tips, don’t hesitate to report violations to the foreman or company executives. You may save a life.

If you are a worker who must work in an unsafe environment, you have the right to speak up. If you are a professional who’s required to visit sites on a regular basis, you have the right to expect everyone to uphold and follow safety tips for construction workers. Be vigilant about it. The cost of instituting a safety program far outweighs the losses that are incurred when safety enforcement is lacking.

A Final Note

Take note of your stress levels when considering your basic rights for safety at your construction site. Workers at every level tend to rush when they are stressed, losing their focus. Construction is a stressful occupation, and stress-management techniques can be useful tools in every construction worker’s toolbox.

Construction safety tips are useless if they aren’t managed and repeated on a regular basis. Watch out for your own safety when you walk on a site. Keep the safety of your fellow workers in the forefront of your mind. Just as it takes an entire team to build a new high-rise tower, it takes that same teamwork to allow everyone to go home safely at night.

About the Author

Charlie Kimmel

As President and CEO, Charlie has dedicated his 25+ year career to executive search at Kimmel & Associates. Charlie began his career at Kimmel & Associates in 1990 as a Recruiter. In 1993, he graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he received a BA in History.

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