Building sites can be dangerous places. The construction industry has seen numerous members of its workforce suffer serious injury and even death as a consequence of working on sites where the issue of safety has not been given the priority that it deserves. The implementation of a simple set of safety measures might well have avoided such tragedies for the builders involved and the financial and legal ramifications for the employers and site owners. Although it is impossible to cover every kind of safety measure in such a brief article, we set out below some areas in which the safety of construction workers can be better protected whilst they are on site.
- Well in advance of the commencement of any work, the site manager should arrange a site meeting with the workforce to discuss the issue of site safety. A plan should be devised and agreed upon so that any safety issues that are peculiar to the particular site are identified and covered.
- As soon as the building works commence, those on site should ensure that the site is kept tidy and that any potentially dangerous items and substances are not left lying about. Bricks, mortar, glass, hardcore, concrete and other demolition debris should be taken off the site. If it cannot be immediately removed, it should be isolated with fencing or sheeting. If the construction project involves the excavation of holes and/or trenches, these should also be fenced and marked with luminous tape or lamplight in order to prevent falls.
- Every worker should have the necessary safety equipment at all times. Protection, in the shape of hard hats, gloves, heavy boots, protection for the ears, eyes and face and breathing gear, should be provided as required. In most Western countries the need to ensure that workers on site have the necessary protective kit is also underlined by the law.
Safety footwear is essential on a construction site
- Every site has a certain amount of plant and machinery. This should always be kept in a good working order and the workforce should only ever use machinery for the purpose for which it is intended to be used. Machinery should be regularly serviced.
- If the construction involves working from a height, all ladders and scaffolding should be checked. They should be safely secured by skilled scaffolding erectors and, if necessary, safety harnesses should be provided to those working on the ladders or scaffolding.
Scaffolding and ladders should be securely fixed by skilled contractors
- The consumption of alcohol is something that has no place on a construction site. As part of any site safety regime it should be banned completely and a breach of that rule should result in the instant dismissal of the transgressor.
- Not all hazards on site are obvious. Some are related not to the site itself but to the elements. Workers should be advised about the consequences of working for extended periods in the sun, the cold or in wet conditions. All of these can have an adverse effect on health, ranging from dehydration and sunstroke to frostbite and even trench foot.
- Adequate First Aid materials should be on site at all times, one or more workers should be qualified in administering First Aid and there should be a designated Safety Officer.
- There should be a clear procedure for the site workers to follow in the event that there is an emergency on site. If any members of the workforce have a specific role in an emergency this should be clearly delineated and communicated to them.
- For a site to be operated safely, all of the workers need to be acutely aware of the need for safety and to share the responsibility for ensuring that all the above safety measures are observed.
This guidance by no means represents an exhaustive list of safety measures to employ on a construction site but it is suggested that they should be adopted as minimum safety requirements. Additional provisions are likely to be required for particular sites, according to their location and the precise nature of the building project that is being undertaken.
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