Addressing Safety on the Construction Site

Originally posted 2013-05-31 09:00:25.

Patrick's HeadshotFor this week’s Construction Law Musings Guest Post, we welcome a new face, Patrick Rafferty.  Patrick (@ThePraff) is a consultant for Brahman Systems and has an interest in construction safety.

First of all, I’d like to say that I am not an attorney. Anything I say in this article should be taken with a grain of salt. All of the information that I have written in this article comes from personal work experience on the worksite.

Each year, construction sites around the nation see hundreds of thousands of injuries related to equipment operation and situations that could be avoidable with the right precautions in place. In 2011 alone, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there were 4,069 workers killed on a construction site, most of which were avoidable. Though some sort of on-site problems are unavoidable, they can be minimized with simple practices that every construction site should have in place, whether it is the building of a high-rise building or a simple house renovation.

Here are some of the most common issues that lead to injuries on the construction site:

Lack of training

Before anyone steps onto a construction site, they need to have a thorough understanding of not only what they will be doing, but also how to use the equipment involved in the building process. All operators of heavy machinery should have verifiable training on the machine or equipment they will operate. Most equipment dealers offer training as part of their customer service, such as usage manuals, videos and quizzes. Once these are complete, many will offer a certificate of completion at the end of the process. The larger and more complex the machine, the more time should be allotted for training.

Getting on and off Equipment

According to the OCHA, getting on and off of heavy machinery was the number one cause of injury to equipment operators in 2011. If you ever talk to a construction worker, more often than not they will have a story about some “freak” accident they encountered while using heavy equipment. And more often than not, these are not “freak” accidents, but rather due to a lack of precaution. There are simple steps that can be put in place to prevent these instances. First of all, check your equipment and make sure it is suitable for the task at hand. Make sure said equipment has been wiped clean of any dirt or residue and ensure that the traction is solid enough. Also, avoid objects while climbing.

Overhead/ Buried Obstructions

Before building anything, be aware of any overhead or buried obstructions. This includes any underground utilities, electrical lines or gas and sewer pipes. A simple phone call to your local utilities service will ensure that you are in the clear, and can prevent thousands of dollars in unexpected damages, and even more importantly, a worksite injury.

Loading and Unloading Equipment

It seems like an issue arises during every part of the construction site, and loading and unloading is no different. Even on level ground, problems can arise that lead to injury. Ensure that there is enough room to maneuver the machine around the loading dock, which often requires a spotter for guidance. Make sure that the machine clears the ramps before turning, and avoid any crowding in the area. Use proper tie-down procedure, and be sure to use safety tie wires to make sure nothing comes out of place.

Knowing Your Limits

For some people, this might seem redundant to even read, but it cannot be stated enough. It is imperative to know your limits, as well as the limits of others around you. If you are ever asked to do something out of your capabilities, tell your supervisor or someone you work with. You should never feel pressured to perform a task outside of your expertise, nor should your supervisor ask in the first place.

Construction injuries are nearly inevitable, and most likely never will be. Though this is the case, we have come a long way in terms of construction site safety. Since 1970, construction related fatalities have been reduced by 65 percent, and with a little bit of hard work and ingenuity, this trend is bound to continue.

As always, Patrick and I welcome your comments below.  Please subscribe to keep up with this and other Guest Post Fridays at Construction Law Musings.

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About Musings

I am a construction lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, a LEED AP, and have been nominated by my peers to Virginia's Legal Elite in Construction Law on multiple occasions. I provide advice and assistance with mechanic's liens, contract review and consulting, occupational safety issues (VOSH and OSHA), and risk management for construction professionals.

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