Every employer is responsible for safeguarding the health and safety of their staff irrespective of the industry and the nature of work being performed. In the case of construction workers, they work in a high-risk environment that is subject to electrical hazards and the dangers of construction machinery. In fact, according to SafeWork NSW, “around 25,000 workers suffered injuries on NSW construction sites in the last 3 years due to unsafe work conditions. 23 workers were killed and 1700 were left with permanent disabilities”. These alarming stats make it evident that it is very important to take appropriate safety measures on a construction site and protect the construction crew from fatalities.
1- Daily safety meetings: Employees need to be briefed about the different safety measures when it comes to each specific job site. As a project continues to progress, the hazards also change. It is up to project managers and team leaders to ensure that everyone on the job site is provided with proper instruction, and is aware of the changing regulations. Holding daily safety meetings ensures that everyone is kept up-to-date and is on the same page. Employees should also be told to keep safety as their prime concern. These meetings should also reiterate health and safety standards and proper risk assessment.
2- Reduce the amount of night work: Late work hours and dark environments create a greater potential for accidents. If possible, minimize the amount of night work, or limit it to a low-risk area of the job site. Some of the reasons why accidents increase at night include fatigue, as people are less alert after midnight, as well as reduced visibility. This combination creates the threat of more accidents, all of which are avoidable.
3- Proper safety gear: Construction sites are notorious for unpredictable accidents and unforeseen safety hazards. To prepare workers, proper protection is needed at all times. Some basic safety precautions include hardhats, eye protection, hearing protection, and harnesses. Slip-resistant boots, heavy-duty gloves, and masks are also standard safety apparel that must be worn on all job sites.
4- Reflective or highly-visible clothing: These are a must in order to reduce vehicle-related accidents. The high reflective fabric should be used by all employees, and at all times. Through simply being seen by drivers and equipment operators, workers are kept out of harm’s way, which can reduce the potential of getting hit.
5- Regular and frequent breaks: Enforcing regular breaks are crucial in not only productivity but safety as well. Frequent breaks allow workers to re-energize by drinking fluids, eating snacks, and resting. This helps them to remain focused, alert and avoids fatigue and mistakes which can occur due to exhaustion.
6- Clear signage to warn of danger: Wires and high voltage areas should be marked and the electricity should be deactivated when it is not in use. Areas should be cordoned off by pylons and ropes – to prevent people from accidentally moving into areas where there are chances of falling debris or other dangerous hazards. Simple signs with words like ‘Danger’ are incredibly simple but are essential in ensuring safety.
7- Introduce a warm-up or calisthenics exercise: Before starting the day, workers should start with warm-up or calisthenics exercises to keep the body fresh and agile as well as ensure the workers are fit for physical activity. This also helps them develop quicker reflexes as well as sharper minds.
8- Avoid sunlight to minimize fatigue: Exposed skin needs to be covered up. Wide-brimmed hard hats, long-sleeved shirts, and other skin protectors need to be used. Direct sunlight is one of the main causes of fatigue. Taking care of this will ensure that workers ensure the maximum amount of productivity in addition to reducing fatigue.
9- Practice defensive driving/parking/backing up: For vehicle and machine operators, vehicle warning strobes are needed to warn approaching traffic. Pylons, barrels, buffer zones, safety spotters, and daytime running lights are needed. Drivers should be made to slow down and to avoid backing up whenever possible. If backing up is needed, a spotter should be assigned.
10- Be aware of worker diets; encourage healthy eating: Carbonated Sodas and energy drinks should be replaced with water, citrus drinks, and electrolyte replacements. These help to hydrate the workers, reduce fatigue and increase concentration. In warm weather, light and grease-free food like salads and sandwiches, vegetables and fruits should be consumed rather than carb-heavy and high-fat food. This prevents drowsiness after meals and helps workers remain alert and energized.
Many of these tips require a great deal of training, encouragement, and repetition to ensure that all workers are on board. Being consistent in practicing these tips will help create a culture of teamwork among all employees. Furthermore, these tips are built on elements of collaboration and commitment, which ensures a safer work environment for all.