Working on construction sites comes with a few occupational hazards, including some of the building materials themselves. However, with proper safety training and an awareness of these hazards, they can be easily prevented. All employees need to take the necessary precautions when working on a construction site.
Even the most simple of tasks need concentration, such as pouring concrete. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a set of guidelines to avoid hazards and accidental injury on a construction site. These hazards include the following:
Injuries from lifting heavy objects
Injuries from improper lifting techniques are some of the most common on building sites, especially when it comes to concrete construction. Cement bags are heavy and lifting them in the wrong way can cause a contractor to hurt their spine or neck.
It is important to train employees in proper lifting techniques and safe load-carrying procedures. When lifting bags of cement and objects over 25kg, contractors should work together to share the load. If employees have to lift heavy objects by themselves, they must lift with their legs and knees, not their back.
Keep the back straight and bend the knees to pick up an object. Contractors must also avoid twisting when carrying heavy items as this can result in sprained ankles and spinal injuries. With proper training, injuries from lifting heavy objects can be easy to avoid.
Injuries from falling objects
Construction sites often contain a combination of loose objects, such as tools and bolts, with heights. If a bolt or a drill falls from five floors up, it can cause severe injuries to anybody standing below it. Falling objects can easily be minimised on-site with due care and attention.
If working up on scaffolding, contractors must secure all tools to their belts or to the scaffolding itself. Safety nets can also be erected beneath the scaffolding to catch any falling objects before they hit any workers below.
Falling off scaffolding
Like the safety hazard above, scaffolding also presents the chances of workers falling from a height. Contractors can slip and fall off scaffolding if they are not paying attention or if they are not secured to the structure. Foremen should always ensure that their employees wear safety harnesses when working on scaffolding.
Concrete structures such as staircases and open windows can also create falling hazards for contractors. It is important to properly train employees to be aware and concentrate when working at heights greater than one metre. Even a small fall can result in leg injuries or concussion.
Chemical burn hazards
Concrete can cause skin irritation and chemical burns if handled improperly. Wet concrete absorbs moisture as it hardens. It will dry skin easily and can damage the skin cells if not washed off properly. If left untreated, concrete on the skin can lead to blisters, swelling or rashes.
These chemical burns and skin irritation can be simply avoided by rinsing concrete off the skin with clean water. Contractors must always wear proper safety gear, including goggles, gloves, boots and overalls when working with wet concrete.
Respiratory irritation or illness
Working with concrete and cement often results in a lot of dust. Cement is a fine powder that can be breathed in and it can irritate the nose and lungs. Breathing in this dust is always a possibility when sweeping, grinding, pouring and cutting concrete.
A simple way to prevent this hazard is to wear dust masks to minimise the inhalation of cement dust on-site. Even contractors who are downwind of the dust should wear masks to prevent respiratory irritation.
Concrete formwork blowout
When working with heavy concrete structures, there is the possibility that the formwork fails and collapses, resulting in a blowout. These breaks can happen when there is too much pressure from wet concrete pressing on weak formwork. These blowouts can injure workers and weaken the actual structure of the building.
All formwork should be erected according to specifications and checked by site managers. They should have appropriate support to hold the weight of the concrete inside. The formwork material should also be capable of supporting the vertical and horizontal loads of wet concrete.
Vehicle or equipment accidents
These are common workplace hazards. Construction sites often have a lot of heavy vehicles and equipment moving around in tight spaces. The drivers and operators of these vehicles and machinery must be properly trained and certified. Not doing so can present risks for the drivers and other contractors working on the site.
Machinery operators must avoid taking shortcuts to save time. Proper operating procedures must be followed at all times, no matter what. Site managers must train their employees to be vigilant and pay attention to their surroundings constantly. Contractors must also wear high-visibility vests so that vehicle drivers can easily see them.
All construction sites should have a person responsible for overseeing the safety and risk management factors. This often falls into the hands of the foreman, but the person responsible must conduct daily inspections and ensure that all contractors are fit to work on the site. While many hazards exist in the construction industry, proper planning, care and safety procedures can easily prevent these hazards from turning into injuries.
LafargeHolcim is a leading building materials and solutions company that has been operating in international markets for decades. We produce cement and aggregates for construction projects, ranging from small affordable housing developments to large-scale infrastructure projects such as high-rise buildings, dams and bridges.
LafargeHolcim Tanzania has been supplying the country and neighbouring countries with our world-class Tembo cement brand for over 30 years. Our head office and fully-integrated plant are located in Mbeya, Southwest Tanzania.
At LafargeHolcim Tanzania, we believe customers come first. We listen to your specific requirements to supply and develop the best solutions for your needs. As the new leader in building materials, you can also rely on our cutting-edge research and development capabilities that have resulted in the finest materials for your construction projects, whether large or small.
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