As we start a new year of work it is important that before we even begin, we review the successes and failures of the past, particularly relating to workplace health and safety. What could we have done better, what did we miss, how were employees placed at risk when they shouldn’t have been? These are all pertinent questions to begin the year asking. We should also review last years near misses and accident reports.
Another important question that employers and site controllers should be asking is whether the site is covered for the 5 main causes of injury on a construction site? This question was the topic of an article on Sourceable.net.au recently and here we discuss some of these causes and how to overcome them.
According to the article, there are 5 main causes of injury in the commercial construction sector, they are:
- Falls from height
- Falls on the same level
- Being hit by moving objects
- Being hit by falling objects
- Electric shock
The post goes on to discuss in detail the most common causes of injury on a construction site, falling – either from a height or on the same level.
Work from heights needs to be properly planned and managed in order to avoid falls. This should involve identifying the hazard, attempting to eliminate or at the very least minimise the risks associated with it. Controls should be implemented to minimise workers risk of falling. Fall protection systems can be brought in for example or some other form of control decided upon after the situation has been thoroughly reviewed. Workers should be properly trained and supervised when engaging in this type of high risk work.
Even falls on the same level can be serious. They are usually caused due to slips, trips and falls. Slips take place when there isn’t enough friction or traction between the footwear and the walking surface. The article on Sourceable.net explains the most common causes of slips as follows:
Loose, unanchored rugs or mats
Flooring or other walking surfaces that do not have same degree of traction in all areas
Trips can cause falls from heights as well as falls on the same level when a foot collides with an object, causing a loss of balance and eventually a fall results. The article describes the common causes of tripping as:
Clutter and obstructions
Loose or rucked-up carpeting
Bottom drawers not being closed
Uneven steps or walking surfaces
Good housekeeping, modifying flooring and ensuring workers use the correct footwear are ways that slips and trips on the construction site can be avoided, yet these measures aren’t often considered.
The post goes on to explain:
Slips and trips result from an unintended or unexpected change in the contact between the feet and the ground or walking surface. So good housekeeping, quality of walking surfaces and flooring, selection of proper footwear, and appropriate walking pace are critical for preventing fall accidents.
Housekeeping is an aspect of site safety that often goes unnoticed because workers are so busy attending to other aspects of the job. But according to statistics provided by WorkSafe Victoria, at least 50 Vic workers are injured seriously (enough that they have to stop work) due to basic site safety and housekeeping being neglected on site.
When laying out safety plans for the site these should include good housekeeping. Some of the examples provided by WorkSafe Vic on their website is providing designated delivery and storage areas, waste management, walkways for passengers and designated vehicle parking.
Changing or modifying walking surfaces is another way that the post suggests preventing slips and trips,
Recoating or replacing floors, installing mats, pressure-sensitive abrasive strips or abrasive-filled paint-on coating and metal or synthetic decking can improve safety and reduce risk of falling. Resilient, non-slippery flooring prevents or reduces foot fatigue and contributes to slip prevention measures.
Personal protective equipment also plays an important role in construction workers safety and footwear is a part of that. Selection of the proper footwear is an important aspect of safety especially where surfaces may be oily, wet or slippery or where workers may spend more time outdoors. It is best that manufacturers are consulted to decide which is the best footwear choice for the specific circumstance.