possible hazards at a construction site

A construction site, referred to as “an area or piece of land on which construction works are being carried out”, poses some hazards to people who work there. Construction site workers are to take necessary safety precautions, heed specified safety warnings and use specified safety gear and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Hazards on construction sites have resulted in millions of lost hours and naira in productivity each year, most construction site hazards are also highly injurious, with lasting imprints and often fatal. Some of such hazards include:

1. Slips, Trips and Falls

A lot of construction workers get injured as a result of slips and trips yearly. However, most of these could be avoided by effectively managing working areas and access routes to make sure that anything that could lead to these is carefully and intentionally eliminated and avoided.

Falls from heights are also common on-site. Construction workers at heights are at highest risk of falls, which could often result in fatality.

Slips, trips, and falls can be prevented by

• providing specially designated well-lit walkways with good underfoot;

• making everyone keep their work areas and storage areas tidy;

• placing signposts at slippery areas, and wearing safety footwears with good grip;

• having designated waste-collection areas; and

• using cordless tools, or running cables at high levels.

2. Collapses

These commonly occur on construction sites. Collapses could occur in excavations, trenches, scaffolding, walls or other structures being installed, erected or demolished. This could lead to serious injuries or even deaths. Risks related to collapses can be minimized by appropriately carrying out risk assessments of buildings.

3. Moving Objects and Vehicles

The construction site is an overly busy environment with a multitude of operations simultaneously taking place. There are a lot of moving objects on a construction site which includes overhead lifting equipment like cranes, diggers, supply vehicles. These movements usually occur on grounds which are uneven due to the nature of the sites.

To limit risks related to moving objects and vehicles, workers should

• wear appropriate PPE;

• not work close to these moving objects; and

• be vigilant of their surroundings.

Safety features and rollover protection should be introduced to plants. Protected zones should also be made available for pedestrians.

4. Electricity

Electrical hazards at construction sites include shocks and blasts. Electrical hazards can occur through direct contact with live electrical parts. Electrical shocks are also a common cause of falls from elevated surfaces like scaffolds or ladders. These hazards usually result in serious injuries and oftentimes, fatality.

Embarking on electrical works in wet conditions or using non-professionals to carry out electrical works could pose electrical hazards.

In mitigating risks related to electricity,

• Only qualified electrical professionals should be allowed to carry out electrical works;

• Safety warnings should be placed where necessary;

• Barriers/ signs should be installed to restrict non-professionals access to electrical equipment; and

• Good workplace practices should be employed.

5. Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials are rife on construction sites and lack of the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), use of damaged PPE or incorrect use of them, could put workers in the way of serious harm. These hazardous materials include asbestos and dust particles from brick, stone, cement, stone, wood or plastic. These airborne materials are often an invisible toxic mixture of hazardous materials and fibre which can damage the lungs and lead to diseases.

Repeated handling of harmful materials such as glues, paint, chemicals could pose a long-term effect to workers, if not immediate. Some of these effects include respiratory and skin infections such as asbestosis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and silicosis among others. They could also cause visual and oral problems.

To reduce the risk of these hazards, we can

• Implement protocols for the correct handling of these materials;

• Enforce the adequate use of PPE;

• Carry out a periodic risk assessment to understand all possible risks and prepare adequately for them; and

• Put emergency protocols in place.

6. Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)

This is a permanent “disorder resulting from prolonged exposure to vibration, specifically to the hands and forearms while using vibrating tools”. [MedicineNet.com]

The symptoms may include numbness, tingling, and loss of nerve sensitivity. It is usually caused by prolonged use of hand-held power tools which include vibratory power tools and ground working equipment like power jigsaws, jackhammers, concrete vibrators, angle grinders and needle guns.

Workers should be given adequate protection when using vibrating tools, and equipment should be well-maintained.
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