Construction industry, often termed as ‘high-risk’, has a significant impact on the health and safety of the workers. Though it is common to see a construction worker work at heights with equipment and building materials, these scenarios are plagued by potentially dangerous situations and poor working conditions. They are exposed to hazards that are difficult to quantify. Different job sites have different procedures and conditions – identifying the source(s) that poses challenges to OHS of the workforce remains critical.
2017 ILO statistics quote that in India, 48,000 people died due to occupational accidents and the construction sector contributed to 24.20% of the fatalities. Apart from fatalities, there are workers who suffer from work-related health hazard and suffer non-fatal injuries. The scale and severity should be enough for the stakeholders to ensure the safety and health of their workforce.
To promote and maintain safety in the workplace, knowledge about the primary causes of accidents help assess the level of safety.
Primary hazards in a Construction Industry
Health and safety is a multi-step process which includes the workers at the site, nearby people, supervisors, managers etc. Effective management of activities and competent site supervision are essence in maintaining healthy and safe conditions. In construction activities especially, greater the risk, greater the degree of hazard control and supervision is required.
Before the work starts, competent EHS personnel should:
- Identify and devise risks and their management strategy
- Ensure training – site specific and job-specific
- See that the workforce has access to PPEs and know how to use them
- Observe, inspect and report that agreed safe work methods are implemented, site-wide
Upon arrival at the site, employees, contractors and visitors should receive information about the site hazards and steps taken to control those risks. Also, briefing them about the hazards, PPEs, welfare facilities and site rules can ensure that the work in progress is smooth and efficient.
Much of the construction works include scaffolds, and collective fall prevention becomes a necessity. They must be equipped with guardrails, toe boards and brick guards. Personal prevention such as podium steps, can be used to prevent falls while working at height. If the weather seems inappropriate, emergency and rescue procedures should be well-defined in advance to avoid adverse effect on workers. All working platforms must be checked for safe conditions and should be inspected for slip and trip hazards.
Other preventive measures that make safe conditions certain are:
- Regular inspections of the site and the machineries to detect hazards in the first place
- Selection of the right PPE (respirators, helmets) to avoid inhalation of asbestos, dust and fibre with provision for appropriate trainings.
- Avoid repetitive motions and use long-handled tools to reduce the need of bending down.
- Make sure that workers are protected from wet concrete (provide PPE and proper washing facilities)
- Ensure safe dismantling procedures are in place
- Site traffic (for vehicles or moving equipment) should be planned and managed to avoid fatalities onsite
- Forklifts should be used carefully in material handling
- Confirm site wide PTW implementation
- Pneumatic silencers should be used to reduce noise; electrical hazards (faulty wiring) must be checked and firefighting equipment should be in place
Incorporating health and safety checks can keep a tab on the worker progress and well-being. Risk assessments, health and safety trainings, corrective and preventive measures all should be the part of the checklist of a construction company.
The mission of contributing to safe working conditions, participating in the detection of risk and danger is a matter for all; so employees must also communicate hazardous conditions when they encounter. It is good to be proactive instead of reactive in terms of health.