Construction can be a dangerous job if people don’t recognize the risks and take appropriate steps to prevent injuries from occurring. There are many different kinds of construction, including commercial, residential and roads and highways. Regardless of the kind of construction, many safety hazards exist. Staying safe on the job should always be your number one priority. Learning your responsibilities is the first step. You should also be aware of other people’s responsibilities so you know what to do if you spot a hazard.
People don’t always think of a public highway as a workplace – but once it is under construction, it becomes someone’s work area. Every year in North America, 7,500 road and highway workers are injured and over 80 are killed. Being aware of the risks is the first step in staying safe. Road and highway construction hazards can include:
- Electric shock hazards
- Flagging injuries
- Health hazards (including toxins being inhaled, swallowed or absorbed)
- Night work
- Outdoor exposure
- Trenching injuries
Being aware of these risks and knowing how to prevent them from causing injury is important for everyone working in highway construction. Read tips to prevent one of road construction’s greatest hazards – electric shock.
Operating machinery is often a risky job. There are many potential hazards associated with jobs like welding, heavy mechanics and various other careers in which dangerous equipment is used on a daily basis. Because these jobs have a high risk for injury, it’s important that workers and employers know and understand the hazards. Being aware of these hazards helps to greatly reduce the chance of serious injury. Due to the nature of these jobs, certain injuries are more common than others, such as:
- Hand or finger injuries
The hand is the part of the body most commonly injured. These injuries are often hard to treat, but they are preventable. By identifying hazards and developing safety measures to overcome them, you and your employer can prevent your hands from being among the over 500,000 injured every year in Canada.Common hand hazards include:
- Chains, gears, rollers, wheels or transmission belts
- Spiked or jagged tools
- Edges that catch and tear
- Shearing, chopping and crushing processes
- Cutting tools such as knives
- Falling objects
Prevention is the key to protecting your hands and fingers.
- Burns and cuts
Burns can be caused by exhaust, sparks, steam, hot or cold pipes, welding flash or molten metal. When hand and finger temperature drops below 15C they can become more susceptible to being cut or burned.
- Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI is a common ailment caused by repeating the same motion over long periods of time. RSI includes a wide spectrum of conditions from carpal tunnel syndrome, to tendonitis, to bursitis and more. If your hands, wrists or fingers go numb and tingle, there’s a good chance you are suffering from some form of RSI. As with all injuries, the best method for prevention is being prepared. Read how to prevent RSI.
Good communication between everyone on a site: knowing who is doing what, when, where and how on a construction site is key to preventing injuries.
Another step in maintaining a safe construction site is to practice good housekeeping, but even with communication and diligence, construction workers can still become injured on the job. All workers should be aware of common construction hazards and how to prevent them from occurring.
There are many injuries associated with the various types of construction. While hazards are varied, many can be reduced or eliminated completely with proper site inspection and adequate housekeeping practices, including:
- gather up and remove debris
- plan for the disposal of scrap, waste and surplus materials
- keep the work area and all equipment tidy
- keep all work areas well lit
- create waste material areas and provide containers for disposal
- keep stairways, passageways, ladders, scaffold and gangways free of material, supplies and obstructions
- secure loose or light material that is stored on roofs or on open floors
- keep all materials at least 2m (5 ft.) from openings, roof edges, excavations or trenches
- remove or flatten nails that are protruding from lumber
- keep hoses, power cords, welding leads, etc. out of heavily travelled walkways or areas
- ensure structural openings are covered/protected adequately (e.g. sumps, shafts, floor openings, etc.)
- use danger or caution tape where open trenches or excavations could pose a hazard
- make sure the ground is level wherever scaffolding or ladders are set up
- do not permit debris to fall freely from any level of the project (use chutes or other approved devices to remove materials from upper work levels)
- do not throw tools or other materials
- do not raise or lower any tool or equipment by its own cable or supply hose
Construction involves a lot of manual lifting, therefore back, neck and shoulder injuries are common. Being aware of the hazards and knowing how to prevent them from causing injury is important for your overall health and safety. Read these tips to prevent back and shoulder injuries.
Construction workers are at high risk for suffering from HAVS (Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome). This disease causes circulatory disturbances, sensory and motor disturbances and musculoskeletal disturbances. HAVS is caused by the repeated transfer of vibration from a tool to a worker’s hands and arms. Learn more about spotting and preventing HAVS.