Construction can be a dangerous industry if professionals don’t take the proper precautions, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) statistics. Heights, construction equipment, heavy materials, and hazards like electricity or water can all pose threats, but major advances in safety technology over the past few decades have helped to scale back risk factors.
With the right preparation, training and awareness of common safety risks, it is possible to work safely in the construction industry.
This guide will break down common hazards to health and safety in the construction industry, and how individuals and construction companies can reduce or eliminate those risks for a safe and successful career.
The Most Common Causes of Injury in Construction
According to OSHA data, these are the four top causes of harm on construction work sites:
These four types of incidents are all preventable with the right combination of safety practices and safety equipment.
Beyond potentially fatal injuries, work-related musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) — like repetitive strain injuries — are also a serious threat. These injuries often result from a non-ergonomic workspace that requires a worker to perform repetitive motions — stooping, bending or lifting — in a way that strains the joints and muscles.
These injuries may develop over weeks or months. Once serious enough, they can be debilitating, causing nerve damage, muscle weakness and joint pain. In some cases, they may require a worker to stop work entirely to recover fully — and some injuries can be permanent.
Like other common construction work-related injuries, these MSIs are often completely preventable with the right practices.
Best Practices for Construction Site Safety
Implementing simple prevention strategies and regulations to both work sites and personal practices make a significant difference for job safety. Here are the best preventive practices for any construction site:
To prevent repetitive motion-caused MSIs, professionals can follow simple practices, like regularly changing positions, taking breaks or wearing anti-vibration gloves when working with power tools.
For falls, safety equipment like rope grabs, vertical lifelines, anchors and beamers can help make the job site much safer. Mitigating slippery terrain or muddy site conditions can also help prevent slips and trips.
Preventing struck-by incidents will require good communication between workers on-site. Equipment operators should always drive slowly and communicate with another worker — like a spotter — who can warn the driver of nearby workers and obstacles. Regular equipment inspections and modern safety features, like reverse alarms, can also help with injury prevention in construction.
Lockout/tagout of heavy equipment is one of the best ways to prevent electrocution. Performing safety training, wearing personal protective equipment and using testing tools can also help prevent electrocution on construction sites. Lockout/tagout procedures can also help prevent struck-by incidents.
Safety training can help reduce injuries on construction sites, including the risk of falls, electrocutions, struck-by incidents and almost any typical construction health hazard.
Managing Safety on Construction Sites
The right safety practices can go a long way in keeping construction workers safe.
Personal practices — like using protective equipment and ergonomic lifting forms — are effective in helping prevent MSIs and falls. Site safety processes — like lockout/tagout, spotters and the use of lifelines — can manage other risks.
By preparing for the risks with both on-site regulations and training for professionals, construction professionals can ensure they’re following safe practices for a fulfilling and injury-free career.