Construction site safety is crucial as dangerous equipment and physically rigorous tasks require precautions and safety measures to prevent on-site accidents or fatalities. This article outlines the five best practices that site managers and workers must follow to ensure construction safety.
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The construction industry is one of the sectors hit hardest by fatalities in the workplace, as Safe Work Australia’s preliminary figures estimate that, out of the total of 110 workers killed by work-related injuries so far in 2023, 25 fatalities occurred within construction.
Construction sites are often dangerous due to the inherent risks and hazards that stem from a combination of factors related to construction work, the environment and the dynamics of the site. For site managers, failing to mitigate these risks without adhering to safety protocols and ongoing hazard assessments could lead to worker injuries or fatalities, reputational damage and loss of business opportunities.
What can construction site managers do to ensure worker safety? From health and safety management plans to the use of technologies such as construction management tools, this article lists the five best practices for companies to follow for safety in construction.
What are common construction site hazards?
Construction site workers face numerous risks daily. Job site conditions can cause slips, trips, falls and electrical incidents. The following are some of the most common construction site hazards that workers need to be aware of:
1. Falling objects: Tools may fall from elevated surfaces, posing a risk to the workers below.
2. Electrical hazards: Working near exposed electrical wires, improper wiring, or faulty electrical equipment is dangerous for construction workers.
3. Falls from heights: Working on elevated surfaces without protection measures, such as guardrails or safety nets, is hazardous for workers.
4. Equipment accidents: Heavy equipment like cranes, bulldozers or forklifts can cause accidents due to improper operation, lack of training or mechanical failures.
5. Hazardous materials exposure: Workers may be exposed to asbestos, lead, chemicals, and other harmful substances, especially without wearing the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like hard helmets and goggles.
The importance of construction site security
Construction site security plays a vital role in ensuring the safety of personnel, equipment, materials and property. Security responsibilities on a construction site involve various measures and practices to prevent unauthorised access, theft, and vandalism and ensure a safe and secure work environment. Some core responsibilities include monitoring and controlling access points to the site, registering all visitors and implementing measures to secure equipment.
The five best practices for construction site safety
Construction sites are expensive work areas as equipment, tools, and materials remain on-site. Construction project time scales can also span weeks, months or longer, and sites could even be prone to the threat of natural disasters. Project threats can be prevented or managed if effective practices are implemented for construction safety.
The following are the five best practices for construction site safety:
1. Prioritise risk identification
Construction workers must be able to identify the potential risks involved when working on-site and know how to prevent them. Site managers must identify and recognise possible risks and uncertainties that may affect the successful execution of a project. Risk factors could encompass a range of factors such as environmental, safety, financial, technological, logistical, regulatory and more.
Tools such as risk management software can help streamline risk identification processes by providing predefined risk categories, templates and checklists. Such tools can also provide real-time monitoring of said risks, allowing teams to track changes, updates and new threats as they arise during the project lifestyle.
2. Conduct safety training
Regular safety training on construction sites is crucial for various reasons but primarily centres around the well-being of workers and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. The following are key reasons why safety training is important on construction sites:
- Ensures worker safety
- Promotes risk awareness
- Enforces proper use of equipment and tools
- Adheres to safety protocols and regulations
- Prepares for an emergency response
- Reduces incidents and insurance costs
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 requires the contractor in charge of a construction project to prepare a written work health and safety (WHS) management plan before it begins. A construction safety management plan should outline the principal contractor's WHS policies, induction and training, injury management and continuous monitoring and review. All workers must also be aware of the WHS plan and their right to read it before starting work on the project.
3. Keep inventories of on-site equipment
Keeping an inventory of and maintaining on-site equipment in good condition is important for personnel safety on a construction site. Inventoried equipment means that all machinery and tools are in safe working condition, which reduces the risk of accidents and injuries to workers.
Properly functioning equipment leads to improved efficiency and productivity as well-maintained tools operate optimally, reducing downtime caused by breakdowns and repairs. Malfunctioning or unavailable equipment can cause delays in project timelines. Keeping equipment in good condition and using inventory management tools can help adhere to project schedules and meet deadlines.
4. Use clear communication and supervision
Communication is essential for preventing accidents on construction sites as it enhances awareness, understanding and coordination among all stakeholders. Timely communication can significantly mitigate risks and improve overall safety. Providing clear and concise instructions, procedures, and protocols ensures workers understand what is expected of them, how to perform tasks safely and what steps to follow in an emergency.
Supervision is also crucial for preventing accidents as it provides oversight, guidance and enforcement of safety policies. Construction site supervisors ensure workers adhere to proper procedures and regulations.
5. Leverage using ConTech
Construction technologies (or ConTech) leverage advancements in digitisation, automation, sensors and data analytics to mitigate risks. For example, utilising sensors and IoT devices enables real-time monitoring of equipment, workers and environmental conditions. There are various construction industry trends that involve technologies, like the use of drones for site inspection and surveillance, for example, and safety management tools that allow companies to improve WHS by identifying and managing safety risks.
ConTech also plays a vital role in advancing green building practices. The 2023 Smart Cities survey found that increased sustainability is one of the most popular advantages of smart cities for residents (39%). Construction companies can contribute to improving urban living and developing a smart city by creating sustainable building plans and adopting green building initiatives.
Sustainable construction promotes the use of environmentally friendly and non-toxic materials, which often have fewer health and safety risks for workers during installation. Sustainable construction often considers worker comfort and health in building design. Well-ventilated spaces with natural light contribute to a healthier work environment, potentially reducing worker fatigue and accidents.
What are the key takeaways on construction site safety?
Implementing construction site safety requires careful planning, continuous monitoring, technology adoption, and a strong commitment to WHS policies. Construction site safety can be significantly enhanced by embracing these safety practices, prioritising safety culture and providing comprehensive training to workers. Adhering to these best practices ensures the protection and well-being of all workers and stakeholders involved.