Top 10 construction site safety basics

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Share these construction site safety basics with your clients to prevent onsite injuries

  1. The construction industry sees 1,000 fatalities and 250,000 medically consulted injuries per year.
  2. Top fatal hazards are falls, being struck by objects, electrocution and being caught/crushed between objects.
  3. Learn construction site safety basics to prevent these injuries, plus other steps to mitigate hazards

The construction industry is full of hazards and risks – that’s well-known. Nearly 1,000 fatalities and 250,000 medically consulted injuries occurred in the construction industry in the U.S. in 2020 (latest figures available). On average, three construction workers die every day on job sites in the United States. Today we’re focusing on construction site safety basics that you can share with your policyholders in the building industry.


OSHA’s fatal four hazards

Two-thirds of construction fatalities occur in four main areas, what OSHA calls “the Fatal Four Hazards.”  Falls lead the group, followed by being struck by an object, electrocutions and finally, being caught/pinched/crushed in between objects. Let’s look in broad brushstrokes how to mitigate these risks on your worksite.


How to prevent falls 

Falls are the number one cause of fatalities, comprising one-third of worker deaths in the construction industry. Examples include falls from a roof, scaffold or ladder; a stumble over objects or slippery surface; or caused by wearing inappropriate footwear. It’s also the first of our focus on construction site safety basics.

KPA says common causes of falls include:

  • Unprotected sides, edges and holes
  • Improperly constructed walking/working surfaces
  • Improper use of access equipment like ladders or powered lifts
  • Failure to properly use personal fall arrest systems
  • Slips and trips
Related: Tools & tips to prevent construction fall hazards

With the right equipment and processes, all falls are preventable, which in turn means saving lives. Big Rentz lists these aspects to include in your fall prevention:

  • Train on proper form: The “three points of contact” rule says three limbs should always be in contact with whatever you are climbing or standing on, which improves stability and reduces risk.
  • Use safety devices: Harnesses for workers on scaffolding as well as personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) are vital for preventing falls from dangerous heights.
  • Choose the correct equipment: Using the right ladder or knowing when to use a lift instead of scaffolding are vital in reducing unnecessary falls.
  • Add proper signage to indicate high-risk areas.
  • Consider using guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems.


How to prevent workers being struck by objects

Struck-by accidents caused by falling objects are primarily due to improperly secured tools and materials and tools, rigging failure, equipment malfunctions and vehicle or equipment strikes.

Workers can protect themselves from struck-by hazards by wearing the proper PPE, including high visibility apparel, staying clear of suspended loads, and always using the best safety practices.


How to prevent electrocutions 

To avoid shocks and electrocution, workers must be aware of hazards such as

  • Contact with overhead or underground power lines
  • Contact with energized sources or live circuits in panels
  • Improper use of tools and extension and flexible cords

Workers should maintain a safe distance from overhead power lines, use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), inspect portable tools and extension cords, use power tools and equipment as designed and follow lockout/tagout procedures.

Related: How to create a construction site-specific safety plan [Infographic]


How to minimize caught in between hazards 

Workers are killed or injured when struck, caught in, compressed by or crushed by equipment, materials or a collapsing structure, says KPA. Common causes include:

  • Rotating or swinging equipment
  • Moving machinery and unguarded parts
  • Trench/excavation collapse
  • Equipment rollovers


More ways to maintain construction site safety basics 


Construction site managers are key in creating and maintaining a safe worksite, and ongoing training is crucial, particularly when new workers arrive onsite. Big Rentz suggests the following:

  • Provide continuing education: Offering frequent training opportunities for workers keeps safety knowledge fresh and up-to-date.
  • Perform regular knowledge checks: Through oversight and spot checks, regularly test the safety knowledge of your workers to find gaps in understanding.
  • Set up a mentorship program: Help new workers on your job sites acclimate to specific safety protocols by having them work with experienced members of your team.

It’s important that all onsite workers don’t view training as interrupting the flow of construction. Instead, regular training should be seen as a crucial way to ensure the teams are safe and productive, thereby preventing accidents and meeting deadlines.


Jobsite inspections

Safety inspections are the most effective way to identify hazardous conditions at the jobsite, says KPA. Because a construction site changes daily, it requires constant monitoring and observations to stay on top of constantly changing safety issues. An ongoing jobsite inspection program will identify risk exposures and include recommendations for addressing the hazards before injuries and accidents occur.

Related: Construction site damage and risk mitigation


Maintaining equipment

Some accidents are caused by faulty or outdated equipment, including personal tools (such as table saws) as well as large equipment (rollers, for instance). Modern equipment often comes with enhanced safety features, so consider your options when procuring equipment for your site. Big Rentz suggests that you

  • Perform daily safety checks: Before using any equipment, adhere to a list of daily safety checks that ensure it is in good working condition.
  • Schedule regular maintenance: All equipment needs to have a set schedule for maintenance to prevent degradation that could lead to safety concerns.


Personal protective equipment 

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a workers’ primary line of defense, says KPA. Each construction site and job duty should be evaluated for specific dangers, and the appropriate PPE required.

Each PPE item is designed to minimize exposure to certain risks of injury or illness, such as hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, high visibility vests, boots and fall protection.


Natural disaster preparation 

Whether your site’s region is prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes or severe winter weather, disaster preparedness is a vital part of construction safety.

When preparing for natural disasters, Big Rentz suggests you consider the following:

  • Create safe zones on the site: Define locations that are safe from hazards in case of a natural disaster.
  • Be mindful of utilities: Electric poles and gas lines can be compromised during many natural disasters, so be aware of where they are located on your site.
  • Have an evacuation plan: For situations in which the construction site becomes uninhabitable, designate an off-site meeting location for all personnel.
Related: Top summer safety hazards for outdoor workers


What to do when an unsafe condition or accident occurs 

Another crucial part of your construction site safety basics is having clear guidelines as to what workers should do when they discover an unsafe condition – or what to do when an accident occurs. Supervisors and workers will need to know how medical emergencies will be handled: where first aid kits are, who’s trained in first aid and what medical professionals and/or ambulance to call.

Share these construction site safety basics with your construction clients, to help them better identify and mitigate jobsite hazards, so that jobs are finished safely and on time.

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