According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the United States Department of Labor, there were 4,690 workplace fatalities in 2010 alone out of which 774 were in construction. These deaths were mostly related to safety hazards that could have been potentially avoided. The number one cause of death was falling, followed by electrocution, then being struck by an object, and lastly getting caught in or between things. These four major causes were addressed by OSHA and guidelines were provided to ensure safety among construction and renovation workers.
The proper use of safety equipment can also prevent injuries and fatalities at construction sites. Although required by law in many states, a large number of workers tend to ignore the importance of safety equipment. The following steps are guide to using safety equipment for renovation and construction work.
Avoiding Falls With Proper Fall Protection Equipment
Personal fall protection equipment is a necessity at any construction site. Whether the renovation or construction requires climbing high buildings or remodelling a small home, safety equipment is absolutely essential. Falling is the number one cause of death at construction sites, making protection against it highly important. Some of the main reasons for falling include floor openings, unprotected walls and side holes, wrong scaffold construction, protruding steel and iron bars, and portable ladder misuse.
OSHA requires that any openings six feet or more should be protected with a guardrail or safety net system. Moreover, all construction sites should be inspected prior to work for any hidden openings or holes that can pose a danger to workers. These “fall prevention systems” are known to be a better option than “fall protection systems.” Fall protection systems consist of safety equipment like safety belts, full body harnesses, lanyards, lifelines, rope grabs, shock absorbers, carabiners, and anchors. All fall protection systems must be checked for size, manufacturer’s identification, usage, date of manufacture, and model number.
Safety Equipment to Avoid Electrocutions
Electrocution is the second main cause of deaths among construction workers. Some of the serious forms of danger that workers are exposed to when working around electrical materials include thermal burns, arc flashes, electric shocks, and blasts. There are two protection systems that need to be in place when working with electricity: Insulating Protective Equipment (IPE) and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
1. Insulating Protective Equipment (IPE)
According to OSHA the following insulation protection should be included when dealing with electricity:
- Insulation should be provided for “(rubber) line hose, blankets, and hoods”
- Insulation for “barriers made of fiberglass or phenolic resin”
- “Live-line tools, such as hotsticks, switchsticks, and shotgun sticks”
- “Plastic or fiberglass hardcover items that can be installed with live-line tools”
2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Workers are required to use Personal Protective Equipment and workwear to protect against electrical hazards. The US Department of Labor suggests that all workers should be provided with training on how to properly use PPE. Security and hazard assessment should also be performed prior to any electrical work to judge the amount and level of PPE needed. Here are some of the PPE frequently used when working with electrical equipment:
- Eye and face protection, such as safety glasses and face shields
- Rubber gloves with insulation and leather protection
- Industrial Hard hats
- Safety shoes
- Insulating sleeves
- Chemical protection gloves
- Flare resistant clothing
Similarly, “struck-by” and other construction related fatalities can be avoided if proper measures and safety plans are put in place. OSHA requires that these measures are also taken care of when using construction vehicles. All vehicles must be fully inspected to guarantee functioning lights, brakes, mirrors, and other areas operating safely. To prevent hazards from falling objects, always make sure to wear a hard hat, goggles, and other protective gear. Load-carrying vehicles should be checked for safety prior to usage and all tools should be secured in place to avoid falling on people.
Almost all injuries and deaths can be avoided if workers are provided with proper guidelines on how to operate under different conditions with the necessary safety equipment. While some workers often tend to neglect these safety measures assuming that they are mere hindrances to their workflow, these measures are put in place for a reason — the safety and security of themselves and those around them.
Below are listed some useful resources for those people that want to find out and read more about this topic:
Our thanks to Lucy James for this very helpful article! pb