I think we can all agree that a construction site is no playground!
Why, even while sending their kids to a playground, parents ensure that they have proper safety gear on! Even an innocent place such as a playground can result in broken bones, bruised knees, or stitches on the forehead.
So, imagine the potential risks that a construction worker faces as they dangle high above the ground laying a slab on a flyover!
Whether it is real estate, i.e., residential and commercial buildings, or infrastructure development – roads, flyovers, metros, bridges, subways, etc. – most of these projects involve a high level of safety and health risks, given the scale and type of tasks involved.
Top 5 Reasons Construction Workers Are Susceptible to Safety and Health Risks
- Location of work: Construction involves working at a tremendous height, or in some cases, several feet below ground level.
- Dangerous processes: It involves processes, such as demolition, excavation, etc., that are quite perilous.
- Hazardous materials: Construction materials, namely asbestos, cement, chemical solvents, etc., are potentially hazardous.
- Airborne pollutants: Particulate matter like dust, silica, etc., are constantly present in the air at a construction site, increasing the risk of respiratory diseases.
- Human error: The smallest oversight, such as irregularly maintained machinery, poor safety precautions, inadequate training, etc., can result in severe accidents, or even in some unfortunate cases, fatalities.
And now, in addition to all of these inherent risks associated with the construction industry, there is the added risk of COVID-19. The pandemic has changed how workplaces operate, with most organizations turning to work-from-home as an alternative. However, the construction sector is such that it requires those involved to be physically present at the site.
This is why it becomes even more critical to ensure meticulous health and safety compliance in this sector.
Here, in the USA, workplace safety is monitored by the ‘Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the regulatory agency of the United States Department of Labor. The main mission of OSHA is to promote occupational safety and health awareness among workers and ensure organizations adhere to their standards and guidelines.
The construction industry involves two diverse sets of task forces. At one end there are highly educated and skilled professionals such as engineers, architects, and project managers. While at the other end are the manual workers and laborers. Many of these workers may not even comprehend the level of risk involved in their daily work. This makes the task of implementing and ensuring health and safety compliance even more tedious yet vital.
5 Key Elements of Health and Safety Compliance in the Construction Industry
1. Use of suitable and adequate safety gear
A proper PPE kit is the primary and most basic level of safety compliance that needs to be ensured without compromise. Helmets or hard hats, high visibility vests, work boots, face and eye protection gear, etc., should be part of the kit provided to each worker on the construction site.
In addition, gears such as body harnesses, safety nets, and other protective equipment to protect against falls should be utilized at every construction site.
Needless to say, all the PPE kits and safety equipment should be high quality and durable.
2. Ensuring well-maintained machinery
The construction business involves the use of heavy machinery and equipment. Massive cranes, excavators, bulldozers, boom lifts, concrete mixers, etc., are an everyday affair at construction sites; and it is crucial to keep this equipment in top-notch working condition.
Keeping proper machinery records, frequent cleaning and lubrication, and regular inspection can avert accidents caused by heavy equipment.
3. Imparting proper and timely training
However, one of the most simple but grossly underrated aspects of health and safety compliance is imparting worker training. Training those involved can sensitize them to the risks associated with their work and the importance of complying with the safety guidelines.
OSHA maintains multiple useful training resources, which include training and other useful topics on health and safety compliance.
4. Eliminating hazards
Unfortunately, construction work involves materials and processes that can be potentially dangerous. According to OSHA, ‘Elimination’ or ‘Substitution’ are the two modes of managing hazardous elements. According to this approach, either the process has to be completely eliminated, or the material used has to be replaced by something less dangerous and toxic.
5. Using technology to mitigate risk
Digitization and automation are making inroads into the construction sector, and these can effectively mitigate certain risks. For example, conducting site inspections using drones, using wearable technology such as PPE kits with heat sensors, using robotics to carry out dangerous tasks, etc., are ways human intervention can reduce safety risks.
Battling COVID-19 in the Construction Industry
COVID-19 has made the construction industry even more dangerous. Many of the construction processes require workers to be in close proximity to each other. Moreover, the respiratory issues caused due to the dust and particulate matter in the air acts as a catalyst in intensifying the Covid-19 virus impact.
Therefore, stricter compliance of the health standards has to be enforced going forward.
A methodical risk analysis has to be done to demarcate which tasks qualify as high risk; for e.g., where workers would be within 6 ft of each other, or where there is a risk from outside contamination (from people who are not regular onsite workers- delivery agents, etc.). Accordingly, proper risk mitigation measures need to be taken.
Ensuring proper housekeeping, providing N95 masks and hand sanitizers as a part of the PPE kits, disinfecting washrooms and common areas, limiting physical meetings, screening at entry, etc., can reduce the risks of COVID-19.
According to OSHA, there are four leading causes of fatalities in the construction industry – ‘The Fatal Four’. These include – falling from a height, getting struck by an object, electrocution, and caught-in or caught-between. Add the health risks to those, and it may seem as if construction is the most dangerous industry to be a part of. But adherence to proper safety measures and health norms can help change this picture.
The construction industry is one of the main pillars of growth and development, and hence we need to secure the safety and health of the members of this guild. And to help you do that, Pulse is there every step of the way. If you are looking to get the health and safety compliance of your workplace set up, reviewed, or audited, sign up for our 30-day free trial. Witness how our latest AI technology and our best-in-it’s-class safety audit app can redefine the health and safety compliance at your organization.